(JTA) — Attend or watch footage of a campus pro-Palestinian demonstration these days and you are likely to see someone carrying a sign reading “Decolonization is not a metaphor.” Almost immediately after the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine put out a statement praising the terrorists, declaring “Decolonization is NOT a metaphor.”
As a political slogan, it may not pack the same punch as “Free Palestine” or “From the river to the sea.” But to activists on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, the charge that Israel is a “settler colonial” state and calls to “decolonize” Palestine are becoming an increasingly potent part of the toxic, perhaps unbridgeable, discourse.
Two nearly simultaneous events inspired me to take a dive into the meaning of the slogan. The first was a news release from the American Jewish Committee announcing that, in light of the “terrifying increase” of antisemitism since Hamas’ Oc7. 7 attack against Israel, it was adding new terms to its online “Translate Hate” glossary of antisemitic terms. Among those terms, alongside “from the river to the sea,” is “settler colonialist.” “Those who oppose the State of Israel as a Jewish state,” writes AJC, use the term the charge that Israel “engages in ethnic cleansing by displacing and dispossessing a native or pre-existing population.” It goes on to explain why the term is “categorically false.”
More on that in a moment. The second event was a webinar in memory of Hayim Katsman, 32, the Israeli ethnographer and peace activist killed when Hamas infiltrated his kibbutz. The webinar was the launch of a new book of scholarly essays, “Settler Indigeneity in the West Bank,” that features an essay by Katsman. Like many of the other Jewish and Israeli contributors to the book, Katsman appears to have been quite comfortable applying “colonialist” to describe Israel’s national enterprise, in whole or in part.
In the book’s introduction, its editors, Rachel Z. Feldman and Ian McGonigle, explain why. They acknowledge the argument — put forth by AJC and others — that unlike the Europeans who colonized Africa, the Americas and Asia, Jews had a longstanding connection to and presence in the Land of Israel, and that the “early Zionist settlers did not have a home empire.” (Or, as AJC puts it, “unlike European settler colonialists who settled colonies to enrich their motherlands, and who maintained a connection to their home countries to which they could return if they so wished, Jews who came to Mandatory Palestine had no motherland in Europe to enrich.”)
However, write Feldman and McGonigle, aspects of political Zionism certainly resemble colonialism. “If we read Hertzl, if we read Jabotinsky, they’re speaking about a colonizing project,” Feldman said at the book launch, referring to two of political Zionism’s founding fathers. “And, unfortunately, they were subject to the modalities of European thought that … looked at Palestinians as primitive people who could not possibly have a sovereign imagination of their own.”
But “colonialism” doesn’t tell the whole story of Israel, Feldman, assistant professor of religion at Dartmouth, told me on Friday. “I think that’s where things can slide into antisemitism, when this just sort of blanket equation is made between Zionism and all European colonial projects. It would be missing the fact that Israel is the historic ancestral homeland of the Jews,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that Jews haven’t acted in ways that are settler colonial.”
Ignoring those power dynamics — or, as many Palestinains and their supporters tend to do, denying any Jewish connection to the land — “will never get us closer to peace and reconciliation,” Feldman continued. “This debate about who is more native is a fundamentally flawed debate and it leads to dehumanization of either Israelis or Palestinians. Both people are in this land together, and that is the absolute basis of any future kind of reconciliation.”
“Reconciliation” is barely on the minds of those who quote “Decolonization is not a metaphor,” the 2012 paper by American academics Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang that poularized the phrase. The two argued that “decolonization” means exactly what it says: “repatriating land to sovereign Native tribes and nations, abolition of slavery in its contemporary forms, and the dismantling of the imperial metropole” – that is, the colonizing “homeland.” It is not a handy bit of jargon for improving our societies and schools or fighting racism or “easing” an occupation, they write.
The paper only mentions “Palestine” once, in a roll call of colonialist malefactors that includes Australia, the United States and apartheid South Africa, but it became a touchstone for radical movements that felt the widespread rhetoric of anti-colonialism had lost its bite.
George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine, since suspended by the administration, takes the phrase to its logical, violent extreme, calling the Hamas attack a “tangible, material event in which the colonized rise up against the colonizer and regain control of their lives.”
Another pro-Palestiniang group, Decolonize This Place, calls for “direct action and [is] driven by the belief that all colonized and oppressed people have the right to take back their land, to realize self-determination, and to win their liberation by any means necessary.” The day after the Hamas attack , it said on Instagram: “[T]he heroic Palestinian resistance and the people’s steadfastness continue, while settler colonial Israel, the US, and the ‘international community’ ignore that Israel is the violence.”
“Softer” versions of decolonization call for divesting from countries and institutions that support colonialism. Corinna Mullin, who teaches international relations at the University of Tunis in Tunisia and recently at CUNY’s John Jay College, used the “not a metaphor” phrase during a Nov. 17 Labor for Palestine teach-in in support of the boycott of organizations with “links to Zionism.” “We need to materially decolonize these institutions so that they no longer are serving the causes of oppression and exploitation, but instead are in the service of liberation,” she said.
