Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Getting this party started

I'm asking for comments. Here goes:

Israel is often accused of colonialism and imperialism. For those of you who hold these views, or who feel you understand them, please answer the following:

1) If Israel is a colony, what other country or countries is it a colony of? France, England, and so on did not cease to exist upon losing colonies because their colonies were aggressively pursued extensions of already-existing states. If Israel is a bunch of Westerners colonizing an Arab land, which Western states are they representing? Can't all the ones that either sought to exterminate their Jews or kept out those Jews about to be exterminated be by definition ruled out as places Israel could be imagined to represent?

2) If Israel is an empire, whose empire is it? If the answer is, "The Jews' empire, those warmongerers!," then doesn't this imply the legitimacy of a Jewish state as such, albeit one within more restricted borders?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think both of these questions presume that there is a question of legitimacy of Israel that has to be answered before one can proceed to the others. Whether you believe Israel should or should not exist, or even if you think the question is irrelevant, does not matter to the question of whether Israel engages in colonialism or imperialism.

1. Israel is accused of colonialism because it colonizes, not because it is a colony. It has occupied territories not part of its sovereign borders, placed administrative/military control, and have generally dominated the resources of the region, and imposed its own laws. Some of this has been done formally, some imformally. And generally, there is an ethnocentric belief that the morals and values of the colonizer are superior to those of the colonized. This is a classic description of colonialism.

2. As for imperialism, Israel has engaged in it, and may also probably be spoken of in engaging in the larger Western imperialistic program. It is imperialistic in that it attempts to extend its authority by territorial acquisition and the establishment of power over other nations. It has largely been successful in that regard, and it is both influencial, and in some ways, dominant over its neighbors, the territory it occupies, and any possible challengers.

I think you're asking the wrong questions here. I think the right question is, "Is Israeli imperialism and colonialism bad for Israel?" I think that Israeli imperialism, qua economic and other indirect means of influence, has been very good for Israel. I'm less certain that Israeli colonialism is as good for it.

The question of legitimacy of Israel is a question for the fringes: Israel exists, and Israel will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. In what borders, and whether peacefully or in a constant state of agitation are other questions. But those who do not accept that Israel will continue to exist regardless of their personal preference that it not aren't really part of any reality-based conversation.

Petey said...

"If Israel is an empire, whose empire is it? If the answer is, "The Jews' empire, those warmongerers!," then doesn't this imply the legitimacy of a Jewish state as such, albeit one within more restricted borders?"

This is such a weird way of avoiding the actual question.

To go all Godwin here, imagine saying that Hitler's crimes against civilian populations in his military expansion to the East implies the legitimacy of a German state.

But what do Hitler's crime have to do with the legitimacy of Germany? They are two utterly separate things.

-----

As to colonialism, I don't have much interest in that particular line of attack. But if you're actually interested in why there are voices in the region who do subscribe to that, you ought to note the pre-Israel history of European involvement in the Levant, such as this.

Petey said...

Or, to put things another way...

Israel is often reflexively defended against all charges of criminal and immoral behavior. For those of you who hold these views, please answer the following:

Do you really not understand the case against Israel's post'-67 behavior in the occupied territories?

Petey said...

To take a third bite of the apple:

I don't think 1948 Israel can be justifiably accused of either colonialism or imperialism, although I do have an understanding of how a European migration and settlement in the Levant could inspire fears of these things among reasonable people of the Middle East, given the history.

But Israel post-1967 is clearly guilty of both imperialism and colonialism. I don't think this is even vaguely in doubt, except among those who are reflexive defenders of Israel.

Phoebe's post seems so happily clueless of the issues, though, that I'm not sure where to start explaining. The ultra-short answers to your questions:

- The West Bank is the colony. Israel is the colonizer.

- Israel is the imperial power. The West Bank is the land under imperial control.

SiliDaddy said...

The respondents to this question seem blissfully (or willfully) ignorant of the following questions:

1) Putting aside the Bible, which may or may not be a fairy tale, there is ample historical evidence that Israel is the homeland of the Jews. They got kicked out, and the Palestinians ended up squatting on their homeland.

Is there a statute of limitations on reclaiming your home?

2) Responding to Petey and his many fellow travelers: It's well and good to talk about post-1967 Israel. Fine. So what was the Arab problem with Israel until then? The Arab hatred for the Jews goes back far longer than that.

Let's be very clear. The 1967 war was foisted upon Israel as another manifestation of Arab rejectionism. It wasn't some magical dawn of the Arab hatred for the Zionists/Jews.

