View a PDF copy of our new pamphlet: Why Progressives Should Reject Decolonisation Myths About Israel

Why Progressives Should Reject “Decolonisation” Myths About Israel

Labour Friends of Israel today publishes its latest policy briefing: Why Progressives Should Reject “Decolonisation” Myths About Israel, written by Dame Louise Ellman.  

On 7 October, Hamas’ brutal assault on Israel triggered war and enflamed tensions across the whole Middle East. The war has provoked some in the west to vilify Israel and to develop and spread conspiracy theories that represent the latest manifestation of a long line of antisemitic tropes to which Jewish people have been subjected for centuries.  

One such accusation is that the State of Israel is a “colonial” entity, an extremist myth which designates and dismisses Israelis as “colonialists”, against whom Hamas’ slaughter can be legitimised as “resistance”.  It recognises only the legitimacy of Palestinian national rights “between the river and the sea” and denies the Jewish people any right to self-determination. 

Branding Israel as “settler-colonial” and calling for “decolonisation” is not progressive and fuels an approach to activism – characteristic of the BDS movement – that entrenches and even encourages the conflict, rather than contributing to its resolution. 

The “settler-colonial” myth is not only politically destructive, it is also historically entirely inaccurate. The Jews who have made Israel their home represent neither imperialists nor colonialists. Instead, they were typically refugees fleeing antisemitic persecution – a great many of them coming from the Arab world.  

In the context of the current conflict, and a broad desire to see progress towards peace in its wake, there is an urgent need to confront and address this distorted worldview which fosters antisemitism and hinders the prospects of peace and a two-state solution. Chants such as “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and calls for “decolonisation” represent calls for the destruction of the State of Israel – not for peace. This is both immoral and inherently incompatible with the concept of a two-state solution.   

Rather than putting pressure on rejectionists and supporting moderates on both sides, such campaigns collectively demonise and delegitimise one of the two sides of the conflict in its entirety, in turn strengthening the Israeli right and its view that the world is implacably opposed to Israel. In the UK, these campaigns harm British Jews with deep personal and cultural ties to Israel.  

Read the full paper here: Why Progressives Should Reject Decolonisation Myths About Israel