On Monday 21 March 2022, the symposium on “Settler Colonialism, Indigeneity and the Palestinian Struggle against Zionism”, organized by the Omran Journal of Social Sciences and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies finished up in Doha. The lectures and panel discussions of the second and third days of the symposium conducted comparative analyses of settler colonialism in Palestine and South Africa, studied the structure of settler colonialism and patterns of resistance in Palestine, deconstructed colonialism and the restoration of national rights, and confronted the construction of colonial narratives through a discourse of indigeneity and nativism.
Religious and National Claims within the Framework of Zionism
Omrans’s Editor-in-chief, Mouldi Lahmar, moderated the first lecture of the second day of the symposium, presented by Nadim Rouhana, Professor of International Affairs and Conflict Studies at Tufts University, titled “Zionism and the Dilemma of Legitimizing Settler Colonialism: Religious Discourse as a Response to the Palestinian Resistance,” in which he discussed the interaction of national and religious demands and settler colonialism within the framework of the Zionist project, and its role in masking settler colonialism as an appropriate analytical framework for studying the conflict between the Zionist movement and the Palestinians.
Settler Colonialism: Palestine and South Africa
The first panel session was held on Sunday and moderated by Rima Majed, Professor of Sociology at the American University of Beirut, included two papers. Saul Dubow presented his paper first on “South African Apartheid and Israel/Palestine: Divergence and Convergence.” Dubbo examined the evidence that Israel is an apartheid state, from a historical point of view, noting that while Israel shares many similarities to Apartheid era South Africa, there are also important structural differences, relating to land, labour, and the politics of inclusion and exclusion, as well as the dynamics of resistance and oppression. Ilan Pappé followed with a paper on “International Law and Settler Colonialism in Historical Palestine,” arguing that international law in general is not equipped to engage with the root of the problem in Palestine: the Zionist colonization and its international immunity. Rather, he believed the way forward is to focus on international legitimacy, which played a crucial role in the downfall of Apartheid South Africa.
Settler Colonialism in Palestine
The second panel session was moderated by Tahar Saoud, Professor of Sociology at Setif-2 University in Algeria, and included three speakers. Ashraf Othman Bader opened the panel with his paper, “Settler Colonialism in Palestine between Structure and Process: Elimination or Power and Control?” Seeking to answer the central question of whether settler colonialism in Palestine is a “structure” or an ongoing “process,” Bader concluded that Settler-colonialism as a process is shaped by trial and error and its overriding logic is the pursuit of power and control, facilitated by policies that most importantly include elimination, economic exploitation and population management.
He was followed by Tariq Dana who presented the paper “War Economy and Military-Security Production in the Context of the Israeli Settler-Colonialism,” examining the organic relationship between Israeli military-security production and the structure of settler colonialism in Palestine. He argued that unlike classical settler-colonial experiences, the metropole is absent in the case of Israel, and thus the country structurally compensates for its absence through a clientelistic relationship with Western imperialism to gain military support, especially the US, and it relies on arms diplomacy to normalize itself in the regional and international system.
Hani Awad & Maryam Hawari rounded up the discussion with the paper “Rethinking the Condition of Indirect Rule: The Metamorphosis of the Israeli Colonial Governance and the Palestinian Resistance.” Their study presented a framework to understand the metamorphosis of Israeli settler-colonial governance and metamorphosis of its patterns of resistance. They concluded that the raison d'être of the Israeli settler-colonial governance is not only shaped by colonial determination, but also by its interplay with the Palestinian resistance.
The Colonial-Settler Imaginary and Its Relationship to Racism and Xenophobia
The third day began with a public lecture by Lorenzo Veracini on “Islamophobia, Antisemitism, Zionism, Settler Colonialism.” Introduced by Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Doha Institute, Veracini examined Islamophobia and its relationship with antisemitism in the context of the radical European right's recent shift towards pro-Israel positions and away from its traditional antisemitism. The lecture emphasized the foundational role colonial and settler colonial imaginaries play in the dynamic relationship between these forms of prejudice. It also suggested that current Islamophobic tropes can be seen as surrogate antisemitism.
Deconstructing Colonialism and Restoring National Rights
The next session was chaired by Ayah Omran Randall and began with Dana El Kurd’s paper “Re-centering National Rights in the Israeli-Palestinian ‘Conflict.’" El-Kurd touched on the expansion of discourse horizons on the future of Palestine, by making the 'decolonial' framework more present. In the popular consciousness, following the Palestinian uprising in 2021. However, she argued that this shift in discourse does not reflect the ongoing debates in political circles and among intellectuals, as some advocates speak of apartheid and advocate a “rights-based approach,” while leftist intellectuals talk about settler colonialism and decolonization. Hence, this patchwork of terms and demands, which often seeps into popular discourse, threatens to distort the core of the Palestinian struggle, which is simply the struggle for sovereignty.
Francesco Amoruso followed with his paper, “Undoing Settler Colonialism: Thoughts on Normalcy, Normalisation, and the Politics of Recognition.” He dealt with settler colonialism, not only as a social construct, but primarily as a hegemonic project. He argued that is that settler states produce hegemonic regimes of normalcy that sustain settler colonialism both internally and externally, with the quest for normal life lying at the core of Palestinian nationalism. The researcher concluded that if settler colonialism has historically been the largest and arguably most effective counter-revolutionary strategy, only a revolutionary rupture can undo the assimilatory and normalising trajectory of the settler colonial politics of recognition.
Confronting Colonial Narratives: The Questions of Indigeneity and Nativism
Chaired by Chair, Saker El Nour, the fourth panel session marked the final activity of the symposium. Hamid Dabashi began with a paper asking, “Where in the World is Palestine?” He alluded not just to the physical world, but the moral and imaginative worlds, the politically potent worlds we habitually identify as the colonial, postcolonial, or even decolonial worlds. His essay examined such a world if it were to begin with one Palestinian revolutionary writer, Ghassan Kanafani, and only one of his stories, and how those who read and act and stage and safeguard the legacy of that little story are the building blocks of a real world that dismantles all the illusory worlds built around them to deny, to bracket, and to erase them.
Micaela Sahhar was the final speaker, presenting her paper “The Return of the Native: Indigeneity, Settler-Colonialism and the Multiple Ironies in Israeli-Australian Commemorative Narrative of the Palestine Campaign.” She explored Israel’s attempt to align itself with a range of Indigenous struggles to both conceal the ongoing nature of settler-colonialism and to attempt to position the Zionist-state project as an indigenous one. Sahhar argued that official Israeli commemoration of the Palestine campaign, fought by Australian soldiers in World War I, and the recent foregrounding of the role of Aboriginal servicemen in it, was a cynical strategy of the Israel state to occlude the Palestinian narrative and indigeneity in their ancestral lands.