For Zionism, May 14th, 2018 is set to be a major celebration and an arrival to the top of the mountain, Jerusalem, and a US affirmation of the “rightfulness” of settler colonialism. Who can argue with this momentous arrival and on the anniversary of Israel’s independence, the Palestinian Nakba! From the Zionist vintage point of view, the moving of the US embassy brings the nationalist project into full circle completion and, with it, the claiming of the holy sites in the old city. “God”, or more precisely the gods of Zionist nationalism, have foreseen and prophesied this eventuality since by “fire and sword” Jerusalem was brought into existence, expansion and constant protection.
Now, why do I say that Zionism suddenly ceases with this triumphant moment of successful nationalism and the “claiming” of Jerusalem through Trump’s movement of the embassy? Indeed, one would think that the opposite would be true, that Zionism and Israel have at last achieved the desired outcome, Jerusalem being the capital of the state and total domination of the Palestinians!
The answer to this question has many elements and each must be understood by taking into account what Zionism hoped to accomplish by creating the state and the complex and contested outcomes that it produced. From its inception, Zionism sought to enter the modern era through a nationalist project that unites a diasporic people with the land of Palestine through a settler colonial project that will displace the indigenous population and forge a new society in its place. More than anything, the “return” to Palestine and Jerusalem is imagined to be the pre-requisite for birthing the modern, assertive and powerful Zionist Jewish person. Building a Zionist nation meant the destruction of both the Palestinian and Jewish pre-modern people and society, replacing them with a European inspired modern nationalist project rooted in a distorted and highly racialized secularism and beholden to power and violence.
Don’t let the distraction of the messages from Israel and the Zionists confuse you. Violence, dispossession and “redeeming” the land by expelling the indigenous Palestinian population is constitutive and productive of Zionism and not in reaction or incidental to the project. Claiming Jerusalem serve as the material evidence for the veracity of Zionism, a project that upended traditional and classical Judaism, for it delivered a “return” from exile by the power of the sword, not the book or the expected prophet.
Zionism was gradually unmasked, despite all its efforts and obfuscation, despite all diversions and blaming the Palestinians, for unfolding the utter ugliness of militant and nationalist modernity that was maliciously cloaked from the beginning with a religious purpose. Moving the US embassy is not viewed as a mere diplomatic decision by a foreign power, but that is rather cementing the nationalist claims to the holiest of the holy. Indeed, without the Zionist matrimony between the born-again powerful Zionist Jewish person and the land, Zionism would stand as an orphaned idea or, worse, a stillborn project. Jerusalem is the affirmation and material evidence needed to provide completeness for the project.
According to Zionism, the creation of Israel is not similar and cannot be compared to any emergence of a modern nation-state, it is a totally different from conception to actualization. Ideologically speaking, Zionism had to birth a secular people, transport them to a distant land utilizing an ancient connection through religious text, then rationalize the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population inhabiting the land. Through the entire way towards achieving the modern state, Zionism has cast the Palestinians as an archetypal anti-Semitic population that opposed Zionism because of its Jewishness rather than its settler colonialism. Here, the Palestinians standing in the way of modern and secular Zionism were cruelly and self-servingly compared to the European inherent and historical anti-Semitism, which was useful as a way to negate their rights to the land.
As a settler-colonial project, Zionism sought the land but not the people that inhabit it, the Palestinians. Consequently, the preconceived plan for the Palestinians was set in motion before the Zionist movement arrived into Palestine, with Herzl himself theorizing the need to “spirit the penniless Arab population” across the borders while making sure to strike an alliance with the property owners. Settler colonial projects pursue either the genocide or the transfer of the indigenous population, so Zionism is not unique nor is it an exception to the norm.
The gradual journey towards Zionist dispossession of Palestine’s indigenous population is culminating with the move of the US embassy for it denotes the last physical site of meaning that provides Palestinians with a sense of being and belonging despite the never-ending occupation. Zionism, as a settler-colonial project, is not content with only the devouring of the land and the expulsion of the people, it must also remove all vestiges of meaning, religious or otherwise, from the Palestinians. Indeed, for Zionism Jerusalem is the nationalist and ultra-nationalist trophy that makes the birth of a modern nation complete and the erasure of Palestine and Palestinians irreversible in their mind.
Precisely, the moment of ultimate triumph for Zionism also represents the utmost defeat for it signals the utter and total dependence of Israel and Zionism on an external agent to affirm its possession of Jerusalem. More importantly, the gradual Zionist project, while successful in birthing the powerful and modern Zionist Jewish person, has nevertheless not been able to remove the Palestinians from their homeland, something that gnaws on a daily basis at Israel’s highly militarized society and more so the settler segment of it.
The move of the US embassy is a ploy to fleece Palestinians anew and force them into Trump’s and Kushner’s “deal of the century” that boils down to certifying the “justness” of the Zionist dispossession of the land and expulsion of the people. More critically, the alignment of Israel with Trump’s inane administration just crystalizes the vacuous nature of Zionism and its settler-colonial project rooted in an end justifies the means epistemic.
A global shift on Israel is underway and Zionism hitching its wagon to Trump and the rightwing in Europe is accelerating the negative standing of the Zionist brand. The move of the embassy has cemented the extreme right-wing nature of Israel’s political landscape and its refusal to adhere to human rights and international law norms or treat the Palestinians fairly. Leaving settler colonialism to function by exception to global norms is very precarious and not sustainable no matter the power or might behind it. Israel’s gradual loss of standing and diminishment of the Teflon brand is no longer reversible and the efforts to demonize and defame the pro-Palestine forces will not change the trajectory but it will only offer a momentary delay. I can’t say when the gradual to sudden turn is going to happen, but I am sure it is on the way and the writings are already visible on the Apartheid Wall!