A Sophisticated Colonialism | Sojourners

A Sophisticated Colonialism

"The next time you need day laborers, just go to Damascus Gate—there’ll be dozens who’ll work for half the price." This tip was given to me yesterday by the guard at the gate of the campus in which I live, in the pastoral Jerusalem neighborhood of Baka, also known as "The Village." The guard had detained the son of my former Arabic teacher and his friend, assuring me that it was nothing personal; he had distinct orders not to let Palestinians from the Occupied Territories into the complex.

Until yesterday, I considered myself lucky to have 24-hour "security": I rarely lock my car or my back door. But I’d rather face the occasional burglary than have one more nail driven into the coffin of decency and sensitivity.

On the declarative level, Israelis want peace; on the operative, conscious level, what they mean is they want their own security. When you look at the full picture, what actually is going on (which Zionists and even Westerners in general would rather deny) is a 20th-century settler colonialism—in which an Israeli-Jewish society, superimposed upon a native Palestinian society, has taken most of the land and water for itself, and expects peace and security in exchange for a few crumbs.

The gate in my neighborhood has been guarded for the last seven years, since three Jews—one of them my children’s 19-year-old occasional babysitter—were knifed to death just down the street by a Palestinian laborer. All my Israeli friends know someone who almost became a victim—along with the three teen-age girls who were killed—in the last "successful" suicide bomb attack; vigilance against suspicious packages is drummed into children’s minds as early as preschool. But terror is also the state of mind that made my friends surrender their IDs at the gate yesterday to "al-Yahud ("the Jew"), the guy in uniform, pistol in belt.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1998
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