The rise and fall of Zionism
A Century of Settler Colonialism in Palestine: Zionism’s Entangled Project
By Tariq Dana and Ali Jarbawi • Birzeit University • Brown Journal of World Affairs, 2017
Throughout the past century, the Zionist movement constructed the most sophisticated settler-colonial project of our age: the State of Israel. ■ Yet, while this settler-colonial project continues unabated, it is an entangled one, unable to reach the ultimate point of Jewish exclusivity in the land.
The Zionist movement emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century in Eastern and Central Europe and was initially formed “as a national revival movement, prompted by the growing pressure on Jews in those regions to assimilate totally or risk continuing persecution.”
Although political Zionism is a homegrown European movement, nurtured and shaped by the continent’s sociopolitical development, it has induced far-reaching consequences on distant regions of the world. Indeed, Palestine — as a land, people, and history — is a prime victim of Europe’s collusion in exporting its homegrown problems.
Thus, any discussion of the nature and dynamic of the Zionist colonization of Palestine must be anchored in the triple dynamics that constituted the essence of nineteenth-century Europe: nationalism, colonialism, and anti-Semitism. Although the distinctly European interplay between nationalism and colonialism is a deﬁning feature of political Zionism, the movement developed peculiar characteristics that make it particularly problematic.
Throughout the past century, the Zionist movement constructed the most sophisticated settler-colonial project of our age: the State of Israel. The violent birth of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent colonization of the entirety of the land of Palestine after the 1967 war are indeed reﬂections of Zionism’s successes in fulﬁlling its settler-colonial ambitions in Palestine.
Yet, while this settler-colonial project continues unabated, it is an entangled one, unable to reach the ultimate point of Jewish exclusivity in the land. Zionist settler colonialism, as its historical precedents suggest, is fundamentally based on the operative logic of “eliminating the native” and failing to utterly marginalize and “minoritize”him. The vibrant Palestinian presence in the land, the everyday resistance to the colonial order, and the robust Palestinian adherence to their rights all stand as structural obstacles to the ultimate realization of the “Zionist dream.”
Despite Israel’s relentless colonial power and domination, Palestinian steadfastness means that this project will remain impeded and incomplete, a matter that may lead to its future demise.
The active Zionist settler-colonial project has accumulated a series of successes by conquering the land and encircling the people. Yet it is an entangled project, burdened by the dynamic presence of the people of the land whose steadfastness and resistance to injustices constitute the antithesis of Zionist colonization. Despite a century of repressive conditions of Zionist colonization that have made life unbearable, millions resist by not leaving their homeland and still adhering tirelessly to their rights.
With the intensiﬁcation of Israel’s colonial expansion after Oslo, the Palestinian body politic has been weakened to an unprecedented extent: the PLO lostits revolutionary potential, the PA was established as a dysfunctional institution lacking representation and sovereignty, the national movement became engulfed in multiple divisions and rifts, and the society has been territorially fragmented. For Israel, this status quo is comfortable, and its current policy is to prolong the situation of relative stability. Nevertheless, this cannot be sustainable given the unabated entrenchment of Israel’s settler-colonialism.
While future scenarios are uncertain, the Israeli establishment does not hide its determination that a Palestinian state or even a meaningful type of autonomy should never materialize. However, for many, the current reality is that of a single apartheid state, with all the discrimination, segregation,and structural racism this implies.
The consolidation of this reality may alter future directions toward a struggle for equal rights within the one-state framework. This direction, however, will be ﬁercely opposed by Israel because it will shake the doctrinal foundation of the state. Regardless of the way in which Israel continues its colonization, the unrelenting steadfastness of the people of the land will always pose a structural challenge to Israel’s settler-colonial project. And the continuation of this state of aﬀairs will likely make the accomplishment of the Zionist dream unattainable, and might result in devastating consequences for the whole settler-colonial project in Palestine.
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