The Jordan Valley? Settler Colonialism in Action

“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to an essence of being. But, one day, nostalgia takes up arms and assumes responsibility of total guilt.” ~ Albert Camus
The State of Israel, is a homeland that prospered for centuries, had its series of tumults, then in the 20th century began its next era of prosperity. This is because since the 1940s, it has been in the possession of Jewish nation that have welcomed their people from around the world. It is interesting to consider two different reasons for it, before and after the tumult.
Israel was a land gained by conquest and divine providence if we are to believe the Hebrew Bible and the sayings in the Talmud. Once slaves, they banded together, fought for their freedom and gained nationhood on its own. Ruled by Kings, then judges, cursed out by prophets, it has been a place that resembled several fertile crescent Kingdoms. The Israel after the years of Babylonian annexation and Roman and Ottoman rule, is a land gained by international agreement, once a potential dumping ground for the cast off Jewish people before the horrors of the Holocaust and then agreed upon by the United States and Great Britain in a raft of treaties. This is interesting because the latter seems preferable to the former; agreed upon norms, and the spirit in every heart for justice in the form of International norms. The idea of Israel as a homeland of the Jews is built on both the Hebrew Bible and Official records. All over the world we agree with this idea, from Ambassadors and Presidents to the guy down the pub who asks your opinion on the latest matter on the Palestinian Plight, ready to fire their opinions at you. It is an idea so well founded, it has no contest in public discourse. And you won’t find one from me.
The situation in the Jordan Valley, however, is one that I will touch upon. Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, the Netanyahu Government, and the controlling party in the Knesset have declared under the cosh of the deadly virus that the world has brought the world to its knees, that it is making plans to expand the settlements in the Jordan Valley, turning it into as Netanyahu says “an enclave”. This is terrifying. It is built using the same ideas that legitimise Israel as a homeland where the Jewish people may live in peace and prosperity. It is important to discuss these issues in a time where the Jordan Valley could be swallowed up by the Israeli state, even if we are to believe the idea that the Palestinians will remain in “semi-independence”.
We can consider the state of Israel, in some sense, a Revolutionary State, in the manner of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It replaced the old ruling system, and restructured its laws and (in the case of the state of Israel, not Great Britain) restructured its government. It is also a Settler Colonialist State. We have seen the fight back against this domination all over the world, but never has it been more poignant, and subject to more worldwide attention, than that of the Palestinians. The pushback has been brutal. Restriction from independent access to external goods, after the bombing of ports, control of the flow of water and electricity by the Israeli state. The dispensation of the world’s most brutal intelligence apparatus and the use of the Army and the Police force on the native population of the land. The Gaza Strip has become a symbol of everything wrong with Settler Colonialism, a prison without a roof, where people are checked entering and leaving, subject to curfew and black outs and raids under the pretense of fighting ‘terrorism’, along with regular shortages of food and sanitation. Basic services run with only the support of people living and working in the ghetto, holding their own against the onslaught of the state apparatus of Israel.
Like Israel, settler colonialists base their claim on two premises. Old ideas and modern justification. That people from Europe could leave their countries and conquer the earth is an idea that formed out of political expediency, born from the legitimacy given by Elizabeth to Francis Drake that the land he was going to ‘discover’ in her name was ‘Terra Nullis” or Empty Land. The idea came from the Roman Legal system, which became eulogised and entrenched in European society, as the basis of Common Law since Justinian. It is this old idea that allowed the rights of original people around the world to be choked out by those who went to spread their colonies. They ratified the ideas in treaties like the Congress of Vienna in 1888 that carved the second largest continent on earth up in the matter of a few hours. These twin justifications then stayed as legal entities right the way through to the end of the Second World War, imposing dominant power structures and land borders used today.
With that in mind, it is easy to see why the major Settler Colonialist project in the world, namely the United States, has lent its support to the Annexation of the Jordan Valley. Israel is, in part, kept in place by US support. It’s funds to the defence force have been astronomical, culminating in creating Iron Dome, a piece of technology grossly over prepared for Rocket attacks. It also receives support in areas of geopolitics. It’s greatest ally in the region is Saudi Arabia, which is also a large trader with the United States and a centre of military support. This year alone, over 3 billion dollars went to Israel since 2019, and almost all of it was spent on the military, with the rest spent on missile defence. It is also a trend that the countries who have supported Saudi Arabia, namely the United Kingdom, also have significant interest in Israel. The ties are long and knotted, so I’ll not get into it. Only it is important to note, that both the most wealthy Settler Colonialist country in the world and the Country that benefited most from Settler Colonialism, both have deep heavy ties to the State in its current form.
