The December 2008 Gaza Massacre
We are part of an increasing number of people around the world of Jewish descent who are sickened by the coldly calculated massacre of the Palestinians of Gaza and who utterly repudiate Israel’s claim that it acts in the name of Jews the world over. Like Antony Loewenstein we deplore the ‘myth of Israel’ as perpetual victim and rational peace seeker, and its stranglehold over media reportage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The massacre in Gaza cries out not only for immediate condemnation but for historical explanation. As scholars working in the fields of genocide studies and research into the long history of European colonization, it seems clear to us that Israel – as in the history of white Australia since 1788 – is a genocidal settler colonial society that since its founding in 1948 continually seeks to destroy the foundations of life of the indigenous Palestinians, their health, dignity, livelihood, personal security, access to education, and political organisation, so that the Palestinians can be replaced by colonizing Zionist settlers. Recent genocide scholarship has highlighted how much the original definition of genocide (by Raphael Lemkin in chapter nine of his 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe) linked genocide and colonization as a two stage process of destruction of the home society (not necessarily by physical annihilation qua Nazism) and replacement by the incoming colonizers. Such has been the continuing historical pattern of Israel in relation to the indigenous people of the land. In 1948 the Zionist forces violently drove out over 700,000 Palestinians by deploying ‘admonitory massacres’, as the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has evoked in horrific detail in his recent The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). Pappé details the continuous series of massacres in 1948-49 and sporadically thereafter that the Zionists perpetrated against the Palestinians in order to ‘Judaize’ ethnically-cleansed Palestinian lands. In 1967 the Israeli state conquered the West Bank and Gaza and has aggressively continued a genocidal pattern of replacement and destruction, creating and expanding Jewish settlements, stealing Palestinian land and ghettoizing remaining Palestinian communities, attempting, through a brutal military occupation, to make life humiliating and unbearable for the Palestinians.
What we are now witnessing is a form of settler colonization reminiscent of nineteenth century Australia, in which a settler colonial ‘logic of elimination’ (to quote historian of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe) combines massacre and population sequestration (reserves) to incapacitate the sovereign self determination of an indigenous people. Yet indigenous peoples have always resisted the genocidal processes of destruction and replacement that settler colonialism enacts. The indigenous peoples of Australia have magnificently resisted and still do, despite all their historical sufferings. The indigenous Palestinians as a people are also resisting the disaster that Zionism and Israel have brought upon them, thereby providing the continuing possibility of a future coexistence between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
The December 2008 Gaza massacre by Zionist Israel poses an intense dilemma for Israel’s organized Jewish supporters and much of the Jewish diaspora, who have for decades cooperated with and been complicit in the ongoing, incremental Israeli genocide of the Palestinians. Israel is guilty under article II, part C of the UN Genocide Convention, in that it intends to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic group by ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’. Will the Jews of the world continue to be so supportive, or will they historically disavow genocidal settler colonialism in the Middle East and question their own previous support? Historically, Israel is the imposition of a European nation state, founded on the notion of one people, one religion, one ethnicity, in an area of the world, the Levant, which through the centuries has been a space where Jews, Muslims and Christians have lived together in the same societies. The very idea so precious to Zionism, of Israel as a Jewish state, is absurd, as the great Jewish jurist and Australian governor-general Isaac Isaacs pointed out in the 1940s. What if Australia called itself a Protestant state, immediately making all non-Protestants second class citizens systematically facing abuse, discrimination, and state violence, as Palestinian Israelis do to the present day? Israel/Palestine should become a democratic state, a democracy where all who live in that land are full citizens whatever their religion or ethnicity.
The Australian government not that long ago in its apology over the Stolen Generations extended sympathy and understanding to the indigenous people of Australia. Why doesn’t it extend a similar sympathy to the indigenous people of Palestine?
Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism
1 January 2009