Imperialism · Israel · Palestine




Fig. 1. The ruins of a terminal at the Gaza airport. Image by Said Khatib (Agence France-Presse) on September 9, 2018, via the Times of Israel,[1] fair use.

Fig. 2. Graphic by Al Jazeera, May 15, 2022,[2] fair use.

Soon after the Hamas attack, I started seeing an argument especially but not exclusively on social media insisting that Zionists cannot be settler-colonists because Jews have always been in Palestine. I even saw this argument from, shamefully, Julia Ioffe.[3]

Karen Attiah takes on this claim, in essence arguing that in fact this was a project of the British Empire, beginning with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and therefore that the power dynamic of settler-colonialism applies nonetheless.[4]

My answer to the Zionist argument is different. I note that regardless of longstanding Jewish presence in Palestine, there have been numerous massive Jewish migrations to what is now Israel or the territory that Israel now occupies beginning in the 19th century, notably from Russia, eastern Europe, and Ethiopia,[5] but from around the world[6] as citizenship is guaranteed to those the Israeli authorities recognize as Jewish.[7] Whatever evidence you may have that Jews have been present in Palestine for however long, it applies to some Jews, not all—indeed, Jews did not become a majority of the area’s population until 1948,[8] when Israel was founded—Nakba.[9]

Finally, the charge of ethnic cleansing applies simply because Palestinians are being forcibly displaced from their homes, in part to make way for settlements that are flatly illegal under international law.[10]

Reform Judaism, “History of Jewish Immigration to Israel (Aliyah),” n.d.,

Ben Birnbaum, “The End of the Two-State Solution,” New Republic, March 11, 2013,

Michael Hirsh, “Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and the Jews,” Politico, August 14, 2015,

Mohamed Mohamed, “Right of return is the heart of Palestine’s struggle,” Electronic Intifada, September 6, 2016,

Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018,

Marwan Bishara, “The logic behind US humiliation of the Palestinians,” Al Jazeera, April 24, 2019,

John Hudson and Loveday Morris, “Pompeo delivers unfiltered view of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in off-the-record meeting,” Washington Post, June 2, 2019,

Times of Israel, “US envoy says Israel has ‘right’ to annex parts of West Bank,” June 8, 2019,

Raphael Ahren, “As Bahrain showed, even Trump’s Arab allies see two-state solution as essential,” Times of Israel, July 5, 2019,

Derek Leebaert, “When Eisenhower Republicans Censured Israel—Three Times,” American Conservative, August 22, 2019,

Oliver Holmes, “Netanyahu vows to annex large parts of occupied West Bank,” Guardian, September 10, 2019,

Times of Israel, “Netanyahu: I tried to annex Jordan Valley before election but AG said I couldn’t,” September 11, 2019,

Times of Israel, “Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley sovereignty vow widely panned by politicians as ‘spin,’” Times of Israel, September 11, 2019,

Jacob Magid, “PM’s Jordan Valley map was error-strewn, but is his vow worth taking seriously?” Times of Israel, September 12, 2019,

Associated Press, “Trump changes decades-old U.S. position on illegality of Israeli settlements,” Los Angeles Times, November 18, 2019,

Michael Bachner and Jacob Magid, “Settler leaders call for West Bank annexation after US shifts stance,” Times of Israel, November 18, 2019,

Eric Cortellessa, “In rebuke to Trump and Netanyahu, US House passes resolution supporting 2 states,” Times of Israel, December 6, 2019,

Zena Tahhan, “Israel’s settlements: Over 50 years of land theft explained,” Al Jazeera, January 27, 2020,

Sheena Anne Arackal, “The ‘Deal of the Century’ is Apartheid,” Mondoweiss, January 28, 2020,

Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon, “Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan Charts Two-State Course for Israelis, Palestinians,” Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2020,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is no deal at all,” Washington Post, January 28, 2020,

Times of Israel, “Trump unveils plan for ‘realistic 2-state’ deal, ‘undivided’ Israeli Jerusalem,” January 28, 2020,

Times of Israel, “As peace plan rolls out, Netanyahu says he will annex Jordan Valley, settlements,” January 28, 2020,

Oliver Holmes, Sufian Taha, and Hazem Balousha, “‘We will never be Jerusalem’: Abu Dis pours scorn on Trump plan,” Guardian, January 29, 2020,

Natan Sachs, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Bruce Riedel, “Around the halls: Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan,” Brookings Institute, January 29, 2020,

Jerusalem Online, “Bibi Steps Back from ‘Immediate’ Annexation Promise,” January 31, 2020, copy in possession of author

Times of Israel, “Gantz vows to advance US peace plan immediately if elected prime minister,” February 1, 2020,

Times of Israel, “Backing Abbas, Arab League rejects Trump’s Middle East peace plan,” February 1, 2020,

Times of Israel, “Gantz vows to advance US peace plan immediately if elected prime minister,” February 1, 2020,

Yousef Munayyer, “Liberal Zionism paved the Israeli right’s path to annexation,” +972, June 23, 2020,

