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The template was the settlement of Ulster centuries earlier in Britain’s oldest colony. The colonial power granted privileges to colonists who naturally incurred the hatred of the local people by their seizure of resources and racist arrogance towards the natives; as with settler-colonialism in Ulster so the same dynamic was set in motion with the settler-colonial project in Palestine. From the 1920s onwards, the British mobilised Jewish settlers in Palestine to crush mass Arab resistance just as they periodically mobilised Irish loyalists in violent opposition to Irish nationalism.

Mick Napier
27 July 2015

It’s over seven years since I wrote a very short piece about the links between white supremacists and Gilad Atzmon via his hero, an extreme-rightist by the name of Israel Shamir who criticises the British fascist BNP for being insufficiently anti-Jewish. Shamir thinks that the current BNP is far too soft on Jews compared to the much firmer Nazis and fascists of the 1930s. Shamir argues that the BNP in Britain, as well as the KKK and other White supremacist groups should be welcomed as part of the Palestine solidarity movement. Atzmon declares that he “loves” Shamir’s ideas, not excluding his racist and repulsive admiration for 1930’s fascism.

Atzmon is incredibly ignorant, serially dishonest, not a little pompous and ridiculous. It’s a mystery how anyone claiming to support Palestinian freedom can fall for his propositions, which manage to be both childish and sinister. It can easily be seen that the “philosophical” musings of this self-styled “thinker” are of a standard easily pricked by an alert 12-year old. He operates from Zionist assumptions and peddles notions with which Israeli State worshippers feel comfortable.

Palestinians say “End the Occupation”
According to Atzmon, saying “End the Occupation” is in opposition to the Palestinian refugees’ right of return because the call is in some mysterious way “a legitimization of Israel through the back door”, so don’t call for an end to the occupation. This absurd conclusion flies in the face of all empirical evidence, not to mention elementary logic.

Since the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign was founded in 2000 we have, like many others, campaigned simultaneously for an end to the Israeli occupation of all territories conquered in 1967, for the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to all the areas they were driven from in 1948 and subsequently, and for full political and social equality for the million-plus Palestinian citizens of Israel. A consensus around this programme was reached without a single person ever suggesting there was a contradiction between the first and second aims.

There were a couple of timid voices who wanted to focus primarily but not exclusively on the occupied territories on pragmatic grounds, as the supposed easy option and thus play down the apartheid and settler-colonial nature of the entire Zionist project since 1917 (and earlier). No-one, however, suggested there was any contradiction between our aims or that we needed to drop one of them.

At certain times SPSC focussed on the occupied West Bank and the Golan by contributing to the successful international campaign against multinational Veolia or a significant home-grown campaign against the Golan-based Eden Springs, and certain specific examples of Israeli ethnic cleansing in, say, the Jordan Valley. Sometimes the focus was on challenging the siege of Gaza. During these campaigns we were clear that Israel’s ethnic cleansing had been ongoing across the whole of historic Palestine since before 1948.

With other efforts we focussed on the Negev and other areas mainly inside ‘48-’67 Israel, for example with the Stop the JNF Campaign. As a result of our long-term commitment to vigorous protests at all fundraising events for the JNF-KKL in Scotland, that racist body has had to adopt a clandestine approach to organising. In addition, whereas all three major UK party leaders more or less automatically used to become JNF Patrons, they now have none since Cameron resigned and Miliband and Clegg declined their invitations, throwing the JNF UK into something of a crisis.

By no means restricting their interest to the area occupied by the Israeli Army in 1967, the STUC and its affiliated unions, four Scottish Councils and other civil society institutions have committed to a general boycott of Israel, not only settlement products. More will follow. The Church of Scotland, Scotland’s national church, promotes the full rights of return of Palestinian refugees to the areas they were driven from, rejects Christian Zionism outright, and is having an ongoing debate about BDS. The Scottish Government recently reaffirmed its 2014 call for an arms embargo on Israel.

gaza grief nov12 child killed 400Many Palestinians can barely move ten miles under the suffocating military occupation of the West Bank and are routinely massacred in Gaza. Of course any sensible supporter of Palestinian liberation is behind each and every struggle for ANY improvement in their material conditions, even a partial one, on the road to full liberation. We would welcome not only an Israeli withdrawal from the areas captured in 1967, but a withdrawal from "just" heroic and violated Gaza, even one town or village and we would call for it openly.

