• A Logic of Elimination

    AS : When we talk about colonialism, we often talk about one sovereign nation colonizing another—French colonialism in Vietnam or British colonialism in Jamaica. In the case of Zionism, the lack of a single “mother country” is often used to dispute characterizations of Israel as a settler colonial state. What do you make of this?

    LV : The lack of a single “mother country” would demonstrate that Zionism was not a colonial movement—that is, a movement aiming to benefit an imperial metropole. This is accurate, because it was a settler colonial one: Even if the Zionist colonies were initially established under the imperial rule of Britain, Zionists always saw these colonial or imperial arrangements as inherently temporary. Eradicating the Indigenous population and its sovereignties in order to replace it with a sovereign Jewish state was always the end game.

    Besides, we should reconsider what’s meant when we talk about a colony as an emanation of a “mother country.” For example, the United States, the most successful settler project of all, was once a collection of British colonies, but the settlers came from countries across northern and western Europe, and elsewhere. Palestine, too, was once a British colony, but the settlers came from, among other places, countries across central and eastern Europe. In terms of political geometry, I see little difference.

    AS : Are there other examples of settler colonial movements that claimed to be “returning,” as Zionists imagined they were to Palestine?

    LV : The notion of return frames many settler movements: returning to the land, returning to an authentic consciousness, returning to an invigorating environment, returning to a prerevolutionary world. The return to empire was a trope of the Italian fascists who claimed they were “returning” to Libya. When the French set out to colonize Algeria, French representations framed the North African country as the site of an original Latin world awaiting the return of the settlers. The European settlers of North America, too, fantasized that they had previously colonized the land. They even “found” inscriptions on some rocks “demonstrating” that their ancestors had once populated the areas they were now claiming. This land, they reasoned, was their inheritance. Even the settlers of Australia and New Zealand fantasized that the Indigenous peoples they were encountering were “Aryans,” people they shared some remote ancestors with. If they shared ancestors, the settlers reasoned, then they could rightfully claim the whole country as an inheritance. I could go on, but you get the pattern.

    #sionisme #colonialisme