It’s fine to pick holes in someone’s arguments and point out inconsistencies in their logic but it’s another thing to use your own cherry-picked bits of history to try to undermine a valid narrative.
Chris Trotter’s piece attacking Pere Huriwai-Seger seems to be an attempt to excuse the reality of Israel as a settler colonial state which is at the heart of the presentation.
Trotter claims it is “historical nonsense – and malicious nonsense at that” to suggest that New Zealand has “long supported the colonisation of Palestine”.
The context in which this is presented can be challenged but it is a simple fact that New Zealand has “long supported the colonisation of Palestine”.
We have always supported “Israel’s right to exist” despite Israel being a racist, apartheid state. (It is now recognised as such by every major human rights group in the world including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The largest and most respected human rights group in Israel, B’Tselem describes Israel as “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid” And indeed it is!)
For 75 years New Zealand has given lip-service to the Palestinian struggle for freedom but has never challenged the colonisation of Palestine by European Zionist Jews under the British League of Nations mandate. It has never held Israel to account for its 75-year military occupation of Palestine.
Israel was established in the best traditions of colonisation. Encourage immigration of your superior European colonists, build up numbers till you are numerically, politically and militarily strong enough then attack the indigenous population and drive them off the land. Indigenous people the world over have experienced this process.
For Palestinians, being driven off their land was the “Nakba” (catastrophe in Arabic) whereby from late 1947 to early 1949 heavily armed Israeli militias attacked Palestinians towns, villages and rural communities across vast swathes of southern and central Palestine and drove them at gunpoint, with numerous massacres, either west into Gaza or east into the west bank of the Jordan River. That’s why we have 2.3 million Palestinians still effectively trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison. That’s why Palestinians are the largest refugee population in the world today. These Palestinians can look out through Israel’s security fence and see their ancestral land – but Israel says they will never be allowed to return, despite this being their right under international law.
All of this is told in meticulous historical detail by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his critically acclaimed book “The ethnic cleansing of Palestine”.
Pappe details how Israeli spies wrote reports about every Palestinian village – noting how many people, who the leaders were, names of anyone who had supported the Arab uprising against Jewish immigration in the late 1930s. This information was provided to the militias as they went about their ethnic cleansing across Palestine. The Israeli military called it “Plan Dalet”. It was deliberate, systematic, utterly brutal and cruel (You can watch the 2022 film “Tantura” about a massacre in the small Palestinian fishing village of Tantura during the Nakba)
(Incidentally but importantly this ethnic cleansing continues today as the Israeli settler movement, with backing from the Israeli military, carries our raids and pogroms against Palestinian villages and rural communities and drives people off their land. The western world is silent – perhaps it’s because the victims have the wrong eye colour)
Arab countries attacked Israel in May 1948 because of these atrocities which were reported across the Arab world but dirty deals were done, as they are today, and the Arab leadership betrayed Palestine.
From past pieces I know Chris Trotter is sceptical that “sins were committed” during the Nakba.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to him. We all need to be prepared to have our understandings challenged.
I was also surprised Chris Trotter did not mention the Balfour declaration or the Sykes Picot agreement – both of which preceded Britain’s League of Nations mandate.
In these two pieces of classic European imperialism Britain assured European Zionist Jews it would facilitate the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine (no consultation with the indigenous Palestinians of course) and agreed with France how they would carve up the “old man of Europe” – the Ottoman Empire which was then on its last legs.
It was in Britain’s imperial interests to have a beachhead in the oil-rich Arab world and that beachhead would be Israel, a decision made well before the League of Nations mandate which Britain used to facilitate the expansion of its imperial power through the colonisation of Palestine.
I worry that Chris Trotter has spent too much time with the anti-Palestinian racists who dominate the so-called Free Speech Union. Free speech is absolutely critical but for many in the FSU free speech stops when someone speaks out for accountabilities for Israel. At that point false smears of anti-semitism are tossed around like confetti in efforts to stifle and suppress free speech about the Palestinian struggle for human rights.