3) Responding now to Phoebe's first question. The "Israel is a colony" line refers to Israel's being the agents of the Western world. In the Arab mythology, the Jews are the servants of the Imperialists/Crusaders, even as the Arabs also believe that the Jews control the Western capitals like so many puppets.

There is no other way to understand the rather absurd assertion that Israel is a colony.

4) Some of your respondents seem deeply concerned with the welfare of Palestinians displaced in 1967. I would be curious to know what they know of the hundreds of thousands of Jews chased out of Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, and Iran in the wake of 1948. I would also be curious as to how they would compare the lot of Israeli Arabs to that of the dhimmi, which in this context means the Jew living in Arab lands and subject to religiously enshrined discrimination--low-intensity persecution, if you will.

I never cease to be astounded how the demonizers of Israel, from NGOs to the UN, pay so little attention to the horrendous insanity that passes for human rights in the Arab countries.

Two things to think about:

1) Ariel Sharon--bete noir of the Arabs and the larger left--had less Arab blood on his hands than any modern Arab leader.

2) Whatever discrimination s/he faces, an Israeli Arab has a better lot--economically and in terms of personal freedoms--than an Arab ruled by Arabs.

Maybe even more political freedom than an American. Arab MKs (Israeli parliamentarians) are constantly preaching treason in the Knesset. If an American congressman went into the well of the House and declared solidarity with Osama B-L...well, I can't even imagine what the reaction to that would be.

Aaron said...

I think some of the trouble is that "imperialism" has been stretched around so much, from actual political influence and control to include virtually anything an observer might classify as undue political, cultural or economic influence by one polity over another. That being said, I think petey is right to classify the West Bank as clearly good, old-fashioned imperialism. Silidaddy's argument that the Jews have a history within the geographic location of Israel does little to refute the fact that the relationship between the Isrealis and the Palestinians is clearly imperialistic. I'm not sophisticated enough to make petey's demarcation between pre and post-1967 Israel, but Israel clearly claims and exercises tremendous influence over a polity outside of itself. Whether or not this is justified by a continuing security situation, as silidaddy suggests, is not a question on which I feel comfortable making a judgement.

SiliDaddy said...

Aaron states:

*****
Silidaddy's argument that the Jews have a history within the geographic location of Israel does little to refute the fact that the relationship between the Isrealis and the Palestinians is clearly imperialistic.
*****

I disagree. The refutation lies in the fact that the Palestinians are (unwelcome) squatters on the Jewish homeland. If I come home after an extended absence to find you living in my home, I'm hardly being imperialistic in telling you to beat it (or to obey my house rules if you want to stay).

Aaron also said:
*****
I think petey is right to classify the West Bank as clearly good, old-fashioned imperialism.
*****

Imperialism, at least to me, suggests the willful conquest and subjugation of other people.

Let's not lose sight of why Israel is in the West Bank in the first place: because Jordan attacked it (after being specifically warned to stay out of the fight, no less). Israel conquered the territory after having been attacked. This is hardly the expansionistic, aggressive history that the term "imperialism" seems to convey.

Let's also keep in mind one more point: The West Bank was never "Palestinian" territory. Jordan ruled it, and Israel captured it from Jordan. The Palestinians are less victims of Israeli imperialism than they are Jordanian apartheid. To this day, you know, a small Hashemite minority dominates a Palestinian majority. There's a strong argument to be made tha the Palestinian homeland lies on the East Bank and beyond.

Petey said...

"I disagree. The refutation lies in the fact that the Palestinians are (unwelcome) squatters on the Jewish homeland"

Well, since you are one of those astute folks who think the bible is a registrar of property deeds, you ought to note that the bible grants Israel all the lands from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates.

So, not only are the Palestinians "squatters" on Israeli land, but so are the Jordanians and Iraqis.

Slobodan Milosevic would be proud of your logic.

"Imperialism, at least to me, suggests..."

I'm sure you have your own personal definitions of all kinds of words.

But for the past 40 years, Israel has maintained an unsanctioned military occupation of the West Bank. Israel doesn't want to end the occupation, and it doesn't want to give the vote to the residents of the West Bank in Israeli elections. And all the while, it continues to settle Israelis in the occupied territories.

This is defined as imperialism and colonialism by folks who think words have a commonly held meaning, rather than their own idiosyncratic definitions of what words "suggest" to them.

SiliDaddy said...