Those who wave the “not a metaphor” sign at rallies may embrace all or none of these interpretations. AJC insists that the “settler colonialist” label is, however it is used, a slur. And when it is “used to say Jews do not have the right to national self-determination or to deny Israel’s right to exist,” it explains in the glossary, “that is antisemitism.” The historian Simon Sebag Montefiore writes that the “decolonizing narrative is much worse than a study in double standards; it dehumanizes an entire nation and excuses, even celebrates, the murder of innocent civilians.”
In his chapter for the “Settler Indigeneity” volume, about religious Jews living in the Negev, Katsman appears to agree with scholars who describe Israel’s efforts to “‘Judaize’ Palestinian space” as colonialism in effect, if not intent. But he doesn’t reject Israel, only those Jewish ideologues who want to erase the Green Line separating pre-1967 Israel from the West Bank. He bewails “the growing acceptance [among Jews] of a one-state reality between the river and the sea.”
That seems of a piece with the scholarship and activism for which he was known. His mother, the American-born Orthodox feminist activist Hannah Katsman, told Haaretz that he came to Kibbutz Holit after the army to help revive the desert outpost. Although he studied in the United States, he was determined to return home. Among other things, he took part in solidarity shifts to protect Palestinian communities harassed by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
His dissertation, about political trends in Religious Zionism, was dedicated to “all life forms that exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”
“He was determined to understand the political rise to power of Israel’s religious right wing, which he viewed as a serious obstacle to the establishment of a just and lasting peace,” Feldman said in her opening remarks at the book launch. She also quoted Katsman, whom she got to know over the years, saying that he worked to create a world where “Israelis and Palestinians both are able to live full lives as equals under the law.”
Since his death at the hands of Hamas, Katsman has been held up as a counterpoint to the zero-sum nihilism represented by his murderers. Perhaps he should also be seen as a symbol of the possibility of two peoples sharing a land without either one trying to expel, dominate or colonize the other.
The post How ‘decolonization’ became the latest flashpoint in the discourse over Israel appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
George Washington University to Discipline Anti-Zionist Group for Violating Suspension
George Washington University (GW) in Washington DC has leveled additional disciplinary sanctions against members of the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter following their repeated violations of the group’s suspension and other rules, the GW Hatchet reported on Monday.
According to the paper, after being suspended, SJP assembled a front group called “Student Coalition for Palestine” and held an unauthorized protest in Nov. at Kogan Plaza, an outdoor space frequently used by the campus community for outdoor events.
Student Coalition for Palestine held two more unauthorized demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday and declined to speak on record to GW Hatchet, citing concerns about being “doxxed.” On both days, they brandished signs that said, “Divest from Zionist genocide” and “From the river to the sea,” a chant widely interpreted as calling for a genocide of Jews in Israel.
They also chanted, “Israel bombs, GW pays, how many kids did you kill today?” and “Granberg, Granberg, you’re a coward, we the students have the power,” referencing GW President Ellen M. Granberg, who is a Jewish woman.
In November, George Washington University became the third private university in the United States to suspend its Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter after the group projected pro-Hamas messages on a university library.
The suspension reportedly included two phases, first a 90-day period in which SJP was banned from sponsoring and holding events on campus, and a second, beginning on Feb. 12, 2024 and lasting for the remainder of the academic year, in which the university continues to “restrict” its activities.
Now facing new charges of community disturbance, disorderly conduct, and noncompliance for violating the suspension, an SJP member told the GW Hatchet, which has taken the group’s lead in describing Student Coalition for Palestine as non-affiliated with SJP, that the university is being “hateful” and fascistic.
“They refuse to acknowledge that it has to do with our solidarity,” the student alleged. “They refuse to acknowledge their fascism.”
The student also threatened that continued efforts to hold SJP accountable for violating school rules will “only make us louder.”
GW SJP in Palestine has been battling the school’s administration to push the boundaries of its campus activities since Hamas’ terror invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, an attack that resulted in over 1,200 deaths of mostly civilians and included numerous rapes and torture.
Five days after the attack, President Ellen Granberg censured in strong terms any support on campus for the war crimes Hamas committed, acts that SJP had cheered during numerous demonstrations.
“I not only condemn terrorism, but I also abhor the celebration of terrorism and attempts to perpetuate rhetoric or imagery that glorifies acts of violence,” Granberg wrote in an open letter. “Such messages do not speak on behalf of me, our administrators, or GW.” Granberg also expressed concern for all affected by the week’s events in the Middle East, calling on the campus community to “reach out to a friend, colleague, or classmate and show your support.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
The post George Washington University to Discipline Anti-Zionist Group for Violating Suspension first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
ADL Urges Chicago Cops to Apprehend Culprits Behind Antisemitic Flyer Campaign
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called on the Chicago Police Department to step up efforts to apprehend the culprits behind a series of antisemitic flyers distributed in the the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is home to a large Jewish population.