Salem Barahmeh, “Palestinians are fighting to dismantle apartheid, not just annexation,” +972, June 29, 2020,

Associated Press, “Netanyahu ally confirms delays in West Bank annexation plan,” Al-Ahram, July 1, 2020,

Oliver Holmes and Julian Borger, “Israel signs historic deal with UAE that will ‘suspend’ West Bank annexation,” Guardian, August 13, 2020,

Mohammed Haddad, “Nakba Day: What happened in Palestine in 1948?” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Jimmy Carter’s warning: Without peace, Israel must face ‘apartheid,’” Washington Post, February 24, 2023,

Ben Sales, “Israel-Gaza conflict: Anti-government protests canceled in Israel as fighting continues,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 12, 2023,

Emanuel Fabian, “Operation Broken Record: Israel is already counting down to the next Gaza conflict,” Times of Israel, May 14, 2023,

David Horovitz, “Israel’s Gaza operation met its goals in seconds; trouble is, it went on for 5 days,” Times of Israel, May 14, 2023,

Dalia Hatuqa, “The Nakba: Five Palestinian towns massacred 75 years ago,” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2023,

Alice Speri, “Biden Embraces Antisemitism Definition That Has Upended Free Speech in Europe,” Intercept, June 6, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Violence in Israel puts spotlight on the ‘one-state’ reality,” Washington Post, June 23, 2023,

Steve Hendrix et al., “Israel’s raid left the Jenin camp in ruins. Palestinians blame their leaders,” Washington Post, July 5, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Biden muddles along with Israel as West Bank violence spirals,” Washington Post, July 7, 2023,

Ron Kampeas, “Biden slams Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in CNN interview,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 9, 2023,

Aime Williams and James Shotter, “Joe Biden calls out ‘extreme’ elements within Israel’s government,” Financial Times, July 9, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “It’s the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are radical on Israel,” Washington Post, July 19, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “In Israel and the U.S., ‘apartheid’ is the elephant in the room,” Washington Post, August 11, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The gloomy failure of the Oslo accords,” Washington Post, September 13, 2023,

Brian Murphy, Adam Taylor, Sammy Westfall, and Bryan Pietsch, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A chronology,” Washington Post, October 7, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Biden hoped for a quiet Middle East. So much for that,” Washington Post, October 8, 2023,

Nabih Boulos and Laura King, “Israel calls for complete siege of Gaza as it masses troops at border,” Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2023,

Julia Ioffe, “Tragedy in Israel,” Puck, October 10, 2023,

Raya Jalabi, Najmeh Bozorgmehr, and Felicia Schwartz, “Border clashes prompt fears of Hizbollah joining Israel-Hamas war,” Financial Times, October 11, 2023,

Joseph Krauss and Wafaa Shurafa, “As strikes devastate Gaza, Israel forms unity government to oversee war sparked by Hamas attack,” Associated Press, October 11, 2023,

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, “A Majority of Israelis Think Netanyahu Should Resign,” New Republic, October 12, 2023,

Noga Tarnopolsky, “Netanyahu Is Losing the War at Home,” New York, October 12, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “As Israel ramps up war with Hamas, backers cheer destruction of Gaza,” Washington Post, October 13, 2023,

Bethan McKernan, “US deploys second aircraft carrier as Israeli ground invasion of Gaza nears,” Guardian, October 15, 2023,

Jamie Dettmer, “Lebanese hold their breath as fears grow Hezbollah will pull them into war,” Politico, October 16, 2023,

Khaleda Rahman, “Israel Committing ‘Textbook Case of Genocide,’ Holocaust Historian Says,” Newsweek, October 17, 2023,

Heba Saleh, Henry Foy, and Guy Chazan, “Fear of Gaza exodus looms over Egypt,” Financial Times, October 17, 2023,

Liz Sly, “Mideast teeters on the brink of wider war as Iran weighs its options,” Washington Post, October 17, 2023,

John Reed et al., “Israel agrees to allow basic aid into stricken Gaza Strip after Joe Biden visit,” Financial Times, October 18, 2023,

Vivian Salama et al., “U.S. Intelligence Shows Gaza Militants Behind Hospital Blast,” Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2023,

Adam Taylor, “Everything we know about the Gaza hospital strike,” Washington Post, October 18, 2023,

Mehul Srivastava, “UN chief denounces ‘clear violations’ of international law in Gaza,” Financial Times, October 24, 2023,

John Reed, Mehul Srivastava, and Neri Zilber, “UN agency in Gaza says it will run out of fuel within hours,” Financial Times, October 25, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel says Hamas ‘is ISIS.’ But it’s not,” Washington Post, October 25, 2023,

Democracy Now! “Judith Butler on Hamas, Israel’s Collective Punishment of Gaza & Why Biden Must Push for Ceasefire,” October 26, 2023,

Democracy Now! “Palestinian Lives Matter Too: Jewish Scholar Judith Butler Condemns Israel’s ‘Genocide’ in Gaza,” October 26, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel’s Gaza offensive stirs a wave of global protest,” Washington Post, October 29, 2023,

