Emma Watson’s Advocacy of Palestinian Rights is Justified

On January 3, 2022, Emma Watson, a famous English actress, posted an image of a pro-Palestinian rally, with the words "Solidarity is a verb" written across it. It was accompanied by the following quote about the meaning of solidarity from the academic Sara Ahmed: "Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground."

Zionists have responded hysterically to Watson’s post. Danny Danon, who formerly held the posts of science minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (UN), accused her of anti-Semitism on Twitter. Israel’s current ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, was also critical. As the Zionist administrative elite spewed venom against Watson, the Israeli government app Act.IL encouraged users to troll her. This systematic disinformation campaign is not new; it is driven by Israel’s opposition to the Palestinian struggle for decolonization which is exposing the state’s foundational brutality.

In 2021, the Global Firepower Index ranked Israel’s military strength at 20th worldwide. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel is ranked 10th on the list of the world’s largest arms exporters in 2015–19. Three of the top 100 arms producers in 2018 were based in Israel. These figures are extremely high for a country with a population of eight million people in an area of just 20,000 square kilometers. That is why the Global Militarization Index lists Israel as "the most militarized nation in the world." The structural entrenchment of violence took place in the 1980s and 1990s, when Israel shifted from agriculture and industry to war and high-tech technologies.

Digitalization and advancements in computer and information technology turned Tel Aviv and Haifa into Middle Eastern extensions of Silicon Valley. Israel’s militarized accumulation accelerated with the attacks of September 11, 2001, which allowed the settler-colonial entity to develop a "homeland security industry." In "The Global Police State", William I. Robinson writes:

"Israel has been exporting arms around the world almost since its inception in 1948…The Israeli economy feeds off local, regional and global violence, conflict, and inequalities. But in the wake of 9/11, it carved out a unique niche as a provider worldwide of weapons sub-systems, technologies, and training for the global homeland security industry that have "dual use" applicability to both military and civilian markets, doing arms and security business with some 130 countries. The 400 public and private military firms, many of them publicly traded, sold some $30 billion worldwide in arms from 2000 to 2007…The country has 200 cybersecurity companies and is now the number two worldwide exporter of cyber products and services."

The distinctiveness of Israel’s arms industry lies in the use of Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as a laboratory for testing intelligence systems and structures of repression. Palestinian guinea pigs in West Bank and Gaza labs have become the perfect tool to sell sophisticated weapons dedicated to the logic of permanent war. In "War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification", Jeff Halper notes that the occupation "provides a testing ground for the development of weapons, security systems, models of population control and tactics without which Israel would be unable to compete in the international arms and security markets… Labels such as "Combat Proven," "Tested in Gaza" and "Approved by the IDF" on Israeli or foreign products greatly improves their marketability."

The modern-day grotesqueries of arms sales which plague Israel reflect the great extent to which Zionism has selectively manipulated bits of Biblical narratives in an entirely instrumental way for exploitative purposes. Historically, the term Eretz Yisrael ("Land of Israel") was a purely religious term, regarded by generations of Jews as an ecclesiastical territory, but never as a future state. Jews were ordered to await the coming of the Messiah and "end of time" before returning to the land. Moreover, Palestine was never accorded centrality as a major site of Judaism. All this meant that the Holy Land remained embedded in the religious imagination of Judaism, never becoming a political, social, economic, demographic, and cultural reality.

Thus, in "The Bible and Zionism", Nur-eldeen Masalha remarks: "Political Zionism emerged from the conditions of late-nineteenth century Eastern and Central Europe as a radical break from 2, 000 years of rabbinical Judaism and Jewish tradition. The founding fathers of Zionism were almost all atheists or religiously indifferent. Although, in the interests of gaining international support, political Zionism appealed to the biblical narrative to legitimize the Zionist enterprise, it was basically a secular, settler colonialist movement, with non-religious and frequently anti-religious dispositions."

Considering the large gulf between Judaism and Zionism, the smearing of Watson as an "anti-Semite" is completely baseless. Whereas the former is a religious tradition, the latter is a dehumanizing endeavor fundamentally imbricated in the dark mechanisms of global capitalism. Those who use the narrative of anti-Semitism as a whiplash to silence Palestinian anti-colonialism are mere representatives of a ruling class hell-bent on satisfying its rapacity through the brutalization of other peoples. Instead of being frightened by such deceitful talk, we need to build counter-hegemonic movements that openly denounce Israel’s genocidal policies and work to advance Palestinian liberation.

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