“For the 4th time in over 5 weeks, residents of Chicago‘s Lincoln Park neighborhood woke up today to antisemitic & white supremacist flyers on their cars,” the Jewish civil rights organization’s office for the Midwest stated in a post on X/Twitter. “We spoke with Chicago police & urged them to do what’s necessary to find & hold accountable those responsible for these hateful acts.”
At least 50 vehicles parked in Lincoln Park were targeted with flyers bearing handwritten messages attacking Jews and their alleged influence. “I saw on my dashboard a piece of paper with an antisemitic, very antisemitic markings on it that said that Jews own the media, the Jews started COVID,” local resident Aaron Snyder told ABC News. Local media outlets blurred the text written on the flyers in their reports of the latest incident.
At a community neighborhood meeting on Tuesday night, attendees voiced a mix of fear and anger over the repeated incidents. Similar flyers were discovered in Lincoln Park last week.
“Clearly, this is targeted antisemitic hate material, and the fact that it’s being placed intentionally in residential neighborhoods where Jewish families live, it seems designed to sow fear and unrest in the hearts of our Jewish residents,” Second Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins told local media outlets.
While no-one has yet been identified as responsible for distributing the flyers, Hopkins said that he believed “it’s the same group that’s responsible for it. It’s clearly more than one person because there’s a significant number of these that are deployed at the same time.”
The so-called “Goyim Defense League (GDL)”, a US neo-Nazi organization, has orchestrated a similar campaign over the last two years in Florida, North Carolina, California and several other states, distributing printing flyers blaming Jews collectively for the COVID pandemic and other social ills. It remains unclear whether the GDL is behind the current harassment of Jews in Chicago.
The post ADL Urges Chicago Cops to Apprehend Culprits Behind Antisemitic Flyer Campaign first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Meet the Indigenous People Who Support Israel
During pro-Palestinian marches in the Western world, we have seen several minority groups, including “indigenous” people, who identify with the Palestinians and their claim to be the displaced natives in Israel.
But there are other indigenous people who view things differently.
The Indigenous Coalition For Israel (ICFI) is one organization that aims to change the narrative, consisting of individuals from the Americas, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The ICFI has just launched an office that will be housed within the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem.
Ryan Bellerose, a native Canadian of the Metis mixed-race community, told me that “the false narrative concerning the Israel-Palestinian conflict has easily taken hold amongst many indigenous peoples.”
He feels that many have misunderstood what the term “indigeneity” means. He spoke about how the Jewish people’s ethnogenesis took place in the Levant, just like the Native Americans’ took root in the Americas. He noted that even if Jews lived in the Diaspora at times, their cultural identity “evolved” in the Middle East.
Some on the Palestinian side claim that they have Canaanite roots. Bellerose argued that the Palestinians are “not doing much” to actively preserve or upkeep this Canaanite culture despite the claim.
Bellerose feels that indigenous Americans are still feeling the “residual effects” of a genocide, and can therefore learn a lot from the Israeli example, where Jewish society was “rebuilt” after the Holocaust.
He also cited Israel’s Hebrew revival as a good example of decolonization, and hopes that other groups that have lost their native languages, such as his ancestral Cree, will be able to revive theirs as well.
New Zealand Māoris
Dr. Sheree Trotter is a New Zealand Māori. She said that while some Māori Iwi (clans), including the biggest one, Ngapuhi, issued statements supporting Israel, there is no uniform view across the group.
She noted that there are still many Māori who are pro-Palestinian, among the indigenous minority who are 16.5% of New Zealand.
Trotter said that many Māori became Christianized in recent times, and therefore connect with the story of Israelites. She blamed international forces, such as the Soviet propaganda of the 1960s, for causing many Māori to shift towards identifying with the Palestinian narrative.
Olga Washington is a member of the Tswana ethnic group in South Africa, a country that has taken an outsized pro-Palestinian stance in recent years. However, she insists that “the majority of South Africans don’t have such beliefs, even if the ‘loudest voices’ are anti-Israel.”
Washington noted how Israel supported the apartheid regime in South Africa (1948-94), but that continuing to blame Israel for abetting this exhibits “a double standard” since “many other countries” also supported apartheid South Africa, including the US, UK, and Japan.
She insisted that allegations of Israeli apartheid are “not true” — having witnessed apartheid firsthand in South Africa, where the term originated.
She said that during the Cold War era, the Soviets, Cuba, and other forces allied with the now-ruling African National Congress (ANC) party were anti-Zionist, and this legacy has remained. The ANC has been in power since 1994.
She noted how South Africa chose not to support their Miss Universe candidate when the competition was held in Israel in 2021.
“But we still do have diplomatic relations with Israel,” she noted.
“Jews are indigenous to the land and the Palestinian claim is a very self-harming approach as it rejects Jewish indigeneity,” she said. And indigenous people around the world who know the true history of Israel likely agree with her.
Avi Kumar is a Holocaust historian/journalist from Sri Lanka. He has lived in many countries and speaks 11 languages. He has written about a variety of topics in publications worldwide.