Postcolonial Ideology, Political NGOs and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

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Published in Israel – Geschichte und Gegenwart, Brigitte Bailer, editor; Politiche Wirklichkeit 24, (Vienna Braumuller, 2009)

In the short Gaza war at the end of 2008, following the resumption of rocket bombardment by Hamas of Israel, anti-Israel demonstrators marched and burned Israeli flags in many European cities. Newspapers published articles and editorial cartoons attacking Israel, and non-government organizations (NGOs) issued condemnations. Allegations included “collective punishment”, ‘indiscriminate attacks”, “disproportionate force”, “violations of international law”, “war crimes”, etc.[1] European diplomats made similar statements, and academics renewed campaigns calling for a boycott of Israeli universities.

These attacks largely erased Hamas’s aggression and war crimes, including thousands of cross-border rocket attacks designed explicitly to strike civilians, exploitation of human shields, and mass suicide bombings in which hundreds of Israelis were killed. In parallel, little mention was made of Hamas’ declared objectives, including movement’s charter, which speaks explicitly of killing the Jews and of Jihad as the solution to the “Palestinian question”.[2]

This obsessive “soft war” directed against Israel follows the pattern set during earlier confrontations, including the 2006 conflict initiated by Hizbollah, Israeli defense against the suicide bombing campaign from 2001 to 2005, the Mohammed Dura affair, and elsewhere. In these and numerous other examples, the Palestinian narrative and version of history is dominant, while the Israeli perspective is distorted beyond recognition.

A number of factors can be suggested in explaining this systematic bias. In an international relations framework, realists focuses on Arab and Islamic power, including dependence on oil, fear of terror, and European demographics. Other explanations cite antisemitism – both the “old” model rooted in Christian theology, and the newer version which denies the Jewish people the right to sovereign equality. Some theories cite efforts to deny the unique barbarism of the Holocaust by the grotesque comparison of Israeli self-defense to Nazi behavior.

In this article, the case will be presented for considering the role of post-colonialist ideology, which provides a platform for anti-Zionism and antisemitism.[3]

[1] Gerald M. Steinberg (ed.) The NGO Front in the Gaza War: The Durban Strategy Continues, NGO Monitor Monograph Series, February 2009. Available at

http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/the_ngo_front_in_the_gaza_war

[2] The Hamas Charter states: “The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to implement Allah’s promise: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until … the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh Muslim! Oh Abdullah!, there is a Jew behind me, come on and kill him.’ (article 7) ….There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. All initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are a waste of time and vain endeavors.” (article 13). http://middleeast.about.com/od/palestinepalestinians/a/me080106b.htm; See also David G. Littman, “The Genocidal Hamas Charter”, National Review Online, September 26, 2002, http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-littman092602.asp

[3] Kaplan, Edward H. and Small, Charles A., “Anti-Israel Sentiment Predicts Anti-Semitism in Europe,” Journal of Conflict Resolution,  50 (4): 548

About the Author

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Professor Gerald M. Steinberg

Professor Gerald Steinberg is founder and president of NGO Monitor and professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University. He is the founder of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar Ilan University. His research focuses on the changing nature of power in international relations, as reflected in Middle East Diplomacy and Security, The Politics of Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and Israeli Politics and Arms Control.