This is the second part of a series of brief musings on Dan Bielak's piece It's about Standing Up for the Human Rights of the Jewish People.
In that piece Dan writes:
The still living members of, and the descendants of, the approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jewish refugees from Muslim states in the Middle East who found refuge in Israel: Approximately fifty percent of the Jewish population of Israel (they call themselves Mizrahi, which means "Eastern" in Hebrew)One of the great misconceptions among westerners who concern themselves with the Arab-Israel conflict is the notion that Jewish Israelis are European colonists while the local Arabs are the "indigenous people of color."
This falsehood is front and center in "progressive" post-colonial views on the matter. The allegedly anti-racist, post-colonial left frames the conflict as one between a largely innocent local population that is oppressed and occupied by European Jews in a manner not entirely dissimilar from, say, the English in India or the French in Indo-China. And just as these European colonial projects were morally unjust and had to be abandoned, so the European Jewish colonial project in "Palestine" is likewise morally unjust.
This is the often unspoken assumption that western pro-Palestinian activists, and many pro-Palestinian western governments, bring to the table in their consideration of the matter. And what this means, of course, is that Israel is essentially guilty before the conversation even takes place. Just as post-colonial theory breaks the world down into white western oppressors and the non-white, non-western oppressed, so the Arab-Israel conflict is viewed in just the same manner.
The central problem, of course, is that this ideological lens through which western pro-Palestinian activists and governments view the conflict is entirely ahistorical and false. The reason that Dan points out that the majority of Jewish Israelis are Mizrahim, rather than Ashkenazim from Europe, is because it shows up the lie that the western pro-Palestinian stance is grounded in. Once we acknowledge that the majority of Jews in Israel are the descendants of Jews who never left the Middle East and who, in fact, have been the victim of Arab-Muslim imperial domination for thirteen hundred years prior to the end of dhimmitude early in the twentieth century, then the entire western pro-Palestinian narrative gets turned entirely on its head.
The Jews have historical truth on our side (which is a big part of Dan's point) and the truth is that it is the Arabs who have perpetually oppressed and dominated the Jews of the Middle East since the 7th century. Israel is not a colonial project, but just the reverse. Israel is, itself, a post-colonial project in the sense that it represents Jewish freedom from Arab-Muslim imperialism from the 7th century to the close of World War I.
And this is why Dan is absolutely right to point out that over fifty percent of the Jewish population of Israel are Mizrahim, which is to say that they are, themselves, the descendants of traditionally persecuted "people of color."
They are not the oppressors, but the descendants of the oppressed and that goes for all the Jews in Israel. The purpose of Zionism was never to dominate anyone, but to free the Jews from the aggression and persecution by hostile powers in both Europe and the Middle East. To oppose Zionism from the left is, thus, to oppose the very meaning of western anti-colonialism.
Furthermore, to hold Israel to a constant double-standard that is not applied to the surrounding countries is to undermine the values that the progressive-left claims to uphold and to demonstrate a deep anti-Semitism, to boot. The progressive-left betrayal of Israel is, thus, the progressive-left sell-out of its claimed foundational values.
It represents the betrayal not only of the Jews, but of the left's very reason to be.