Feb 20, 2013

Zionism = Colonialism, According to The NY Times

Yup, that's right. The paper of record, The New York Times, aptly described Zionism as a colonial movement. Shocked? Well, maybe it will make more sense when you consider that this article (NYT subscription needed) about Zionist organizing was written for the paper in 1899.

They were not shy about it either, check out the headlines:



Describing Zionism as colonialism today puts one outside the mainstream of thought and writing on the issue, and yet, a century ago, it was as mainstream as it gets. Why is that? Why the change? Did something fundamental change about Zionism?

No, what changed is the connotation of "colonialism." It became a dirty word. Or, as Joseph Conrad presciently wrote in the same year of this article's publication, "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much."

It's not a pretty thing at all.

Early Zionist leaders self-described the movement as a colonial one. Of course, with the creation of the state of Israel, the depopulation of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinian Arabs, and the growing number of independent states emerging from colonial rule across the globe,  the association of a political movement with colonialism became a liability in a war of ideas taking place in an increasingly liberal global battlefield.

Ironically, and thanks to technology, as time has gone by it has become easier, not harder, to retrieve news articles on Zionism from this more candid, less PR-sensitive period. If this can contribute to a more candid present day discussion on the origins of conflict in Palestine it can be an invaluable contribution. 

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