On June 5, the Israeli army killed one year old Mohammed Tamimi when they indiscriminately opened fire on him and his family who were sitting in a car outside their home.
In August 2023, sixteen police officers raided a Palestinian man’s home, beat him, and then branded his face with the Star of David, a sacred Jewish symbol. All sixteen officers claimed their cameras malfunctioned and the matter was sent to the police’s internal affairs department who have declined to charge any of the officers involved.
“Pogrom” is a term that historically refers to a violent mob attacking Jewish communities. In Palestine, Israeli settlers continue the history against the Palestinian people.
On October 6, 2023 a Zionist-led pogrom was directed at the Palestinian people of Huwara. A video provided by Jewish Voice for Peace shows Israeli settlers dancing and singing before destroying homes, cars and shops in the state-sanctioned pogrom, supported by the Israeli military. In this pogrom, a 19 year old Palestinian, Labib Damidi was murdered.
Early in the morning of October 7, 2023 Hamas soldiers tore down the fence that established the blockade imprisoning the residents of Gaza and began an attack on the neighbouring towns.
As a result of the attack, over 1,300 Israeli people have been killed, at least two hundred of which were Israeli military. In response Israel has launched a series of increasingly violent attacks on Gaza, killing at least 2,800 Palestinian people, including over 1,000 children.
In the 1800s, nationalism was a dominant political force in Europe. The nationalism at the time posed what is known as the “Jewish Problem,” the idea peddled by the nationalists that Jews were so different from the people of the nations they lived in that our mere existence was a problem. This anti-Semitic thinking led to a tremendous amount of violence directed at Jewish people, including pogroms and lynchings, and ultimately culminated in the Holocaust in its most extreme incarnation as a “solution” to the “Jewish Problem.”
Zionism as a philosophy and political project was borne of Theodor Herzl in the 1880s. Herzl took the nationalism that victimised him and his peers and viewed it as a solution to anti-Semitism. Herzl established the Zionist Congress in 1897 – only 126 years ago – as a committee to discuss the establishment of a Zionist state – what it would look like, how it could be established, and, critically, where it would be established.
Early Zionists did not view Palestine as a foregone conclusion as the future ‘homeland’ for Jewish people, and in fact many other locations across the world were considered. In 1903, at the sixth meeting of the Zionist Congress, Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary of Great Britain, presented Uganda as an option for Jewish settlement. In the 19th and 20th centuries, more than 30 locations for a Jewish state were proposed, including Alaska, the Yukon, Australia, and South America. What makes Uganda significant is that the British, who occupied Uganda at the time, offered land to the Zionist Congress and the proposal fell only six votes short of a majority.
Zionism was never a foregone conclusion. It was always a very deliberate political project, composed of deliberate and calculated choices – choices based on fear of the very real anti-Semitism Jewish people experienced.
In 1948, the Zionist project achieved its goal of establishing a Jewish state. The Nakba, an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe,” marks when Zionist paramilitary forces stormed what was then and is now Palestine, resulting in the dispossession of as many as one million Palestinian people by 1949.
Palestinians dispossessed from their land by the newly formed apartheid state of Israel were massacred by the Israeli military when trying to return home, many before even reaching the border. This is in spite of international law entitling people to the right of return. Today, approximately one in three refugees globally are Palestinian.
Zionism is not a Jewish principle
If there is one takeaway to be had from the history and establishment of Zionism, it is that it was constructed. It is not, nor was it ever, a foregone conclusion that Israel would exist, nor that if it were to exist, it would exist on Palestinian land.
As Orthodox Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro explains,
“There’s absolutely no political relationship between the Jewish people and Jerusalem; it’s merely a holy city. The Jewish people don’t have a capital. We never had a capital.”
Rabbi Shapiro’s book, The Empty Wagon: Zionism’s Journey from Identity Crisis to Identity Theft, documents the progression of Zionism and, more importantly, its invention. There seems to be an idea most people have that Israel and Zionism have existed forever. But while Judaism dates back to around 1800BC, or around 3320 years ago, Zionism has only existed for 130 years, and Israel for only 75 years.
Shapiro points out that there is nothing in the Torah or the Talmud that necessitates the creation of a Jewish state. Zionism is not embedded in Judaism as a foundational principle, but invented after the fact as a nationalist response to anti-Semitism. Simply put, there is nothing Jewish about Zionism.
Zionist violence and understanding the uprising
In response to the October uprisings in Palestine that resulted in Hamas recapturing the colonised Palestinian city of Huwara, the Israeli Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, said, “I ordered a full siege on the Gaza Strip. No power, no food, no gas, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we need to act accordingly.”
Israel is openly employing genocidal rhetoric and actions, engaging in collective punishment – a war crime – for all residents of the West Bank, and doing so with global impunity if not outright support. The abject violence and cruelty of the Israeli state cannot be overstated. This violence does not permit the mere existence of Palestinian people.
In 2019, when Palestinians in the Gaza strip peacefully marched to the border fence controlled by the Israeli state to protest the blockade that kept them in the Gaza strip and demand the right to return to their ancestral homes, Israeli snipers fired indiscriminately into crowds injuring as many as 30,000 people and killing 266, including 50 children.
Between 2008 and 2023, Palestinians killed by Israel outnumber Israelis killed by Hamas 6,407 to 308.
When a people are confined to an open air prison, stripped of democracy, autonomy, their land and homes, and are killed for peaceful protest, what options are left but revolution?
Hamas is a violent organisation – but it is also important to understand how Hamas came to power. Former Israeli officials have admitted that they financed the Palestinian Islamist movement to syphon support from the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Fatah Party. Former Israel Religious Affairs official Avner Cohen admitted in 2009, “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.”
Hamas was supported by the state of Israel as having a radical Palestinian government was politically convenient as a way to legitimize and justify the state of Israel. Like Zionism’s inception as a deliberate series of political decisions, so too is Israel’s continued existence. People in power made choices to colonize Palestine, to continue doing so, and to ensure their opponents were who they wanted them to be.
Our current moment in history
There seems to be an idea that history unfolds naturally and neutrally. That history is something we are subjected to, and not something we are active participants in.
History is a series of choices people have made. When Zionists assembled a council, they were actively making choices to do so. They made choices as to where the country would be, and choices about how to implement it. When Canada funds the state of Israel, it is a choice made by politicians. It is a choice when the media that garners support for this government policy. And it is our choice, when we offer sufficient support for these decisions or express our opposition to them. We are living through history every single day, and we must be aware that the choices we make have drastic consequences for everyone worldwide.
As workers, we don’t individually have the same power in our choices as politicians and the wealthy. But we can still make choices that have drastic consequences when we call our MPs to oppose support for Israeli apartheid; when we rally in support of Palestine or poster in our communities about the violence of Zionism; when we join or form a union and vote in that union as rank and file members to support solidarity motions opposing Israeli apartheid.
The ultimate irony of the state of Israel is that it is borne of the exact nationalism that its founders sought to escape. Israel in this sense is a snake eating its own tail: in order to escape the horrors of nationalism, it must become more and more nationalistic in a vicious cycle that will only end when Israel itself falls. Israel is not a state that represents Jews, it is not a state that will ever bring about Jewish liberation, it is not a state that ever had to exist, that ever had any cause to exist in the Torah or Talmud.
Israel is a created, manufactured country. It did not exist before 1948, and there will be a future where it does not exist. As the Palestinian people have shown this past week by recapturing a city Israel had occupied, decolonization is both possible and not a metaphor.
This piece is dedicated to the 3,300 Palestinian children murdered by the Israeli state since 2000, and to a free and liberated Palestine.
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