Antisemitism and colonialism both play a role in the Gaza conflict

Gerry ChidiacI have received significant criticism for writing exclusively about the assault on Gaza since last October. While I am clearly concerned for the Palestinians who are being killed at an unprecedented rate, I am also deeply concerned about Israelis.

As an Arab, I’ve always seen Jews, Christians and Muslims as Children of Abraham, and I have always believed that we can live in peace once again, as we did before the British Mandate of the 20th century.

The Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 were horrendous, and those responsible need to be arrested and tried before the International Criminal Court. Rather than pursuing a judicial path, however, Israel began a military assault, which, according to U.S. President Joe Biden, has been “over the top.” The International Court of Justice has essentially called it genocidal.

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Image by Nat

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I am dumbfounded by the naivete of those who do not recognize the consequences of the current actions of the State of Israel and its allies. American military analyst Colonel Douglas Macgregor points out, “There is by no means any certainty that Israel will come out victorious, safe, secure, and whole … The very thing that they are trying to achieve, which is perfect security for their population, is the last thing that they’ll get.”

One also needs to question the motives of those calling for this all-out military assault. Christian Zionists are the largest lobby group supporting military funding to Israel by Western countries. They believe that the State of Israel needs to expand to become “Greater Israel,” and more Jews need to go live there. Then there will be an attack from some enemy like Russia or Iran, and a huge war will ensue, killing many people, including two-thirds of the Jews living in the region. Jews can only be saved if they renounce Judaism and become Christian. Then, Jesus will come again, and all Christian Zionists will go to heaven.

To me, this sounds like a cult of human sacrifice doused with antisemitism. Yet, these people are called friends of Israel and the people who question them are called antisemitic.

The meaning of the word antisemitism has indeed become quite perplexing.

Since Israel began its assault on Gaza last October, it has gone from being perceived as a European democracy located in the Middle East seeking to normalize relations with its neighbours to what many now see as a state engaged in genocide. It is claimed that a hatred of Jewish people fuels this shift. What is interesting, however, is that the states supporting Israel all have centuries of disgraceful and well-documented histories of antisemitism. In contrast, states that openly oppose the actions of the State of Israel do not.

This current divide between the colonizers and the colonized of the world is also a new phenomenon. In previous centuries, the colonized could not record their oppression in real-time, but now, thanks to modern technology, Gazans can show the world what they are going through. The former and present colonizers of the world claim that the State of Israel is justified in its brutal actions.

The colonized, from Ireland to Africa, from Asia to the Americas, to Oceania, and back to the Middle East, see themselves and their ancestors in the faces of Palestinians. In this moment, we are all Palestinian. We simply cannot turn away because our connection is too profound. We understand one another.

The above observations leave us with many questions. What is the role of antisemitism in the current conflict? What is the role of colonialism? Most importantly, will we have the courage and wisdom to heal the trauma of the last 100 years and return to the peaceful coexistence of the pre-mandate period?

The first step is to stop the killing.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages and genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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