The Inhumanity of Israeli Settler-Colonialism

On June 15, 2021, Israeli far-right nationalists took part in a flag-waving march through occupied East Jerusalem. The so-called March of the Flags beats the drums of colonialism – it is an open celebration of the anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of the city’s eastern part. The Israeli government decided shortly after the end of the 1967 war to annex East Jerusalem into the State of Israel. Israel had already violated a 1949 UN decision to internationalize Jerusalem by moving its governmental offices from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In June 1967, this was an official and de jure annexation, accompanied by the expulsion of Palestinians in the Old City and the expropriation of private land around the region. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and the consequent declaration of a "unified Jerusalem" as the "Jewish capital" of Israel prompted Security Council condemnation in Resolution 478 (1980) as a form of territorial acquisition by force. It is evident that the March of the Flags is patently unacceptable and illegitimate because it expresses support for a colonial endeavor which is both dehumanizing and illegal.

The march was originally planned for 10 May, Israel’s Jerusalem Day, but was canceled due to the strength of protests by Palestinians which forced Israel into a humiliating retreat. To defeat Palestinian resistance to the open show of colonialism, the settler state took a number of preventive measures. It erected metal barriers on the roads leading to Damascus Gate, which was sealed off to prevent the entry of Palestinians. Heavily armed paramilitary border police and other forces patrolled the streets of the city, set up checkpoints, and blocked off roads throughout East Jerusalem.

At least 17 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces, and dozens more were assaulted and forcibly removed from the Damascus Gate plaza leading to the Old City. All this was done so that the hysteria of Zionist colonialism could flood the streets with pure toxicity. Videos shot by journalists documented the genocidal slogans that the mob chanted. "Death to the Arabs", "The Arab is the son of a bitch", "A good Arab is a dead Arab", "May your [Palestinian] village burn", and "Muhammad is dead" reflected the racist and murderous mentality of the Israeli colonialists.

In response to the delirium of racial frenzy released by the Zionist state, Palestinians in Gaza launched balloons into Israel. These balloons are contraptions made from everyday materials, gas-soaked rags, and homemade explosives and are used by Gazans as symbols of resistance against Israel. While Israel has always dubbed the launching of balloons as "arson attacks", they are merely indicators of the wretched oppression suffered by Palestinians. Till date, no one has ever been killed or injured by these incendiary balloons.

Nevertheless, Israel portrayed these balloons as akin to a military threat and constructed a narrative wherein these harmless objects could become the cause of highly developed weapons being used against 2 million besieged people. On June 16, 2021, Israel targeted a site with two missiles in Ma‘en area, south of Khan Younes city. Another airstrike targeted with a missile a site, located south of Gaza city. The Israeli military said it was "ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza".

On June 18, 2021, Israel attacked Gaza for the second time, firing three missiles at a site close to Sheikh Zayed Residential Towers, northeast of Beit Lahia, causing extensive material damages and setting the site ablaze. Israeli missiles also hit other sites and open agricultural fields to the east of Jabaliya city in the northern strip, in the central strip and east of the southern city of Khan Younes. This time, too, the Israeli forces put up an aggressive posture, declaring that they were preparing for a "variety of scenarios including a resumption of hostilities."

These brutal Israel offensives fly in the face of the May 2021 ceasefire which had ended an 11-day long colonial aggression against Gaza. Israel had killed at least 243 Palestinians, including 66 children. Israeli violence had also injured approximately 1,900 Palestinians and displaced 90,000 residents of Gaza. The endless state of violence in which Palestinians live underlines the systemic nature of Israeli settler-colonialism. Rather than being an ideological auxiliary of a specific government, Zionist settler-colonialism is a structural feature of the Israeli state.

The rootedness of colonial practices in state apparatuses is strikingly shown by the new government of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – a person who has described himself as "more right-wing than Mr. Netanyahu." He has pushed for formal apartheid, in which Israel annexes most of the occupied West Bank without giving Palestinians any rights. As a young officer, Bennett was involved in Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 refugees staying at a United Nations (UN) base in southern Lebanon. "I have killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there is no problem with that," he bragged later.

Considering the harsh reality of settler-colonialism, it becomes clear that the fundamental need of today is to wage an uncompromising struggle for decolonization which avoids the pitfalls of a technocratic perspective – exemplified by Oslo Accords – and aspires for the complete liberation of the Palestinian people. The social machinery of violence deployed by Israel will be uprooted only when we recognize the necessity of such an emancipatory viewpoint.

Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.