Keynote address: “The Value of Viewing Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Settler-Colonialism.”
By Ilan Pappé / Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
March 24, 2017
Zionism is not an event. It is a structure, and it’s a setter colonialist structure.
. . . What I’m going to argue today, this afternoon, is that as much as the lobbies are important in affecting and influencing American policy, there is a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of what the conflict in Palestine is all about, including among those American diplomats, pundits, politicians who see themselves champions of Palestinian rights.
The level of — I wouldn’t call it ignorance, because these are very educated well-read people, so ignorance would not be a fair concept here — the level of blindness, or the level of ignorance in the sense of ignoring certain chapters rather than not being able to understand reality, this level is so high that it really makes it impossible, even when you have a period in which the lobbies are not strong or even when you have a president who is more pro-Palestinian than anyone before him. The level, the depths, of that ignorance is so significant that it would not allow the two other factors, even if they are diminished or weakened, to influence fundamentally the American policy and, in association, the reality on the ground.
Now, what is missing? And this is what I would like to point out. What is missing is an understanding of the nature of Zionism, the nature of the Zionist project in Palestine — not as a nostalgic journey into the past, but as a current analysis. The late and amazing scholar of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, said famously that settler colonialism is not an event. It’s a structure. Zionism is not an event. It’s a structure, and it’s a settler colonialist structure. It was a settler colonialist structure in 1882, and it is a settler colonialist structure in 2017.
You don’t appease a settler colonialist project by dividing Palestine into two states. That will never appease the settler colonialist project. The only way to challenge a settler colonialist project is to decolonize the settler colonialist project. This challenge has not been digested by American policymakers, including those who regard themselves as open-minded, balanced — if you want — objective above the situation.