The childish idea that fighting for partial victories is a betrayal of long-term goals is invariably a cover for passivity, abstention from active struggle, but such rhetorical excess from the sidelines is not restricted to the Palestine solidarity milieu. Socialists, for example, can remember one primitive sect who opposed any strike or trade union struggle as “a diversion from the struggle to overthrow capitalism”, and thus an implicit acceptance of the capitalist system. Committed trade unionists considered this idea no less ridiculous than serious campaigners in solidarity with Palestine consider absurd the idea of not calling loudly to “End the Occupation”.

Israel is an apartheid state
Zionists and Atzmon both insist that the term “apartheid” cannot be applied to Israel. Atzmon’s contribution to this effort is the assertion that labelling Israel as apartheid means “that Israel is only as bad as South Africa or the southern United States”. Turbo-charged nonsense to be sure, and betraying a fundamental ignorance of apartheid, of activist critiques of Israel as an apartheid state, and also of academic studies into the applicability of the term apartheid to modern Israeli society.

The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as a “crime against humanity”. The Statute sets up criteria against which any society can be examined and an evaluation made as to whether that society meets these objective criteria to qualify as apartheid, and thus as a “crime against humanity”. Apartheid is a different legal category from the kind of institutional racism that sees so many black people killed by police officers in the USA. The key notion is that of state-enforced segregation, separate legal codes or other means to enforce the segregation, and state-directed efforts to privilege one ethnic or “national” group over another. No comparison is needed or implied with apartheid South Africa, Bolivia, Rhodesia, Australia, or anywhere else. A state either meets the legal criteria for apartheid or it does not. Israel clearly meets the applicable criteria. The ongoing effort to completely cleanse Palestine of all Palestinians means that a way must be found to imprison these superfluous human beings in segregated areas in the meantime, i.e. an apartheid system pending their complete removal to set up an ethnically pure state, which is often the desired outcome and interim arrangement with settler-colonial projects.

Desmond Tutu is among many giants of the South African liberation struggle who are able to recognise Israeli treatment of Palestinians as apartheid while simultaneously noting consistently that the Israeli system of Jewish privilege in the State and society treats Palestinians much more harshly than non-whites under the South African version of state-enforced racial segregation. South African veterans of the liberation struggle don’t feel that they are whitewashing Israel by calling it apartheid (i.e. legally a ‘crime against humanity’). The idea is absurd to them.

Israeli Apartheid Week organisers have generated events across four continents – in 27 countries in February and March of 2015. The IAW Call condemns Israel’s “incremental genocide” of Palestinians. SPSC agrees that both the term “apartheid” as defined in the Rome Statute and term “genocide” as defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide apply to Israel, i.e. “genocide means…acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. It is obvious why defenders of the Israeli State are vehement that Israel is not an apartheid state and, like Atzmon, reject any such notion out of hand.

The academic and activist consensus is that Israel is a settler-colonial state
In the academic field of settler-colonial studies the consensus view among scholars is that the template of a settler-colonial project best explains Israel’s dynamic of violent dispossession, intense popular racism, state-directed segregation, and a built-in tendency to genocide. The current issue of the academic journal Settler Colonial Studies, for example, is devoted to Israel-Palestine. Well worth reading is Lorenzo Veracini’s editorial arguing that “the Zionist settler-colonial project is ultimately unable to complete the settler-colonial conquest of Palestine and become like the other settler societies”. In the same issue Palestinians Nadim N. Rouhana and Areej Sabbagh-Khoury write on the Palestinian struggle “against a settler-colonial project – the Zionist project that sought to establish a ‘Jewish national home’ in their homeland”. Elsewhere Joseph Massad, Amal Jamal and Nur Masalha agree (an uncontroversial observation outside Zionist circles) that “Israel was created by a settler-colonial movement of Jewish immigrants". It is of some interest that four of these six Palestinian academics, Rouhana, Sabbagh-Khoury, Jamal and Masalha, are Palestinian citizens of Israel. The studies mentioned are only a few examples of a wide-ranging and illuminating body of work on Israel-Palestine as the scene of a Zionist settler-colonial project that is still underway.