Petey:

Thanks. In one post, you manage to slip in an ad hominem attack (the Milosevic bit, of course), a willful misrepresentation of what I wrote, and a lack of understanding of basic English. That's a remarkable trifecta, and demonstrates dexterity that I only wish I could match.

I noted that the Bible "may or may not be a fairy tale," but that reliable secular history pinpoints Israel as the home of the Jews. This is far different from saying "bible is a registrar [sic] of property deeds"

You also write:

"I'm sure you have your own personal definitions of all kinds of words."

No. I used the word correctly. Nonetheless, reasonable people can disagree as to the overtones carried by words.

You either willfully ignored my central point, or you weren't intelligent enough to understand what I wrote. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt by assuming the latter case, and I'll reword what I wrote.

Behavior is "imperialistic" when it passes two tests: 1) Expansionism; and, 2) Willful subjugation of another people.

As I noted very plainly, 1967 was not an expansionist war. It was a war of self-defense. As the victor, Israel found itself in possession of more territory than it had started out with.

Two excellent examples of imperialism can be found in the history of the Roman Empire and in the 19th-20th century Japanese Empire. These were both aggressively expansionistic powers, and they were also aggressive subjugators of their subject peoples.

I don't really have anything else to say to you, as you ignored almost entirely my entire post, and went off on some tangent.

I don't really know you, and have no idea as to your age, background, or whatever. But between your poor reading comprehension, your shaky grasp of vocabulary words, and your generally poor understanding of history, I'd guess you to be an overachieving junior in high school.

I suggest that you work to remedy your deficiencies in all three areas before trying to move from the kids' table to that of the adults.

Should you advance to college someday, by the way, you'll learn during your first-year orientation that a registrar is a person, while a registry is a record. Best of luck!

trouc said...

"Putting aside the Bible, which may or may not be a fairy tale, there is ample historical evidence that Israel is the homeland of the Jews. They got kicked out, and the Palestinians ended up squatting on their homeland."

So I guess that justifies all those Russian pogroms, huh? The Jews were unwelcome squatters on Russian land, so they deserved to get murdered, harassed and kicked out? Let's also not forget that much of the land we're talking about was originally taken from other people by the Jews through slaughter and conquest. The whole concept's bs though, because that's a historical matter. There are no Jewish Israelis living now that were born in Israel during the "historical" moment that you're referencing. There are however plenty of Arabs still living who were born in Israel that are now exiled from it.

Petey said...

"Behavior is "imperialistic" when it passes two tests: 1) Expansionism; and, 2) Willful subjugation of another people. As I noted very plainly, 1967 was not an expansionist war."

You can create whatever tests you like for what qualifies as imperialistic behavior in your mind, but again, the commonly used definition is far more interesting than your personal definition.

WWII was not an expansionist war by the Allies. But if the Allies had been still maintaining a total military occupation of Germany and Japan 40 years after the war, and were using their militaries to settle their citizens in these occupied lands, they would be guilty of imperialism and colonialism under the commonly used definitions of those terms.

And, of course, Israeli behavior in the West Bank over the past 40 years quite clearly meets even your (incorrect) definition quoted above.

But you're one of those bigots who doesn't care about the moral and legal transgressions of your own group against 'outsiders'. There's a whole rogue's gallery of moral midgets well beyond Milosevic who have embraced your logic over the years to justify their greed.

(The Japanese, of course, have long been fond of such logic, though their island geography has prevented them from acting out very much, except for during the 1930's and 40's.)

Rachel said...

I am the last person to criticize the Israelis, but I should point out that this "historical" record of Jews living in Israel that may be from the Bible occured before Muslims even existed, it would not be unheard of to think that some of the Jews living in Israel became Muslims.
3000 years ago my relatives were barbarians living in what is now Western Austria, they rushed west to fill the vacuum left by a collapsing roman empire and settles in the Po river valley in northern Italy but I can't imagine claiming my home in Austria.
I think Israel has the right to exist and assert it's own security, but the Palestinians are being opressed and subjugated; maybe it is not the geographic empire that makes Israel imperial but the inhumane and imperial actions.
Also you must admit only an extremely small group of people hold the Torah as true, it is not that I don't consider the Old Testament true, it is that the New Testament nulls all of G-d's previous agreements with the Jews, that is why as Christians we don't have to keep kosher or visit Jerusalem. So you are asking the whole world to respect the shakey geographical claims put forth in a book that only the people whom benefit from it believe.
That said, I support the existence of Israel and even it's control of Jerusalem and even it's more pushy policies, but I think it needs to release the West Bank.