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My Response to Gawker Hit Piece ‘The New Zionism’

Gawker recently published a piece titled The New Zionism by Alex Green that is begging for a fisking. Which is what I’ve done.

There’s a new crop of Zionists in town and they really, really want you to believe in their left-wing credentials. They’re still critical of Israel, sure, but believe in the inherent progressivism and radicalism of Zionism. Many call themselves, as Jews, “indigenous to Judea.” Among them are self-styled activists concerned that excluding Zionists from anti-racism events amounts to “antisemitism on the left” and pundits who say that being an anti-Zionist is akin to being homophobic. I saw a TikTok recently in which a blue-haired teen declared their commitment to “BLM” and Jewish “return” and “decolonization” … by occupying Palestine.

Actually, the majority of people who talk about Jewish indigenous status are not “progressive” or left wing, they are centrists who read and study history and anthropology. One does not “occupy” ones own ancestral homeland.

If you’re thinking that something about this whole thing feels… weird, well, you’re not wrong. The IDF, never known for nuance, is remarkably unsubtle in its propagandizing. On their English-language social media, the IDF posts affirmations-style memes calling Arabs terrorists and tries to “debunk myths” about Palestine; on their Arabic-language accounts, they tweet photos of bombings captioned with morbid, religious warnings. You pretty much know what to expect if you come up against an official Israeli account, and most of their die-hard social media stans are similarly consistent: Arabs are terrorists, hating Israel is antisemitic, and the country was originally promised to Jews by God.

The IDF post pictures of actual terrorists, the people who stab innocent civilians or drive cars into them. You seem be ignoring the fact that when someone conducts a terror attack, they are a terrorist, hating Israel is antisemitic, and very few pro-Israel advocates use the “God gave it to me” argument.

But the notion that Jews are “indigenous” to Palestine, specifically to the Biblical kingdom of Judea, is new to me. And it means something different than just saying that the Jewish religion started there or that it continues to occupy a key role in Jewish history and culture (both of which are true).

If it’s new to you, that’s because you are ignorant of the history and it’s not exactly complex; the Jews are from Judea, or in the Hebrew, the Yehudim are from Yehudah.

“Indigenous” carries a unique connotation — that of resistance to being colonized. It is not an identity, it’s a position.

Wrong, and spoken like a white person who doesn’t understand Indigenous identity. Indigenous identity has 5 pillars: Language, Land, Culture, Blood and Spirituality, which all work together to form an identity.

And despite spending my life in all manner of Jewish cultural and religious contexts, I have never heard that word or positioning used before. No one my parents’ age was familiar with it, and it matches neither the pitch of religious Zionist messaging nor the actual history of Palestine.

I somehow doubt you spent much time learning Jewish thought. If you had, you would know that concepts of Jewish ancestral land are hardly new; there is a reason that so many of the 613 mitzvot can only be performed in Israel. just because the language being used is modern, doesn’t mean the terms are. As for the history of Zionism, one has only to read the “principles of rebirth” by Yair Stern to understand that Zionism has always been an indigenous rights movement.

But here were all these kids, pointing to their curly hair or dark eyes as evidence of Semitic nativity (you know, like fascists do!), citing genetic studies and calling themselves “decolonized.”

They are learning, and they are slowly learning to see themselves as Jews through a Jewish lens rather than a European one.

Politicians have always used pandering and pantomime to sell racist policies. But in a world where it is no longer cool to be openly racist, colonialism must adapt to defend itself.

There is nothing colonialist about a group of exiled indigenous people returning to their ancestral land and achieving self determination; it is in fact the antithesis of colonialism.

Backed by American capitalists and Israeli government funds, Zionist propagandists are trying to win the war of public opinion by abusing the aesthetics of social justice. These adaptations give us a clue into how radical programs of liberation can easily be twisted and turned against us.

I would like to know where these funds are. I am arguably the main person who pushed this message and I assure you, aside from a few blogs and mostly grassroots Jewry, no major orgs have paid us.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. My instinct is that, given its timing and popularity among North Americans, it represents an attempt to undermine solidarity between Palestinian, anti-colonial, Black, Aboriginal, and Indigenous movements.

No, it’s about building actual indigenous solidarity with actual indigenous people.

But far from adding to its legitimacy, these claims further demonstrate Israel’s consistency with settler colonialism as a project. No matter any ancestral claims we have to Palestine as a cultural and religious heartland, Zionism copies every other settler colony in seizing and enclosing the land for private profit, using genocide and displacement, and claims at being the “true indigenous people” (a phenomenon that also occurs sometimes in Canada), as a method of replacement, even when that claim is premised on classically imperialist tropes and manipulations.

You are upset because Israel has a legitimate claim to its ancestral lands, and Zionism is not the boogeyman you have been taught it was. Your entire worldview has been challenged and instead of learning, you double down and now spout sheer and utter nonsense. Jews are in fact the indigenous people of the land they claim, while Arabs are indigenous to another land entirely.

