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Friday, May 07, 2010

Joseph Massad loves the word "colonialism"

Joseph Massad, the anti-gay and virtually anti-semitic Columbia University professor whose hatred of Israel is legendary, has written another screed for Al Ahram that exposes his faulty methods of reasoning.

I wrote a critique of one of his previous articles in 2007 where he argued that Israel was inherently racist. Yet an analysis of that article showed that he never really defined what racism was - effectively, his argument was an argument by repetition. In that article, he used the word "racist" or "racism" over thirty times. It was nothing more than proof by assertion, with many straw-man arguments to buttress his nonexistent proof.

Now, he has a new article in Al Ahram, where he talks about Israel's "colonialism." In this case he must have shattered a record of overuse of a word, employing it over sixty times in the course of the article. Even more absurdly, he bases the article on this phrase: Colonialism is peace; anti-colonialism is war, as being Israel's policy - using variants of that phrase some seven times.

Again, it is a gigantic straw-man argument, because he again assumes that Israel is by definition colonialist and he never bothers to define exactly how. Just as he did with the racism charge, he states it as a fact first and his "proof" is just by repeating it ad nauseum.

Israel is not a colonialist state using any reasonable definition of colonialism. As I have written previously, Israel is by definition anti-colonialist:
Arabs feel that Zionism has the same effect as colonialism, therefore they conclude that the two are functionally identical.

However, Zionism is more like anti-colonialism: it is a national liberation movement, with the nation being the Jewish nation. Zionism's 's intent is not to rule over others nor to subjugate others. The vast majority of early Zionists wanted to re-build the Jewish national home in the same place that the original home was, the biblical Land of Israel. Judaism had maintained a strong emotional tie with ancient Israel; daily prayers long for a return to Zion;Jews annually mourn for the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem; and not only Jews had maintained a continuous presence in their original homeland, but Jews had returned there in much smaller numbers throughout the ages.

Definitionally, they two aren't even close. The Zionists didn't want to offer allegiance to the British Empire, they wanted to be independent of it. The colonialist requirement for a "metropole", or mother country, doesn't exist in Zionism.

The Arab motivation to apply the colonialist label to Zionism purposefully ignores the definitions or goals of the Jewish national liberation movement and instead tries to fuzz the definition so that the metropole is the entire Western world. Israel indeed has the hallmarks of a modern, Western nation and more closely identifies with the West and the ideals of democracy and liberalism than with the Arab world. And in more recent decades, when the word "colonialism" has turned into a dirty word, the Arabs have been keen on using it as a weapon against Israel among the nations that have the most colonial guilt.
Massad and those like him know all of this, of course - but they love misusing the words "colonialism" and "racism" to score points with the West. It is a libel that gains currency by dint of repetition, not by the merits of the argument.

And no one knows more about repetition than Joseph Massad.