The Settler-Colonialism Canard Undermines the Palestinian Cause

July 29, 2021 | Donna Robinson Divine and Asaf Romirowsky
About the author:

In progressive anti-Israel rhetoric, the phrase “settler colonialism” is used to describe the Jewish state with dulling regularity. Donna Robinson Divine and Asaf Romirowsky examine its implications:

Settler colonialism is one of those terms with almost exclusively negative connotations because it is associated with [such phenomena as]: ethnic cleansing, genocide, unbridled war, and pillage. . . . Building its claims on the idea that the plow is no less an instrument of violence than the sword, the settler-colonial paradigm means that Israel, by its very nature, is a country engaged in ethnic cleansing with genocidal tendencies.

The phrase “settler colonialism” gradually came to replace the older, and equally false, claim that Israel is a mere colonial outpost, Robinson and Romirowsky write, because Israel never disappeared the way other European colonial outposts have. According to those who use the term, it implies something far more difficult to overcome:

As much as the settler-colonial paradigm supposedly imposes an indelible stamp of guilt on Zionism and Israel, it also injects a brooding pessimism into the consciousness and discourse of Palestinians. Told repeatedly that they confront an enmity so implacable and evil in character that only a totally mobilized world can destroy it, Palestinians can logically conclude that the independence enjoyed by other nations is beyond their reach. If their confrontation with Zionism is a clash of civilizations, then there are no reasons for Palestinians to cultivate . . . a politics capable of responding to shifting circumstances.

Engendering fatalism about politics as the art of the possible while elevating the impossible into a sacred principle may satisfy the conceit of intellectuals on college campuses, and yet, it does nothing to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Read more on JNS:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now