This work on settler-colonialism by Palestinian and many other academics seems to be a closed book to Atzmon who insists pompously that settler-colonialism is only a “a new terminological spin” that “popped up within the Palestinian solidarity ranks” in recent years as a response to his personal “criticism of the colonial paradigm”. In fact, although settler-colonial studies is a relatively recent identifiable academic field with its own journals, Maxime Rodinson’s well-known work Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? was published in 1988 and widely read and reviewed.

Atzmon opines from a yawning pit of incomprehension that any talk of Israeli “settler-colonialism” is a “unique form of ignorance”, and merely an example of “contemporary solidarity terminology [that] operates to deceive and derail the Palestinian cause”.

Our “thinker” criticises the notion of Israel as a settler-colonial enterprise on the superficial grounds that all the Zionist Jews who colonised Palestine until Britain withdrew in 1948 did not come from imperial Britain but from elsewhere, mainly Eastern Europe, and thus lacked a single mother country. This common Zionist effort is echoed by Atzmon; it is rejected by prominent scholar of settler-colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, referencing Rodinson:

Israel is also, of course, a partial exception here, though not so substantial an exception as is asserted by those who claim that Israel cannot be a colonial formation because it lacks a single commissioning metropolis. From the outset, the Yishuv co-opted Ottoman, British and US imperialism to its own advantage, a reciprocated opportunism involving what Maxime Rodinson neatly glossed as “the collective mother country.”

However keen modern Zionists may be to conceal the reality of Zionism as a colonial impulse, the colonising process, however, was widely acknowledged by the would-be colonisers themselves. The Zionists, after all, were proposing to seize and hold a part of the “uncivilised” world just as Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Russia had done. Brutal and violent European colonial enterprises were the inspiration for the Zionists.

Herzl saw himself and Zionism in the same mould as the most famous imperialist coloniser of his day: “Naturally there are big differences between Cecil Rhodes and my humble self, the personal ones very much in my disfavour, but the objective ones greatly in favour of our movement.” Father of the Revisionist tradition in Zionism, Jabotinsky was clear that “Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers…All colonization must continue in defiance of the will of the native population. Therefore, it can continue and develop only under the shield of force…”  The Jewish Colonial Trust, predecessor to the Israel’s currently largest bank, Bank Leumi was founded at the Second Zionist Congress and incorporated in London in 1899 as the financial instrument of the Zionist Organization.

The record shows that, far from imperial Britain needing to be forced against its wishes by the Zionist movement into backing Jewish settlement in Palestine after 1917, British leaders saw clearly that the driving motive for the settler-colonising project by Zionist Jews in Palestine was British imperial interest. Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British military governor of Jerusalem, explained that the Zionist “enterprise was one that blessed him that gave as well as him that took, by forming for England ‘a little loyal Jewish Ulster’ in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism”. The Jewish colony in Palestine would counter what Storrs termed the “present aborigines” and protect the Suez Canal and communications with India, the jewel of the world’s superpower at that time, the British Empire.

The template was the settlement of Ulster centuries earlier in Britain’s oldest colony. The colonial power granted privileges to colonists who naturally incurred the hatred of the local people by their seizure of resources and racist arrogance towards the natives; as with settler-colonialism in Ulster so the same dynamic was set in motion with the settler-colonial project in Palestine. From the 1920s onwards, the British mobilised Jewish settlers in Palestine to crush mass Arab resistance just as they periodically mobilised Irish loyalists in violent opposition to Irish nationalism.