Whereas early Zionists embraced colonialism explicitly, contemporary Zionists in the apparently post-colonial era must now present themselves as the victims — what Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang call the “settler moves to innocence,” using Biblical historical claims, the appropriated cultures of its most systematically marginalized Jewish citizens, and straight up race science to paint settlers as natives.

Early Zionists were trying to pitch a return to Israel to actual colonialists who were in control. Do you think they would have couched in language that didn’t exist at the time? Or would they have appealed to non-existent similarities? By the way, genetics is not “race science.”

Of course, that question is materially irrelevant to the unforgivable wrongness of the Israeli occupation. But it still seems to do its job: the goal here is not to win an argument, but to muddy the waters enough that something as straightforward as settler colonialism can now appear “complicated,” cynically abusing the language of contemporary social justice.

Indigenous people cannot be “occupiers” on their own ancestral land, period.

Obviously, I don’t think that every idiot online with a bad opinion is an agent of the Israeli government. However, I do think that, with the right funding, a well-spun narrative can travel far. And the nature of social media is such that people can easily get tricked into spreading a lie if it already appeals to their existing biases.

It’s funny that Alex claims that I had “the right funding” to spread the truth about Jewish indigenous status because aside from a few blogs like Israellycool, I have pretty much helped mainstream this argument with NO funding and almost completely by writing articles and public speaking with grassroots help. For him to claim indirectly that Jewish indigenous status is a lie, only shows his outright bias from the start.

Arguably, the same is true in other spaces where buzzwordy liberal branding and pithy empty gestures are keys to success.

You mean like claiming that Arab colonizers are indigenous to every land they ever colonized? Like the constant idiocy where people spam “Free Palestine” everywhere? Salt water challenge anyone?

Case in point: this fall, dozens of entertainment industry professionals, from Neil Patrick Harris to Billy Porter to Mayim Bialik, signed onto an open letter in support of the Tel Aviv International LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

Strange that gay people and their supporters would support an LGBT film festival in a country known for its solid reputation in holding up LGBT rights.

Their endorsements went directly against repeated calls by Palestinians, queer and otherwise, to respect the cultural boycott of Israeli institutions, as the majority of Palestinian civil society has consistently demanded since 2005.

Given that there is no pride parade in Gaza or the PA, why should gay people listen to obvious malcontents who have a reputation for lying about Israel in the first place?

The open letter was released by an organization called “Creative Community for Peace” (CCFP), a leader in a field of pro-Israel lobby groups that seeks to present solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement as a tragically misguided obstacle to the vaguely defined “peace.” (CCFP is shares funders and leadership with the extreme right wing pro-settlement organization, StandWithUs.)

The fact that you think SWU is a right wing, pro-settlement organization exposes your bias. I personally am right-wing and pro-settlement and while I am friendly with SWU and believe they do great work in education, they are neither right-wing, let alone extreme, nor are they openly pro-settlement. The fact that you spout such nonsense suggests to me that you had a bias long before you wrote this piece and relied on peoples ignorance to avoid being challenged.

Palestinian activists argue that things like the Tel Aviv International LGBTQ+ Film Festival constitute examples of “pinkwashing,” which is defined as ”a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”

You meant “anti-Israel” activists, because the majority of these people are not “palestinian” and they make comments like this because they cannot stand that Israel is in fact very solid on gay rights and that the majority of gay “palestinians” are forced to move to Israel for their own safety. They also think that Israel “red-washes” by respecting indigenous rights, and “greenwashes” because they are very environmentally aware.

There is strategic value in fashioning Israel (and other states like Canada, the US, the Netherlands, etc) as a paragon of liberal modernity where gays have legal rights — at once obscuring Israel’s own homophobic extremist elements and techniques, and depicting the Palestinian liberation struggle as incompatible with a modern world, Oriental and backwards.

There is not a single gay person with a functioning intellect who would choose to live under the PA or Hamas in Gaza rather than in Tel Aviv. Why do you think Chris Gunness from UNRWA lived in Tel Aviv with his boyfriend, rather than in Gaza where he worked? Hamas recently executed one of its main terrorists for being gay, so, yes, “palestinian liberation” would be unlikely to suddenly become pro LGBTQ rights.

Cultural output is part of that strategy: it is a form of soft power that Israeli institutions and governmental agencies consider integral to solidifying Israel as a “good guy” in the global imagination, even as it razes Palestinian villages (gays included).

The simple truth is that the only time Israel ever destroys homes, they are either the homes of terrorists who have murdered Jews or homes that were built illegally.

When millions of visitors descend upon Tel Aviv for Pride, they’re partying over top of the subsumed ruins of Jaffa.

