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'Israel is a colonialist': The ridiculous lie and how to refute it

Activists attending the Boot Boeing! Free Palestine march and rally block all the entrances to Governor Pritzkerís Chicago office in downtown Chicago on October 27, 2023. (Photo: Alexandra Buxbaum/Sipa USA)

There is a ridiculous lie circulating on in media these days: 'Israel is a colonialist.'

I can see why some people with little-to-no knowledge of Israel would think so. Especially if they have fallen for the erroneous idea that “Israel occupied Palestine” in 1948.

But let’s examine this lie up close and see how it falls apart like a house of cards.

A word of warning, though: These truths are most probably not going to help you if you engage in online debates about Israel-Palestine. The anti-Israel choir doesn’t really care about the truth (I’m not saying pro-Palestinian, and I’ll explain why later).

But for our own sake, and just to remind ourselves we’re on the right side, it’s important for us that we know the truth.

Why do people see Israel as a colonial endeavor? There are a few reasons, some of which are true, some partially true and some, not at all about Israel and Jews:

1.     Zionism as a movement started in Europe (true).

2.     The Jews of Israel originally came from Europe to flee from the Holocaust (half-true).

3.     The original inhabitants are subjugated and lowered to second-class citizens (a blatant lie).

4.     The ruling class of Europeans enjoy luxury and the others are suffering (another lie).

5.     Jews brought with them European civilization, innovation and prosperity (true).

6.     Jews claim to own the land based on dubious claims from some old dusty irrelevant book (lie).

We’ll go through these claims one by one, but first: Have you ever noticed how all other colonies have a mother-country, usually in Europe? Israel doesn’t have that.

And, in any case, the reason they chose to establish the colony in the first place was to exploit the natural resources. Israel doesn’t really have much of that either.

Already the colony-myth falls apart. If you ask an anti-Israel protester where Israelis are supposed to go if “Palestine is free,” they usually stutter something about “where they came from.”

But that’s just the thing. We have nowhere to go back to. There’s no European homeland for this “colonial occupier” or any other homeland, for that matter. If they say “Germany or Poland” ask what the Iranian Jew is supposed to do. And what about the Israelis with grandparents from Poland, Russia, Yemen and Morocco. Is he supposed to split up and undo his birth?

Now let’s examine these six claims and see how they fall apart:

1.     Zionism as a movement started in Europe (true).
If we define Zionism as the wish of the Jewish people to live in Israel, then Zionism started with Moses. But if we’re talking about the modern secular non-religious movement, then yes, we’re talking about late 19th century Europe, although Napoleon did float the idea a few decades earlier. The secular Zionism with Theodor Herzl as leader didn’t really care in which part of the world this Jewish homeland would be, they just wanted a homeland, no matter where. There were even some prominent Zionists who were strongly against establishing it in Palestine, because of the local Arabs (who were rarely called Palestinians at the time). They talked about Uganda, or Argentina, but eventually, tradition, religion, and the mere facts on the ground prevailed. The Zionist immigration to Israel from 1882 and onwards had already doubled the Jewish population by the time Uganda was suggested in 1903, so any other suggestion was just not practical. It’s possible that Herzl and the others had a typical European colonial mindset and, as a result, didn’t really think about the local Arabs as an issue. But that doesn’t mean that this was colonialism per se. Quite the contrary, actually. Secular Zionism was influenced by the prevailing nationalism of the late 1800s and early 1900s, which led to the decline of empires and colonies following the world wars. Each ethnicity wanted to have their own country, and the Jews were no different. This is where we see the creation of countries like Czechoslovakia or Poland, and that’s also where Israel came from – from a rejection of empires and colonies. It is quite telling that the Arabs of Palestine didn’t even think of an independent Palestine at this time. They were caught up in the nationalism of pan-Arabism, partly led by Lawrence of Arabia, and their dream was to get rid of the Ottoman occupier and become a part of the country Arabia that would probably have Bagdad or Damascus as capital. The French and British didn’t allow that to happen.

