OPINIONS

Tue 09 Apr 2024 11:56 pm - Jerusalem Time

No, Senator Schumer, Netanyahu isn’t the problem

BY JAMES RAY  

The problem isn’t just with Benjamin Netanyahu. It is with Zionist settler colonialism.

On March 14, 2024, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did something that surprised the U.S. political establishment: he criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. In a speech before the Senate floor, he went beyond hollow condemnation to a call for new elections in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to effectively oust the current Israeli ruling coalition.

That act presented a jolt to the status quo. Though the majority of Schumer’s speech was focused squarely on the condemnation of Palestinian resistance factions, as well as the regurgitation of tired Zionist talking points, he did at several points diverge from what many expected. He even went so far as to say that “the Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7,” and that “the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

This was understandably shocking to many who, like Schumer, consider themselves ardent supporters of the Zionist project and the continued colonization of historic Palestine. After all, in this same speech, Schumer himself firmly situated his critiques in the context of “…the most pressing existential threats to Israel’s long-term peace and prosperity.”

This is the same Chuck Schumer who, in the past, has not let his love for the Zionist project go unheard. He has never been someone to shy away from defending its actions and its “right to exist.” Despite his criticism, his 44-minute speech made it clear that those fundamental views had not changed — so what did?

Over the past months, the Zionist project has been waging a merciless genocide in Gaza, with the mass murder of over 40,000 Palestinians, the injury of more than 70,000, and the mass displacement of over 2,000,000. In the midst of their operations, Israeli Occupation Forces have leveled the surrounding areas, destroying homes, hospitals, mosques, churches, and orchards. Palestinians who have survived the bombings and invasion are suffering the brutal effects of a famine manufactured by Israeli policy, alongside the mass restriction of water, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid at the hands of Israeli officials and opportunistic settlers.

Only miles away in the West Bank, Palestinians have been rounded up in the thousands, taken hostage, and thrown in Israeli prisons as Israeli Occupation Forces have led regular raids into refugee camps like the one in Jenin. All the while, Zionist colonial efforts have intensified, with the project announcing the land theft of 10 square kilometers, the largest West Bank land seizure since 1993. When combined with the abuses faced regularly by Palestinians in the 1948 territories and the active apartheid structures the project continues to maintain across historic Palestine, it is clear that no place is safe for Palestinians facing the brute force of Zionist colonialism — and Zionist efforts are continuing to intensify.

This is far from the first time Israeli occupation forces have terrorized Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, but the scale of destruction is truly unique, as is the average person’s access to first-hand reporting and imagery on the ground — both from Palestinians enduring the genocide and Israeli soldiers gleefully posting their atrocities. This has led to a hardening of opposition to the project’s actions, and for many, the very core assumptions of the project’s traditionally accepted right to “self-defense,” and even its right to exist at all.

For U.S. officials like Senator Schumer who have a vested interest in the Zionist project’s survival, this reality has led to the beginnings of a crisis. Protests have sprung up nationwide, Zionist narratives are being eroded with the normal propaganda becoming increasingly ineffective, and support for the project and its actions is spiraling by the day. They know that as time goes by, it is not only the actions of the project that are threatened but the very existence of the project itself. They need an out. They need a way to meet the criticisms, while not undermining their ally.

What they’ve settled on is regime change — to call for the ousting of Netanyahu and his cronies to give the appearance of change. That change, however, is largely aesthetic, and given the current reality of the project and its settler colonial roots, does not address the core problem so much as the worst excesses resulting from it. In essence, this new tactic shifts analysis from the project to a single leading government or official, absolving the project itself in an attempt to preserve its legitimacy.

The core problem of Zionist colonialism is and always has been colonialism — the attempted replacement of Palestinians by a settler population in the effort to establish a distinctly different society atop stolen land. As Patrick Wolfe suggests, settler colonies like so-called Israel possess an inherent “logic of elimination” — one that attempts to foreclose any return by indigenous peoples to their land and ultimately eliminate them in all forms but nostalgia. There has not been a single ruling Israeli government or leading Zionist figure who has not in some way advocated for and advanced these core objectives.

Even before the rise of the current right-wing Israeli leadership in the aftermath of the 1973 October War, ethnic cleansing and subjugation of Palestinians was the established practice of the Labor-led, self-proclaimed “socialist” leadership of the project. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians found themselves ethnically cleansed by many who would paint themselves as being on the Left. It seems that, no matter the ruling regime’s differences regarding the management of the project, the subjugation of Palestinians has been a constant thread — and it will continue to be under any new Israeli government.

It is our responsibility, in the midst of this, to reject the notion that there is a “correct,” “acceptable” Zionism, let alone a Zionist government, in Palestine. No colonial government can be truly “good” for the colonized, whether they be Labor, Likud, or otherwise. It is on us to fight for something better.

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No, Senator Schumer, Netanyahu isn’t the problem

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