Sunday, May 09, 2010

The (dirty) language of Zionism

Comrade Joseph: "These noble sentiments were uttered while the Israeli army was proceeding with its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the colonisation of their lands. Indeed by 14 May 1948, Israel's army had already expelled 400,000 Palestinians from their lands and homes. Ben-Gurion was clearly calling on the remaining Palestinians who had not yet been expelled to "preserve the peace" before the army moves to expel them. But the expulsion of the Palestinians was necessary for Jewish colonisation of the country, which could only proceed peacefully once they were expelled. It is true that the Zionist movement was predicated on the colonisation of Palestine primarily by European Jews since the 1890s. But many Zionists came to regret that the organisations they set up in the late 19th and early 20th century for the colonial effort were named in ways that are embarrassing today: "The Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association", "The Jewish Colonial Trust", "The Jewish Colonial Bank", or "The Colonisation Department" of the Jewish Agency, among others. In the 1930s they tried to correct some of this as they worried it could be offensive to Palestinians. Indeed, F.H. Kisch, the director of the Jewish Agency's Political Department and the Chairman of the Jewish Agency's Executive in Palestine, proposed a change in Zionism's colonial language. He wrote in his diary in 1931 that he was "striving to eliminate the word 'colonisation' in... connection [to Jewish colonial settlement in Palestine] from our phraseology. The word is not appropriate from our point of view since one does not set up colonies in a homeland but abroad: e.g. German colonies on the Volga or Jewish colonies in the Argentine, while from the point of view of Arab opinion the verb to 'colonise' is associated with imperialism and aggressiveness." Unfortunately for future Israeli strategists, the word would persist in Zionist language, even while Israeli propagandists were insisting that the Zionist movement was an anti-colonial movement not unlike anti-colonial movements in India and Ghana." (thanks Sameer)