Jaffa still exists, and the majority of Tel Aviv was built on the beach and dunes that were completely uninhabited.

Tel Aviv University, for example, sits atop the former site of Sheikh Munnis, which was ethnically cleansed in 1948; the Nude Beach was once part of the ethnically cleansed village of Khirbat al-Zababida; tourists access the beach where the Pride route usually ends by crossing through what used to be the Arab neighbourhood of al-Manshiyya, which was depopulated in 1948 by Zionist militia; and so on.

Even the sources you linked to admit that the Jews purchased the land in Sheikh Munnis from the people who owned it. It’s not simply a tit-for-tat thing, but the Arabs literally ethnic cleansed Eastern Jerusalem and Hebron during the War of Independence, yet I don’t see you mention that.

The same is true of other forms of “washing,” practices of production designed to bolster Israel’s massive tourism industry and cement its image as a place with a limited, specific history free of Palestinians. Greenwashing, the use of environmentalism to obscure colonial displacement, is also common, as is the strategic cherrypicking of historical features to maximize religious tourism and undermine Palestinian claims to land ownership.

The vast majority of the land was owned by the effendi class of Turks under the Ottomans. It was much like a feudal system of landlords and tenants, which means the locals didn’t own the land they lived on.

Israeli land management law explicitly discriminates against Palestinians,

Using sources like “Nakbafiles” doesn’t help your case, and nothing in that link makes your point about land law discriminating against “palestinians.” In fact, often the Arabs are granted way more leeway in land claims; if you Google “Shimon Hatzadik”, you will find that palestinians who didn’t pay rent for over 25 years were not simply evicted and the Israelis bent over backwards to accommodate them.

and Israeli conservation projects (like the Ayalon-Canada Park, or its solar farms in the southern desert) are undertaken on stolen land, where Palestinian villages once stood and Palestinian Bedouin live and travel.

You mean land legally purchased from its legal owners? And what exactly is a “palestinian Bedouin”? The Bedouin are nomads.

Israeli authorities are currently, right now, in the process of destroying Palestinian cemeteries in Jerusalem to pursue archaeological digs, or to make room for a Biblical theme park. The list goes on.

This false claim has already soundly debunked. That “cemetery” was started after 1948, so I am unsure why you would include it. But you know the Arabs did try to destroy the Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives which is thousands of years old.

I’m sure that on some level, many of the letters’ signatories — and the LGBTQ+ film festival’s organizers themselves — genuinely believed that they were participating in something progressive and beneficial. I mean, who doesn’t love gay rights and cultural exchange? Both principles appeal to liberal observers for good and obvious reasons. But depart from those vague principles, and the material realities become less good, if no less obvious.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers the online propaganda war a top priority. Winning that war requires messaging that appeals to an edgier, progressive sensibility and speaks with the lingo cribbed from Tumblr, Tiktok, and years of self-consciously feminist or anti-racist media consumption, in order to reconcile Israel’s PR goals with its real-world actions. It’s the same hasbara, just infused with social justice vibes. The audience and the context may change, but the strategy is essentially the same.

It’s actually really ironic or a remarkable lack of self-awareness for a “pro palestinian” to write this, given you guys invented the use of social justice vibes to beard for your antisemitism. You use lingo steeped in human rights rhetoric in order to advocate for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.

Whether through liberal bromides about art and togetherness, or pointed claims of racialized innocence, these patterns of social justice propaganda reveal the importance of solidarity in the face of glossy messaging.

Indigenous solidarity doesn’t require your sign off thanks. We know why it’s important to stand in solidarity with actual indigenous people.

As elite partisanship and political pandering move further into absurdity, and our officially sanctioned political options become more desperate, it will become necessary to know a lie when we see it.

We know when you Israel-haters are lying – your lips are moving.

Capitalist platforms profit from selling spin and sowing divisions. But we can succeed where those queer Zionists, liberal grifters, and imperial apologists fail.

Queer Zionists are simply gays who understand that one side respects gay rights and one side throws gays off roofs; hardly a tough choice for intelligent people. But you are literally an apologist for Arab imperialism and colonialism.

We have the power to build knowledge through deep solidarity that can weather the storm of these empty aesthetics.

Except that you are anti-history, anti-knowledge and attempting to invert history. You claim that a people who control 99.6 percent of the land mass and who have a massive majority, are somehow a persecuted minority. You claim a people who conquered and colonized the entire Middle East and forced their language and religion on many indigenous peoples in a vicious colonization, are somehow indigenous now. Your problem is that people are actually waking up to the woke, and demanding standards, and accountability and yes, facts. You don’t like that, and that’s too bad.

Jews are in fact indigenous, Arabs are in fact conquering colonizers and Israel exists and is thriving. Stay mad.

About the author

Picture of Ryan Bellerose

Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.
Picture of Ryan Bellerose

Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.
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