Israel is not a colonialist state...
A nice short essay by Dore Gold in the New Republic...
The argument that Israel is a colonialist entity is often marshaled to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy. The theme has certainly permeated Western academia, almost uncritically. For decades, it has been employed against Israel in one international forum after another. In 1973, the U.N. General Assembly gave initial momentum to this idea when it condemned the “unholy alliance between Portuguese colonialism, South African racism, Zionism, and Israeli imperialism.”
That association of Israel with colonialist regimes set the stage in 1975 for the most insidious resolution ever adopted in the General Assembly against Israel, which stated that Zionism was a form of racism. It helped cement the Afro-Asian bloc behind both the resolution and the movement to delegitimize Israel. Even when, in 1991, the General Assembly finally overturned the resolution, comparisons between Zionism and colonialism persisted, arguably becoming even more strident.
Speaking in Johannesburg in 2008, Azmi Bishara, a former member of the Knesset, explained another way that accusing Israel of being a colonialist entity has real political utility. Bishara, who today does not miss an opportunity to question Israel’s legitimacy before audiences abroad, explained that two points had to be established to show that Israel was an apartheid state: first, that Israel practiced racial separation; and second, that it was a product of colonialism.
Of course, anyone who visits the emergency rooms in Israeli hospitals, or the classrooms at any Israeli university, or the voting booths on election day, to say nothing of the Knesset itself, would see both Jewish and Arab doctors, patients, professors, students, voters, and parliamentarians mixing together in a way that utterly disproves the charge of apartheid. That leaves Bishara with mainly the claim of colonialism to make his case.
Unlike the charge of racial separation, the tag “colonialist” cannot be refuted simply by looking around modern Israel. It is a historical charge about how Israel came to exist: In effect, it amounts to the claim that Israel was established as an outpost of another distant power imposing itself on the territory and its native inhabitants. But the fact is that while modern Israel succeeded the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine, it was created by neither the British nor any other occupying power.
The Jews were already asserting their right to self-determination well before the British and the French dismantled the Ottoman Empire. For example, the Jewish people had already re-established their majority in Jerusalem by 1863. Decades later, Britain and the rest of the League of Nations considered Jewish rights in Palestine beyond their power to bestow because those rights were already there to be accepted. Thus the League of Nations gave recognition to “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.” In other words, it recognized a pre-existing right. It called for “reconstituting” the Jewish people’s national home. And the rights recognized by the League of Nations in 1922 were preserved by its successor organization, the United Nations, which in Article 80 of its charter acknowledged all rights of states and peoples that existed before 1945.
The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers. Prior to World War I, the Arab states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan did not exist, but were only districts of the Ottoman Empire, under different names. They became states as a result of European intervention, with the British putting the Hashemite family in power in two of these countries.
Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states, meanwhile, emerged from treaties that their leaders signed with Britain. By means of those treaties, the British recognized the legitimacy of local Arab families to rule what became states like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. A similar British treaty with the al-Saud family in 1915 set the stage for the eventual emergence of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Moreover, during Israel's War of Independence, Arab armies benefited directly from European arms and training—and even manpower. The Arab Legion initially fought in Jerusalem with British officers, while the skies of the Egyptian Sinai were protected from the Israeli Air Force by the Royal Air Force. Indeed, Israeli and British aircraft clashed in 1949.