But as far as I can tell, no one has addressed the main question: can Israel be considered colonialist?
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colonies in one territory, imposed by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole, or parent state, claims sovereignty over the colony, and the social structure, government, and economy of the colony are changed by colonizers from the metropole. Colonialism is a set of unequal relationships between the metropole and the colony, and between the colonists and the indigenous, or native, population .
Zionism is not tied to a metropole/parent state. It is entirely based on the fact that Jews are returning to their homeland from which they never severed their emotional, religious or even physical ties. Zionism is anti-colonialist in that it fights against outsiders who invaded and colonized it over the centuries during the Diaspora. It is not a colonial movement, it is a national liberation movement.
This should be obvious. All one needs to do is spend a few minutes researching the definition of Zionism and the writings of early Zionists to know that Zionism is about self-determination, not imperialistic extensions of European hegemony over parts of the Middle East. On the contrary, the Zionists consciously rejected their European past - they revived Hebrew as their language. Zionists didn't call any new villages "New Vilna."
Jews in Europe were treated as "the other." There is little nostalgia for the shtetl from the people who actually lived there.
Israel, on the other hand, was always considered home for Jews. Way before Zionism, Jews have made the trip to the Land. The yearning for Zion and Jerusalem has been a fixed part of Judaism and has been part of the daily prayers ever since the destruction of the second Temple. Zionism is
So why do some scholars insist that Zionism is colonialist?
The only way that it makes sense is if they deny that there is a Jewish people.
If the Jewish people exist, then it is obvious that they have the right to self-determination and national liberation in the land that they have considered their own for 3000 years.
But if Judaism is a mere religion, then Jews have no national rights and their desire to return to their homeland is twisted into "colonialism" - even without the metropole.
Arab nationalists originally agreed that there was a Jewish people but denied that their ties to the Holy Land was anything beyond religion. Here is how influential Arab nationalist George Antonious described it in the 1930s:
This was summarized and extended in Article 20 of the 1968 PLO Charter to denial of a Jewish people altogether:
Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.Ironically, even the Quran refers to the Children of Israel as a nation (in many translations) in 2:47:
O Children of Israel! Remember My favor which I bestowed upon you, and that I favored you over all nations.This explains why the Khazar theory is so popular among Palestinian Arabs. It only gained widespread currency after the PLO Charter was written but it becomes a perfect way for Muslims to reconcile their denial of Jewish nationality with the obvious assignment of such nationhood to Jews in the Quran.
This denial of Jewish peoplehood is an inherent part of the argument that Zionism is colonialism. And such denial is, in fact, antisemitic. It is an attempt to rip away a huge amount of Jewish identity from without and to minimize what it means to be a Jew.
The Berkeley course takes away all of Jewish history and only looks at "Palestine" through the lens of invented colonialism - meaning it denies up front that there are any Jewish ties to the land. So like all attempts to label Zionism as colonialism, it is inherently antisemitic.