As with all settler-colonial enterprises, relations between the imperial power and the settlers they protect and utilise can be conflicted. Zionists had consented to government by the UK from 1917 to 1945 until they became strong enough to both crush the native people and throw off direct rule from Europe. As also happens with many settler-colonial projects, for example the USA and Argentina, an acceleration of ethnic cleansing followed political independence. The imperial power is not always the same nationality as the colonizing shock troops - the settlers. The settlers are, however, generally viewed by the colonizing authority as racially superior to the natives in the eyes of the home government. Imperial powers will be opportunistic, Britain utilising Zionist Jews bent on colonising somewhere outside Europe or the USA using ex-slaves to colonise what became a US protectorate in Liberia. (Both colonising ventures helped metropolitan racists reduce by migration unwelcome populations of Jews and Blacks respectively.)

Palestinians themselves have never been in any doubt as to the colonising movement they are suffering under. The BDS Call, signed by virtually the entirety of Palestinian civil society, calls for Israel to comply with International law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Current defenders of the Israeli State are vehement that Zionist immigration into Palestine was never a colonial project and now, like Atzmon, reject any such notion out of hand.

The international BDS movement
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign enthusiastically embraced the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS as the optimum strategy for Palestinian solidarity. The BDS Call clarified and gave structure to activities already underway in Scotland, for example against the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Scottish wing of an international pillar of Israeli apartheid. From 2000 onwards we helped to build mass protests against JNF gala events with keynote speakers such as Bill Clinton in 2001 and Shaul Mofaz in 2002. Here is not the place to list the evidence that the BDS campaign is already seen as a significant threat to Israel, and has the potential to be even greater. Palestinians are asking for it, Hilary Clinton, Tsipi Livni, Zionists, Netanyahu and others fear it, and John Kerry threatens Israel with it if things continue as they are. It is a powerful auxiliary to the Palestinian struggle for freedom

Atzmon’s attacks on BDS close the circle of his promotion of notions that are highly congenial to supporters of the Israeli State: opposition to any call to end the occupation of the areas conquered in 1967; opposition to the use of the term “apartheid” to describe Israel; hostility to the identification of Israel as the fruit of Zionist colonisation and as a settler-colonial state; efforts to demean the world-wide BDS campaign initiated by the 2005 BDS Call.

I earlier alluded to Atzmon’s mutual admiration for Israel Shamir, someone who hopes to bring neo-Nazis and White supremacists into the Palestine solidarity movement, i.e. to kill the movement stone dead. Atzmon’s incessant efforts to show that the Palestine solidarity movement has been taken over by Jewish “Anti-Zionist Zionists” is both idiotic and sinister. SPSC is proud to work with IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) in the Stop the JNF Campaign as part of a wider network of progressive forces united in fighting for justice for all. There is no place in the wider Palestine solidarity movement for White supremacists.

All movements have to draw a line of what is acceptable and what is not. It’s only common sense that a group dedicated to building the BDS campaign in support of the injured people of Palestine – or selling cars or protecting newts – doesn’t welcome those who oppose the plan outright.

The line needs to be drawn to firmly exclude positions that

  1. attack the entire BDS campaign
  2. align ideologically with White supremacists such as Shamir
  3. smear those who identify Israel as an apartheid state
  4. support the Zionist claim that Israel is not a settler-colonial project
  5. oppose any campaign to end the occupation of the territories conquered by Israel in 1967.

A line is necessary not just because of the manifest imbecility of the five positions above, but the fact that all five positions are useful and congenial to Zionists. Atzmon, like Shamir, endlessly peddles anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, for example that the supposed uselessness of the BDS campaign is due to a malign Jewish control and manipulation of the Palestinians who initiated it as well as those of us who are active in promoting BDS.

A final, sixth point. Zionism, as anyone who has studied it knows, is anti-semitic in its origins, in working for a Jew-free Scotland and Europe, and in working assiduously to conflate opposition to the crimes of Israel with hatred of Jews as people. It follows that anyone peddling anti-semitic filth helps the Zionist project and damages the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Atzmon is being consistent in advocating pro-Zionist ideas: he scores 6 out of 6 of the points above.