Adam Gabbatt, “‘This war is prophetically significant’: why US evangelical Christians support Israel,” Guardian, October 30, 2023,

Joseph Stepansky and Farah Najjar, “Israel-Hamas war live: Dozens killed in Jabalia camp strike – Gaza official,” Al Jazeera, October 31, 2023,

Times of Israel, “Intelligence Ministry ‘concept paper’ proposes transferring Gazans to Egypt’s Sinai,” October 31, 2023,

Andrew Feinstein, “Has Netanyahu misjudged tolerance for his actions?” New Internationalist, November 1, 2023,

Hussein Ibish, “Israel’s Dangerous Delusion,” Atlantic, November 1, 2023,

Karen Attiah, “The colonial history of Israel-Palestine: Bringing the receipts,” Washington Post, November 3, 2023,

Jamie Dettmer, “Israel has only weeks to defeat Hamas as global opinion sours, former PM Ehud Barak says,” Politico, November 7, 2023,

Jamie Dettmer, “A broken Netanyahu is miscalculating over Gaza, former Israeli PM says,” Politico, November 8, 2023,

Ruth Michaelson, Julian Borger, and Emine Sinmaz, “Netanyahu rejected ceasefire-for-hostages deal in Gaza, sources say,” Guardian, November 9, 2023,

Victor Reklaitis, “Israel plans four-hour pauses in northern Gaza, White House says,” MarketWatch, November 9, 2023,

Laura Wagner and Will Sommer, “Hundreds of journalists sign letter protesting coverage of Israel,” Washington Post, November 9, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The punishing military doctrine that Israel may be following in Gaza,” Washington Post, November 10, 2023,

Jason Burke, “Netanyahu sets out uncompromising postwar vision as Israel pounds Gaza,” Guardian, November 12, 2023,

Malachy Browne and Neil Collier, “Evidence Points to Israeli Shells in Strikes on Gaza’s Largest Hospital,” New York Times, November 14, 2023,

Times of Israel, “Attorney general said to warn ministers to be careful when talking about Hamas war,” November 14, 2023,

Seb Starcevic, “UN Security Council adopts resolution for ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Gaza,” Politico, November 16, 2023,

Adam Taylor, “Al-Shifa Hospital raid serves as potent symbol in Israel-Gaza war,” Washington Post, November 16, 2023,

Steve Hendrix, “A midnight trip into northern Gaza reveals a shattered warscape,” Washington Post, November 19, 2023,

Ben Sales and Philissa Cramer, “It’s official: Israel approves deal with Hamas to free at least 50 hostages in exchange for pause in fighting,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 21, 2023,

Simon Tisdall, “The pressure on Netanyahu is starting to tell – this potential truce shows something has changed,” Guardian, November 21, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel has utterly devastated Gaza,” Washington Post, November 22, 2023,

Roya News, “’Israeli police’ raid homes of released prisoners to prevent celebrations,” November 24, 2023,

Yana T. R. Golding, “Tracking lost pro-Palestinian posts,” Columbia Journalism Review, November 27, 2023,

Summer Said and Dov Lieber, “Israel, Hamas Agree to Extend Truce by Two Days,” Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “How Israel keeps hundreds of Palestinians in detention without charge,” Washington Post, November 27, 2023,

Washington Post to 5-Minute Fix list, “The 5-Minute Fix: What’s behind Biden’s steadfast support for Israel?” November 27, 2023,

Henry Bodkin, “Inside the Israeli settlement being turned into a battleground by the hard-Right finance minister,” Telegraph, November 28, 2023,

Julia Ioffe, “The Day After the War Ends,” Puck, November 28, 2023,

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Theodoric Meyer, “Democrats’ Israel dilemma,” Washington Post, November 29, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Why Christmas is canceled in Bethlehem,” Washington Post, November 29, 2023,

  1. [1]Agence France-Presse and Times of Israel, “20 years after its opening, destroyed Gaza airport embodies grounded peace hopes,” Times of Israel, September 12, 2018,
  2. [2]Mohammed Haddad, “Nakba Day: What happened in Palestine in 1948?” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2022,
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “Tragedy in Israel,” Puck, October 10, 2023,
  4. [4]Karen Attiah, “The colonial history of Israel-Palestine: Bringing the receipts,” Washington Post, November 3, 2023,
  5. [5]Reform Judaism, “History of Jewish Immigration to Israel (Aliyah),” n.d.,
  6. [6]Pew Research Center, “Faith on the Move – The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants,” March 8, 2012,
  7. [7]Jewish Agency for Israel, “The Law of Return,” n.d.,
  8. [8]Jewish Virtual Library, “Jewish & Non-Jewish Population of Israel/Palestine,” n.d.,
  9. [9]Mohammed Haddad, “Nakba Day: What happened in Palestine in 1948?” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2022,
  10. [10]Mohammed Haddad, “Nakba Day: What happened in Palestine in 1948?” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2022,; Zena Tahhan, “Israel’s settlements: Over 50 years of land theft explained,” Al Jazeera, January 27, 2020,