In his 2016 book “Israel’s Colonial project in Palestine: Brutal Pursuit”, Elia Zurek states that colonialism has three foundational concerns – violence, territory, and population control, and that Israel practises all three forms of what he terms “settler colonialism”.
Once one cuts through the obligatory theory contextualisation of the man’s research, here Foucaldian and Gramiscian theory, (let’s not forget that Zureik is also under pressure to publish or perish at university…) and once one gets past the fact that the author is a Levantine Arab whose family migrated to Canada, Zurek’s thesis is that the State of Israel today is a continuation of British imperialist Zionist colonialism where (quoting the dubious scholarship of Joseph Massad) Zionism established a state-framework on “…a colonized country, either replacing an existing state structure or inaugurating one where it had not existed before.”
He couches this in flowery high-faluting terms of “otherness” and the “…reflexive, historical, interactive, and contextualised…” self (what on earth does that even mean to your average bloke in the street, I ask you…).
There are several issues with Zureik’s thesis which render the remainder of his book irrelevant at worst and an exercise in intellectual gymnastics at best.
For starters, the gradual realisation of the dream of the early Zionists in forming a Jewish Homeland did not impose or replace “state structure” on any country. No Arab or Muslim polity called Palestine had ever existed prior to 1948. Between 1920-48, during the British Mandate years, the territory of “Palestine” was mandated land, land mandated to Britain and France under the LEGAL auspices of the League of Nations for the creation of both a Jewish and an additional Arab Muslim homeland. And for 500 years prior to the defeat and routing of the Ottomans from the Levant, there had further never been an Arab political entity called Palestine.
If anything, in Zureik’s eagerness to ascribe colonialism to the Zionist enterprise in the Levant in the twentieth century, perhaps he would have been better advised to consider researching the nature of the verifiable narratives of the Arab conquests of Byzantine Palestine and North Africa as prima facie evidence of Arab settler-colonialism (Joffe, 2017).
It is difficult to ascribe the 634-37 CE Muslim armies conquest under Caliph Umar who conquered the entirety of the Levant before invading Armenia and Anatolia in 638 and Cyprus in 639 as anything other than Arab settler-colonialism where, as Massad, 2001 helpfully points out, invading foreign Arab Muslim forces Inaugurated “state structure where it had not existed before.”
It follows then that the “…subsequent Islamization and Arabization of the Levant entailed reorganizing the region into administrative provinces, instituting new social categories for the purposes of taxation and control, implanting settlers and reapportioning lands as estates, and encouraging conversion to Islam” (Joffe, 2017).
The remainder of Zureik’s book (tenured professors are required to publish or perish….) explicates how Zionism in the Levant was a colonial enterprise at the expense of the indigenous “Palestinian” Arab Muslim population with nary a twinge of conscience over Islamization and Arabization of the Levant 700CE to the present day.
In light of the above, Zureik does not see/feel/mention the irony of his statement that Zionism, which began in the last days of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, was an imperialist and colonialist initiative “along three axes of domination aimed at control of territory and the management of people.”
Zureik states that the axes produced “a matrix of six ideal types that
extend from extermination to assimilation, with…no fewer than eleven classifications involving intra and intergroup differentiations; domestic forms of colonialism; informal, semi-and neocolonialism; and administrative colonialism interwoven with elements of class and cast.”
This is biased claptrappery at best and sheer partisan bigotry at worst. Undeterred, and now in full flight, Zureik states that “…colonialism (such as that of the Zionists) can exist only in a state of tension with the indigenous population; it cannot be otherwise unless dismantled.”
It is at this point that the neutral researcher can stop any further perusal of this book because it is at this point that the book descends into historical revisionism.
As Joffe points out, a “…wealth of evidence demonstrates that Jews are the indigenous population of the Southern Levant; historical and now genetic documentation places Jews there over 2,000 years ago, and there is indisputable evidence of continual residence of Jews in the region.”
Citing Pinhas Inbari, Joffe states that today’s “Palestinians” are, in fact, derived from “…converts from indigenous pre-modern Jews and Christians who submitted to Islam, and Arab tribes originating across the Middle East who migrated to the Southern Levant.”
These included migratory Arab settlers and those who were intentionally implanted, including, in the 19th century alone, Egyptians fleeing from and imported by Muhammad Ali from the late 1820s to the 1840s, as well as Chechens, Circassians, and Turkmen relocated by the Ottoman Empire in the 1860s after its wars with Russia, AS WELL AS tribes of Bedouins, Algerians, Yemenis, and many others who also immigrated during that century.
In contrast, the Jewish people of the country that is now Israel had an unbroken, continuous connection to the land dating over 3,300 years.
There was never such an entity as Muslim or Arab “Palestinians”…………Why would the Romans of 135CE punish rebellious Jews by giving their religious/cultural homeland the name of “Muslim” Arab inhabitants who did not know about Islam until 600 years later??
Zureik does not explicate this conundrum.
Nor does he explain why the common Arab man in the street only started identifying himself as ‘Palestinian’ after the humiliating Arab Muslim defeat in the 1967 Six Day War, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel where prior to that time Zureik forebears identified themselves as Arabs.
Jerusalem, built by a Jewish King David, has always been the real and spiritual capital of Judaism for over 3,300 years, since1272 BCE, and no Arab or Muslim prophet/leader EVER considered Jerusalem holy. Not even the Jordanians who illegally occupied the Jewish homeland 1948-1967…
Gramiscian and Focauldian theory is all very well in an intellectual exercise (and his university’s record of staff publications…), but Zureik cannot gainsay Chapter 17 verse 104 of the Koran has an entire section, about the “people of Israel.” Nor can he ignore his prophet Muhammad who speaks about nothing less than the return to Zion when he says: “And say to the Israelites, sit with confidence in the land of Israel and when will be realized the promise, we will bring you with multitude and will collect you from the nations”.
Zureik’s “Israel’s Colonial project in Palestine: Brutal Pursuit” is little more than a self-serving treatise which encapsulates the worst of Muslim supremacism arrogance and exceptionalism.
On the part of Israel’s Zionist forefathers, the indigeneity of Jews in the southern Levant as well as Israel’s international “birth certificate” were rightly validated by all three ancient Biblical texts; Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the San Remo Resolution of 1920; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and, most of all, the society created by Israel’s people in decades of thriving, dynamic national existence.
Zureik’s book thus becomes merely an additional attempt to feed the neurosis of Palestinian victimhood, a mindset that fuels terrorism and prevents any positive alternatives.
For Muslim Arab authors like Said, Massad and Zureik, promoting the notion that Jews “illegally occupy” and “steal Palestinian land” supports a libel that legitimizes terrorism and provides an excuse for genocide.
However, given the lie of “Palestinian” “indigeneity” and the fact there is still no “Palestine” 70 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews and the State of Israel really do mean “Never Again” for infinite future generations of Jews now in their re-established and ancient homeland.