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COMMENTARY: Settler colonialism of Israel must be brought into question

More and more people are participating in a phenomenal age of a greater understanding of the colonial history of much of the Western world. But, for some reason, this trade-off between ignorance and knowledge falls short when many of those same people are asked to question the settler-colonialism of the state of Israel. This recognition is not, as Scarlet Knights for Israel put it, “denial of the Jewish people’s basic right to their historical homeland” or a “double standard to the world’s only Jewish state.” It is standing up for an indigenous Palestinian population and showing people that the establishment of a Jewish state came at the expense of expelling native populations during the 1948 Nakba. The claim that “Arabs” (an overused term intended to erase Palestinian identity and delegitimize their history) and Israelis live harmoniously together in one nation, while enjoying equal rights and protection under the law, is a gross and blatant lie that erases the levels of Palestinian oppression by Israel. Palestinians in Gaza face brutal physical violence and systemic starvation of basic resources. Palestinians in the West Bank face night raids, checkpoints and segregated roads. Palestinians that hold Israeli citizenships in Israel (some of whom get deported to the West Bank to make room for settler expansion projects) face racial discrimination at every turn, even as they hold positions in the Knesset.

The Scarlet Knights for Israel using South African apartheid history to discount the very real and oppressive apartheid that Israel inflicts on the Palestinian people is not only shameful, given the extensive history of violence and oppression that Israel has, but delusional and purposefully ignorant of the protests and expansive activism against Israeli apartheid from actual victims of South African apartheid. Nelson Mandela, a leader of the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa, pledged the movement’s solidarity with the Palestinian people. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called Israel an apartheid state over and over again. African National Congress chair Baleka Mbete called Israel “far worse than apartheid South Africa.” South African United Nations representatives have fearlessly and boldly called Israel the only remaining apartheid state in the world today. Countless international governments (including South Africa) have spoken out on the apartheid regime’s war crimes, human rights abuses and institutional discrimination against Palestinians. It is shameful and ironic that Scarlet Knights for Israel attempted to use the suffering of one population to erase the presence of suffering that Israel inflicts. The long-standing solidarity between Palestinians and South Africans should be enough to show the severity of human rights abuses against Palestinians. 

The fantasy of Israel being a multi-ethnic, liberal, progressive state is directly contradicted by the words and actions of the Israeli government, its lawmakers and its terroristic military. Government officials have never shied away from using blatantly anti-Palestinian language. Eyal Karim, head of the Military Rabbinate of the Israel Defense Forces, encouraged soldiers to rape Palestinian women. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked exclaimed that all Palestinian women, who give birth to "little snakes," should be slaughtered. In February, Shaked also said that a Jewish-majority Israel must be prioritized “at the expense of human rights.” These harsh words and actions do not stop at Palestinians, either. Israeli politicians target African asylum seekers time and time again, like Knesset Member and Israel's Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev calling Africans a “cancer,” or most recently being the incident where only hours after signing it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retracted his deal to deport African asylum seekers to Italy, Germany and Canada after falling to pressure from his right-wing coalition allies claiming that the deal is "bad for Israel" and would "turn Israel into an infiltrator's paradise". The list goes on and on.

Israel has forcefully taken control of religious sites within Jerusalem and implemented bans on Muslim and Christian worshippers from entering their holy sites. They have indiscriminately bombed entire neighborhoods full of civilians along with schools, mosques and hospitals by re-narrating their ethnic cleansing attacks as defenses against terrorism. 

Even without regard to the Nakba, further proof of the continuity of colonialism by the state of Israel is the illegal (according to international law) expansion of settlements into Palestinian territory. These settlements expose the hypocrisy of Israel in their claim of wanting any peace while they take out entire neighborhoods and towns of Palestinians to make room for racist, incentivised Jewish settlers and rich neighborhoods. Palestinians connection to their land is forcibly weakened while Jewish communities come and put down roots illegally. Ultimately, this process hinders any possibility of a future Palestinian state, showing the goal of settlers to incorporate occupied territory as entirely Israeli land. 

Rutgers Students for Justice in Palestine unequivocally stands against rhetoric attempting to whitewash the settler-colonial actions of Israel and stands firm in the belief of the right of Palestinians to return to their rightful homeland. We demand justice and equality for all people across ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations.

Students for Justice in Palestine is a Rutgers organization that aims to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the people of Palestine.

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