Saturday, January 17, 2015

Zionism And Colonization Of African Americans

The overarching goal of all Israeli politicians is to engineer a permanent demographic majority in Mandatory Palestine that will allow them to maintain their repression of Palestinians under the facade of democracy. This can be accomplished in two ways: killing and expelling Palestinians from Greater Israel, or attracting new Jewish immigrants. Both are unofficial Israeli state policies. Thus it was no surprise that after the Paris massacres Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored the Jews of France and Europe: "Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home." The idea that your home is determined by your ethnicity rather than your life experience is not a new one. It is common among racists who believe biology is more important than language and culture, famously embraced by opponents of equality for African Americans during slavery.

The Zionist political movement was founded by Theodor Herzl, a European atheist from a Jewish family. Many of the founding fathers of the Israeli state, such as David Ben-Gurion, were also atheists whose belief in the Bible only extended as far as it served their nationalist politics. As Shlomo Sand writes in The Invention of the Jewish People: "the Bible became an ethnic marker, indicating a common origin for individuals of very different backgrounds and secular cultures yet all still hated for their religion, which they barely observed. [1]

The Zionist aspiration was to create a political association that privileged those who shared an imagined ancestry over people whose land they planned to appropriate. At first, Ben-Gurion recognized - as all serious historians today do - that the Palestinians were descendants of the Judean peasants who inhabited the land at the time of the Arab conquest. "Historical reason indicates that the population that survived since the seventh century had originated from the Judean farming class that the Muslim conquerors had found when they reached the country," wrote Ben-Gurion in a book coauthored with Itzhak Ben-Zvi, the future Israeli President, in 1918. [2]

Later, when Palestinians resisted Zionist machinations for a Jewish state on their land, it became apparent that it would be impossible for Zionists to integrate what they saw as an inferior culture into their political scheme. This caused Ben-Gurion and others to simply eschew their historical knowledge in order to strip the native population of any rights they enjoyed as the rightful owners of their land, and justify their dispossession by militant Zionists. Sand writes that after the Palestinian revolt of 1936-39, "the descendants of the Judean peasantry vanished from the Jewish national consciousness and were cast into oblivion." [3]

It is now understood that European Jews are descendants of the Khazars, who ruled an empire of converts to Judaism in present-day Russia. But even if the Biblical version of Judaism were true, the idea that a race of people share immutable similarities that bestow on them rights not accorded to people who do not belong to that group is a racist one.

For one thing, it distorts the idea of "home" to be a product of biology rather than an individual experience. Writing about the "socially and psychologically .. delicate" impact of immigration, Orly Noy describes the process her family went through 36 years ago to immigrate to Israel from Iran. "According to Israeli parameters, we are seen as a successful aliyah story. However, not a day goes by in which I'm not painfully aware of how we were torn from our home, from our language, our most intimate cultural codes - and how those deep scars remain with my parents to this day."

When Netanyahu and Israeli politicians cavalierly call for Jews across the world to "return" to their "home," it demonstrates their desire to solidify their political power at the expense of the people they proclaim to care about. Instead of viewing Jews as individuals who speak many languages, have roots in countries all over the globe, and have attachments to the places they have grown up and live their lives, they are seen as a vehicle for political power.

Zionists seek to use Jews to carry out their version of Manifest Destiny in Palestine. They believe that Jews should make themselves part of a ruling majority where they can forcibly assert their supremacy. Rather than attempting to improve the social welfare of Jewish people based on their unique circumstances, Zionism reduces the identity of Jewish people to the privilege they derive from belonging to an imagined ethnicity.

As Joseph Massad says, Israel demands a "right to be a racist state that discriminates by law against Palestinians and other Arabs and grants differential legal rights and privileges to its own Jewish citizens and to all other Jews anywhere." These legal rights include the "Law of Return" that allows Jews from anywhere in the world to move to Israel and obtain citizenship, while Palestinian refugees are denied entry to Israel by the "Prevention of Infiltration Law."

The Israeli colonial project shares many similarities with the ideas of many Americans in the pre-Civil-War era United States who believed the abolition of slavery should be coupled with the colonization of African Americans in Liberia, Central America and the Caribbean, or elsewhere.

The most famous proponent of colonization was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had inherited the idea from his political idol Henry Clay, who helped to found the American Colonization Society in 1816.

Supporters of colonization of African Americans generally believed that blacks were an inferior race that did not belong in the United States. They believed privilege and power belonged to whites. Blacks threatened to reduce this privilege, so they needed to be eliminated. As Zionists see Jews as sharing a common ancestral home, so did American colonization proponents see Africa as the home of blacks.

Lincoln himself evolved on the topic throughout his political career, but he was never an abolitionist. He opposed slavery as an institution because he believed slaves had a right to a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and a right to be paid for their labor, but he never believed in equality between blacks and whites.

"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality ... I ... am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position," Lincoln said in 1858. [4]

Even after the start of the Civil War, Lincoln made clear his support for the gradual emancipation of slaves tied to colonization.

Not surprisingly, African Americans almost unanimously opposed colonization. At a convention of blacks in Springfield, Illinois in 1858, the gathering declared: "We believe that the operations of the Colonization Society are calculated to excite prejudices against us, and they impel ignorant or ill disposed persons to take measures for our expulsion from the land of our nativity... We claim the right of citizenship in this, the country of our birth ... We are not African." [5]

The famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was equally adamant about African Americans belonging to the country where they lived and were raised. He blasted those who sought colonization to expel blacks from the United States: "Shame upon the guilty wretches that dare propose, and all that countenance such a proposition. We live here - have lived here - have a right to live here, and mean to live here," Douglass wrote.

Both Zionism and white supremacy are guilty of propagating the myth of race as a biologically legitimate fact, when it is nothing more than an artificial social construct. People who believe in the division of society by race and ethnicity propagate racist ideas that reduce people to classifications that ignore all other aspects of one's social and cultural experiences.

While white supremacists sought to expel African Americans to ensure white rule over the United States, Zionists seek to import Jews to ensure Jewish rule over Mandatory Palestine. Zionism today shares many of the same goals as American white supremacy 150 years ago.

Works Cited

[1] Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. Verso, 2010.

[2] as cited in Sand, 2010

[3] Sand, 2010

[4] as cited in Dilorenzo, Thomas. The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Random House LLC, 2009.

[5] as cited in Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.