An exercise in omitting Israel’s colonial foundations – Middle East Monitor
Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s speech to the United States Congress on Wednesday was a mixture of melodrama and colonial nostalgia. Trying to hide the politics of settlement-colonialism and collaboration, Herzog made vague references to hope, unity and democracy, even as Israel’s military-industrial complex is a major exporter of colonial surveillance and violence to the rest of the world.
“Israel’s seventy-five years were rooted in an ancient dream. Let us base our next seventy-five years on hope. Our shared hope, that we can heal our broken lives, as the closest of allies and friends,” said Herzog reachmakers US.
However, Israel recently not only broke up the Jenin refugee camp, but destroyed it, leaving the refugee population forcibly displaced again. The United States, as committed as ever to Israel’s security narrative, did not object. And so, at the US Congress, the audience was presented with the exported story of the Zionist dream, told through insignificant details in political terms.
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Herzog’s attempt to appeal to sentiment would only draw traction among Israel and its collaborators. So is the story of the American Jewish man who “voluntarily boarded a ship to Haifa, fought in the Israeli army and fell in the battle for Israel’s independence” a few weeks before his wedding. This story, Herzog noted: “He spoke to the very essence of the bond that has been created between the people of the United States and the people of Israel.” Not at all. In both cases, the colonizers massacred and displaced the indigenous populations. The US and Israel have much in common regarding colonial violence and how this has been normalized by a mainstream democratic discourse that overlooks historical trajectories.
Using the biblical narrative, Herzog’s speech tried to create the illusion of the perfect state flourishing since 1948. Of course, the Palestinian Nakba was completely omitted. Instead, the discourse of returning home was used, and the bloody history of Zionist paramilitaries slaughtering Palestinians and destroying their towns and villages was not represented in Herzog’s speech, showing how Israel omits its own historical narrative, verbally and geographically. Replacing the indigenous population of Palestine with settler-colonials reinforces Israel’s role in manufacturing its settler-colonial population and international diplomacy.
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Omitting the Nakba, Herzog refers to “our Palestinian neighbors”. Lying clearly, he said: “Over the years, Israel has taken bold steps towards peace and made far-reaching proposals to our Palestinian neighbors.” Since 1948, Israeli expansion has created permanent displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population; it is a de-facto annexation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that he wants to end all prospects of a Palestinian state, hence the raid on the Jenin refugee camp to try to prevent the new unified Palestinian resistance from changing the political status quo, of which the Palestinian Authority is Israel’s main collaborator.
“Fear is hatred and bloodshed,” argued Herzog. True, but this should be applied to Israel’s colonial violence over the years. Palestinian resistance to colonialism is legitimate and would not be necessary if decolonization took place. On the other hand, Israel’s colonial violence is central to Israel’s life as its main founding pillar has been extended to the present day. “True peace cannot be established in violence,” said Herzog. So how about Israel confronting its own brutal history?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.