The story of Ellal al- Haddaq, is ironic in the most depressing sense. Almost gallows humour. The Great Settler Colonialist in the New World murder a victim of their brutal policies on the same day as the Great Settler Colonialist of the Old World murder their own. Both young men, both in the prime of their lives and both crushed under the wheels of the beast that knows no satiation. It is, as George Floyd was, a symbol of the injustice meted out by people who suffer at the hands of ‘Terra Nullis’ and an interpretation of The Hebrew Bible, treaties for carving out countries and the restructure of laws in the State of Israel. The Palestinians have in the past, tried to mete out a peaceful existence with the Israelis as they moved in. Palestine already had a decent population of Jews when the British gave its mandate after the War. The influx of Jewish people to their ancestral homeland caused tension, which resulted in attacks against them as their population grew. The state of Israel, bolstered by old ideas and current laws; a sense of ‘Jewishness’ tied to a place on earth, have since responded to every Palestinian effort of autonomy with violence. On both the state and the individual. We can see a similar story of the story of African Americans in America.
The reasons for the annexation of the Jordan Valley, and any attempts to silence discourse around it, base its premises in the old narrative that to question such a thing openly would be anti-Semitic. It is simple arithmetic to work out that a majority of the Jews in the World do not live in Israel and the percentage of non-Jews is just over a quarter. The Jordan Valley is situated in the West Bank and a majority of the people who live there are non-Jews. It takes quite a bold statement to say that even if you are not part of the Jewish state, we can control the land you have built your livelihoods on. This justification is false and bears itself out easily in the numbers and our current views of sovereignty. So we have to come to the genuine reasons that the Jordan Valley is being Annexed. The first, I believe, and probably the most obvious is land. The Jordan Valley is some of the most fertile agricultural land in what is recognised as Palestine and shares a border with a large trading partner with Israel. It is clear why the people who want to go and live there illegally do. Who would want to build a livelihood on land that it would be terrible to work on? The other reason is part of the systemic, pernicious effort to rid the State of Palestine of its land rights, delegitimising it in the eyes of the world. Like the Bantustans of Southern Africa, it is a known method of partitioning the colonised into smaller and smaller parcels of land, until it forces them to assimilate into the power structure that subjugates them, or cease to exist as a polity altogether.
As I said in my last essay, I am often one to spout off at the mouth about the problems and their causes, but what do we do as people who live in the West? There are methods that have worked before, and in the current socioeconomic climate, these are methods I feel may have some chance of peeling back the wave of colonialist violence against the Palestinian people and their rights. What are they? Well, reader, I believe it is Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. A Palestinian led movement, it is built on principles that worked to end the injustices built by colonialists on the continent carved up in 1888. Mandela himself said “We know too well, that our Freedom is incomplete, without the freedom of Palestine.” It is a testament that the BDS movement in Palestine has its Father in the tactics used to overthrow Settler Colonialism in one country and as its Mother, the resistors repurposing the technique and using it to rid themselves of Settler Colonialism in another. Boycotting refers to a ban on the use of products and services made by Israelis, a choice made by individuals. Divestment is the call to remove or halt funding in Israeli companies, a decision taken by companies. Sanctions are the halting of economic incentives, such as loans and trading in the global marketplace. This is a choice made by states and international bodies. Played out on all three strata, this represents the trident that forces the Settler Colonialist state to recognise the demands of the Palestinian people. This technique plays on the one thing that the Settler Colonialist fears and is more ashamed of than its egregious use of death and destruction. It’s love of material possessions. This, in a combination with other techniques will go a long way in bringing down the colonialist mentality that continues to keep the Palestinians oppressed.

2 thoughts on “The Jordan Valley? Settler Colonialism in Action

  1. While boycotting and divestment are (somewhat) personal choices, sanctions can never be placed without the approval of leading countries, mainly the US. Sadly that will never happen, since Israel enjoys a status of absolute immunity from criticism in the western world lest one be branded an anti-semite.
    What do you think about the justifications for the creation of the state of Israel though? Guilt, the holocaust, bible justifications (yet receiving backing from muslim/secular countries).

    • You are pretty much correct on the point of sanctions, though I believe it may be a bit pessimistic. If there is a popular movement within the US that had this as their single/joint-issue we might see change. Gay rights were almost a non-starter in 2007 if you look at the polls. Several years later there was legislation in place!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s