‘Gaza in context. The duty of solidarity in the West’: BDS group forum at Sydney University, 20 October 2023

I was born in Haifa, British-occupied Palestine, and grew up in occupied Palestine, a.k.a. the state of Israel. Throughout my childhood and youth, I have been indoctrinated by the Zionist regime and told to de-humanise Palestinians and regard their country as ‘ours.’ This was done through the education system, everyday discourses, popular songs, literature, youth movement activities, cultural activities, family talk, in short – everything.

A few weeks after the 1967 war, having met a group of members of Matzpen, the Socialist Organisation in Israel – I learnt the truth about Zionist colonisation, imperialism, and racial capitalism, though these were terms I got to know many years later.

Two years after the war I moved to Ireland; I was a late comer to academia and my interest in race and racism led me to understand racism, according to African American abolition scholar Ruthie Wilson Gilmore as “the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” This, and my work on race and racism in Ireland and elsewhere led me to put race front and centre in thinking and writing about Zionism.

Zionism constructed ‘the Jews’ as racially superior in contrast to the supposed racial inferiority of ‘the Arabs’ (Palestinian is a concept employed by Israelis only much later) – see Zionist leaders such as Theodor HerzlMax NordauArthur Ruppin, David Ben Gurion, Menachem Begin and members of Netanyahu’s cabinet among others… even though ‘the Jews’ is a construct based on biblical myths and stories, as argued by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, and Israeli biblical scholar Yigal Bin Nun. Once you see race you cannot unsee it – it is everywhere in Israel’s citizenship and migration regimes, in unequal resource allocations to Israeli Jews and Palestinians (in the fields of education, health, municipal funds, labour market, judicial systems and incarceration, media representation, among other things). Crucially, Zionism is the child of Europe – European (Ashkenazi) Jews racialized not only Palestinians but also Oriental, black and Arab Jews, and non-Jewish, non-white labour migrants and asylum seekers. We see the continued racialisation of the Palestinians by Israel and also by western politicians and media that speak of the Gaza based organisation Hamas as ‘terrorists’, of Palestinian resistance as acts of cruelty and terrorism, and of Israel as victims of ‘Arab violence.’ 

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