2.     The Jews of Israel originally came from Europe to flee from the Holocaust (half-true).
This is a pretty common myth, but the truth is that about 50% of current Israelis are descendants of Jews who fled from Iraq, Morocco, or Yemen, so you can’t say that Israelis are Europeans. The Jews who did arrive from Europe didn’t bring European colonial racism with them. Quite the opposite, they were fleeing from European racism.

3.     The original inhabitants are subjugated and lowered to second-class citizens (a blatant lie).
Not true, the Arab citizens of Israel have the same rights on paper as everyone else (although blatant racism unfortunately exists and needs to be better addressed). The Palestinians of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip are not citizens, so their rights are, for the most part, handled by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

It’s true that within the West Bank, Israeli settlers and Palestinians live in the same area and have different rights since they have different citizenships, but that’s not a situation that anyone tried to set up on purpose. It came about because of circumstances, an Israeli parliament (Knesset) that can’t seem to get anything done, and a peace process that got stuck in the middle of negotiations and never proceeded. Also, when Palestinians work in settlements, they do have the same worker rights as Israelis.

4.     The ruling class of Europeans enjoy luxury and the others are suffering (another lie).
About 50% of the Israelis have origins from the Middle East, and 20% of all Israeli citizens are Arabs. Many are lawyers and doctors, and are not exactly at the bottom of the social ladder. Add to this the fact that there are many poor Israelis with European origin, and this lie sort of evaporates. I can’t deny that there is a racial correlation with wealth and success, as Israeli society is not perfect, but I don’t think it’s that much different from the flaws of many other societies.

5.     Jews brought with them European civilization, innovation and prosperity (true).
Well, this claim is true, I can’t argue with that. We’re a high-tech miracle of innovation. But that’s one of the few positive traits of colonialism, isn’t it?

6.     Jews claim to own the land based on dubious claims from some old dusty irrelevant book (lie).
The Bible, the bearer of the entire Western civilization, is not irrelevant. If the Bible fails, so does the very foundation of all liberal and democratic values, such as freedom and equality. But even if it was 'an irrelevant religious book,' the spearhead of the early Zionism that built this country was secular. They didn’t base their claim of ownership of this land solely on the Bible, although that played a part, but also on history and archaeology, in addition to the mere fact that this is the Jewish people’s eternal ancient homeland and that there’s an unbroken chain of Jewish presence in the land.

Before the Holocaust, many Jews in Europe hoped for emancipation and assimilation into European society. With the enlightenment, many of them, therefore, claimed that Judaism was no longer an ethnicity but a religion. They’d say that a German Jew is just as German as a German Christian, and that he just has a different religion. The anti-Israel choir has caught onto this old claim, saying that Judaism is merely a religion, not an ethnicity, and therefore they are not an ethnicity and have no right to Palestine. They can easily find prominent European Jews from before the Holocaust who make these claims, but they’re ripping it out of its proper historical context.

Because the truth is, the Jews are the natives of this land and the Arabs are the colonizers.

True, they arrived in the 7th century; the colonization happened a long time ago, but Israel was even then mostly Jews and Christians for centuries. The Muslims were a ruling colonial minority until the 14th century, when more and more locals turned to Islam to avoid having to pay the jizya (the infidel tax).

This is not to say the Palestinians have no right or historic connection to the land. Of course they do. Many of them have lived here for generations. Very few Israelis deny that. But peace will never come from terrorism and an “us or them” mentality.

That’s why I don’t use the term pro-Palestinian anymore, I say anti-Israel. Because if these people really were pro-Palestinian, they would want what is best for the Palestinian people, and that is peace. After the pogrom of Oct. 7, 2023, it’s clear that the Hamas doesn’t want peace, they just want to kill us.

And if they insist on “us or them,” Israel will make sure that it will be us. It baffles me that people in the West who call themselves pro-Palestinians have aligned themselves with these genocidal maniacs, who are the very opposite of what Palestinian people need.

I pray that one day, peace-loving leaders will rise up from among the Palestinian population. So far, it doesn’t seem to be the case.

To sum it up, labeling Israel as a colonialist is both incorrect and historically unfounded. It is merely a propaganda tactic to justify violence against Jews and our forced displacement from our native land.

Tuvia is a Jewish history nerd who lives in Jerusalem and believes in Jesus. He writes articles and stories about Jewish and Christian history. His website is

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