Mick Napier
West Calder
27 July 2015

Ben White, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners Guide (2009) Pluto
Ben White, Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy (2011) Palgrave
Uri Davis, Israel - An Apartheid State (1987) Zed Press

Patrick Wolfe, Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native, Journal of Genocide Research (2006) 8(4)  pp 387-409
Gabriel Piterberg, The Return of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel

Omar Barghouti, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (2011)


0 #7 Alana Terego 2015-10-29 12:53
Bashir Abu-Manneh writes in Monthly Review on some academic and politically committed non-academic theorists of Israeli settler-colonialism from the 1960s, pre-dating Atzmon's claim to have birthed the academic discipline.
"As Uri Ram has noted: 'The agenda of the Matzpen (The Israeli Socialist Organization) group exemplifies the emergence of an explicit colonization perspective in Israeli society.'16 Founded in 1962, Matzpen ('Compass,' in Hebrew) was an anti-Stalinist, anti-Zionist splinter from the Israeli Communist Party which was particularly close to radical Palestinian activists and communists inside Israel.
Collectively, it launched the 'Israel as colonial-settler state analysis, and continued to develop it in its magazine Khamsin.
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0 #6 S MacLeod 2015-07-30 08:39
A useful article. Ideas are important and discussing/debating how they relate to reality on the ground especially so in order that we better understand our actions and those of our opposition. Through BDS we oppose Israel's daily violation of Palestinian rights, that are not random acts or inexplicable 'evil' acts, but rather are logical manifestations of the idea of Zionism.
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0 #5 Jimmy Powdrell Campb 2015-07-29 10:28
If they really gave a damn about the Palestinian people they would also take the time to find out the facts and to come to an understanding of the geo-political context. To discuss Israeli impunity out of its context firstly of British and then US imperialism is meaningless prattling.

The idea of Zionism was conceived as a response to European anti-Semitism but the realisation of the idea, the colonisation of Palestine, with its complete disregard to the welfare and the interests of the Palestinian people as being an irrelevance, was enabled and is protected to this day, by modern imperialism. Western support for Zionism is about projection of power. The fact, however, that Israel has an out-of-control military run by a government of fanatical extremists is actually far from ideal for the long-term future of US regional control.
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0 #4 Jimmy Powdrell Campb 2015-07-28 14:57
That, of course, is exactly why they try incessantly to smear SPSC activists with the anti-Semitic libel but what I find interesting is that Gilad Atzmon should come to Edinburgh and hope to find some kindred spirits willing to put their toes in the rank, fetid water of anti-Semitic discourse. What could be his motive other than to try to undermine Palestine Solidarity by picking off the weakest of its followers? My personal feeling is that Atzmon is just an immature and confused man rather than an Israeli asset but it's really a moot point, isn't it?
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0 #3 Jimmy Powdrell Campb 2015-07-28 14:52
If you care about something, you do something about it, you don't just talk about it, but there's another interesting aspect to this attempt to introduce anti-Semitic dialogue into the pro-Palestine coffee-shop community. Anyone who has even a brushing acquaintance with Palestine Solidarity activism is aware of the never-ending attempts of the Zionists to deflect criticism of the Israeli government by accusing its critics of anti-Semitism. If the Scottish supporters of Zionism were able to bring evidence in support these perverse and hysterical claims, if there was a shred of truth in these accusations, Palestine Solidarity in Scotland would be completely undermined and rightly discredited in the eyes of the Scottish people as being potentially as racist as the Zionists themselves.
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#2 Guest 2015-07-28 14:50
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0 #1 Jimmy Powdrell Campb 2015-07-28 14:08
"It’s a mystery how anyone claiming to support Palestinian freedom can fall for his propositions, which manage to be both childish and sinister."

I disagree. I don't think it's a mystery. People who care about Palestine don't just talk about Zionism, they're mostly out on the streets promoting BDS. People who are attracted to anti-Semitic dialogue fall into a different category altogether. Far from instinctively or intellectually opposing the racism of Zionism, they are drawn to a racist's view of the world. If they gave a damn about the Palestinian people, if that was in their nature, they would be equally conscious of the reality of anti-Semitism and the cruelty that, for centuries, has been inflicted upon the Jewish people by European racists (maybe not so far removed from themselves when you think about it).
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