We discuss the arrival of Zionists to Palestine with the Hebrew term aliyah (ascend; plural: aliyot). Aliyot are nearly always described as “waves of immigration”. This mischaracterizes things. When you immigrate someplace, you join or articulate to the sovereignty (the organized society; nation, tribe, kingdom, etc.) you find upon arrival. Settlers do not. Settlers carry their own sovereignty with them which challenges the indigenous sovereignty. Successful settler colonies displace or exterminate the indigenous sovereignty. Alternately put, when the British built colonies on Turtle Island*, they ‘brought Britain with them’, creating settler colonies and displacing the Powhatan sovereignty and Powhatan people they encountered in what the settler society calls Virginia. This simultaneous increase of British—later American—and decrease of indigenous sovereignty is how Turtle Island is transformed into ‘North America’ through the past 500 years. The processes of establishing, perpetuating and extending settler colonies is called settler colonialism.
Zionists did things differently than Britain but still established a settler colony. Unique amongst settler colonies, Israel did not have a primary nation-state from which it drew settler population and logistical support (this relatively minor detail is the traditional explanation for why Zionism is supposedly not colonial). Instead Zionists brought European capital and class privilege with them and established settler sovereignty on site, displacing the indigenous Palestinian sovereignty they encountered. Tel Aviv is not an outgrowth of Shayk Muwannis and the other Palestinian villages buried beneath it nor was it a suburb of neighboring Jaffa. Tel Aviv is the sovereignty that eliminated those villages and with them, Palestinian sovereignty there. Building Tel Aviv and the other Zionist settlements—’collectivish’ kibbutzim included—is settler colonialism, the process of creating Israel where Palestine was and is. Five more dunams of Israel are created now from al-Khader as five more dunams of Palestine are eliminated. This is the settler colonial equation.
The question of sovereignty not only distinguishes settlers from immigrants, but settler colonialism from more widely discussed and studied forms of colonialism. The British in India and Nigeria co-opted, exploited and reorganized the sovereignties and societies they encountered. The British in Turtle Island and Zionists in Palestine eliminated them. Settler displacement of indigenous sovereignty is a primary function of what Australian scholar Patrick Wolfe calls settler colonialism’s “logic of elimination.” There was and is elimination too by the British in India and Nigeria and co-optation, exploitation and reorganization by Zionists in Palestine, but not as the defining process. Wolfe’s seminal 2006 article “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native” focuses primarily on settler elimination of indigenous people but the eliminationist logic he describes is equally applicable to the erasure of sovereignty.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: A Primer on Settler Colonialism » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.