The Noxious Anti-Semitism Of “European Settler Colonialism”

There are some narratives that simply boggle the mind. Some are completely nonsensical and easily disproven. Others are seemingly spat out of desperation to belittle an enemy’s position. And a few are so twisted, they must have been hatched and sanctified by university professors.

Consider the phrase “European Settler Colonialism” to describe Jews moving to Israel.

Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi was fond of the phrase. As recently as November 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, he took the stage at the United Nations’ Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestine People. He used the expression in a number of ways:

  • “…Arab city dwellers, who observed with mounting concern the constant arrival of new European Jewish immigrants
  • the Declaration had been tailored to suit the desiderata of Zionism, a European colonizing project
  • The Palestinians were therefore in a triple bind, which may have been unique in the history of resistance of indigenous peoples to European colonialism. They faced the might of the British Empire in the era between the two world wars when not one single colonial possession, with the partial exception of Ireland, succeeded in freeing itself from the clutches of the European imperial powers.

A current professor at Columbia, Joseph Massad who teaches modern Arab politics, said much the same in an article in Middle East Eye on July 19, 2022 called “Algeria, Israel and the last European settler colony in the Arab world.”

  • Of the five European settler colonies established in Arab countries, only Algeria and Palestine remained colonised in the early 1960s
  • As the last two European settler-colonial powers in the Arab world, France and Israel formed a close alliance to coordinate the preservation of their settler colonies
  • Like France and Italy, the European Jewish Zionists claimed to be descendants of the ancient Palestinian Hebrews and to be merely “returning” to their ancient land.”
  • the pan-Jewishism of European Zionism, which sought to recreate the “Judaic” glories of the Palestinian Hebrews, who were appropriated as the ancestors of European converts to Judaism, was depicted as progressive and socialist.”
  • Unhappy with its isolation as the last European settler colony in the Arab world, the Israelis provided logistical support to the French colonists,...”

Students have caught on. At a vote to boycott Israel at the University of Wisconsin in March 2017, one of the students took the theme one step further:

The Israeli state was founded using the same nationalistic and exclusive principles that exploited Jews in Eastern Europe. The foundation built Israel to be as oppressive as the countries that destroyed Jewish homes, lives and pushed them out of Eastern Europe. Israel in its inception is not a Jewish idea but a European one.

Imagine the depravity of the anti-Zionist university mindset today, that Israel is not even considered a Jewish idea but simply a tool of European colonial imperialism.

The outrageous sentiments are given succor at the United Nations and anti-Zionist media. That they need to be addressed and disproved is shameful but it goes to the heart of the prevalent false anti-Israel narrative peddled by those who seek a Palestinian State and need an anchor for their anti-Semitic beliefs.

Colonialism – The Desire To Gain Versus The Desire To Rid

Many European countries set up colonies around the world, including France, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. Each country set up outposts to gain particular advantages in far away lands. Some sought raw materials like grain and minerals to export home. Some sought trade routes and new markets. Others brought missionaries to spread Christianity. Each country sought to exploit the new territory for selfish gain.

All, except for one case falsely-framed as colonialism: Zionism as “European settler colonialism.”

The anti-Semitic narrative describing Zionism as “European colonialism” is founded on two principle beliefs: that European countries desired to shed the continent of its Jews; and the further wish to weaken Muslim Arabs in the Middle East.

On the first concocted rationale, anti-Semitic anti-Zionists try to argue that the great powers of Europe wanted to collectively purge the region of its Jews. It is anti-Semitism at its most base and ugly, suggesting that Jews were universally unwanted foreigners in their midst.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pushed this argument in April 2018 that “[Lord] Balfour hated the Jews, but nevertheless, he gave them a state. The Russian foreign minister was well known for his hatred of the Jews, yet he said to [the Jews]: “Come, I will give you a state in Palestine.”” Abbas claimed that all European leaders hated the Jews and wanted to get rid of them and used Palestine as their dumping ground. The phrase “European settler colonialism” is deeply anti-Semitic in that it conveys that Jews are vile and unwanted.

The second premise of European colonialism in the desire to insert a foreign entity to weaken the supposed unity of Muslim Arabs in the Middle East is foolish as various European powers were dealing with many tribes in the region and building them up into functioning governments and countries. The British Mandate of Palestine is put forward by Arabists as something unique, when there were mandates for all of the lands that were to become independent countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Jews Have Nothing To Do With Ancient Israelites And Never Lived In Israel

The anti-Semitism of “European settler colonialism” extends beyond the invective that Zionism was launched by European leaders to ethnically-cleanse Europe of its Jews. It mocks Jewish history.

The acting President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas wrote his doctoral thesis on a particular form of Holocaust denial, which claimed that Jews have no connection or history in Israel, so early Zionists conspired with the Nazis to make life unbearable so that the Jews would be forced to emigrate to a foreign land. Abbas falsely asserted that Jews are descendants of Khazars, much like Columbia University’s Massad absurdly claimed that Jews pretend to be descended from “Palestinian Hebrews” (whatever that ridiculous phrase means), but really are a bunch of European converts who “appropriated” someone else’s history.

This repulsive narrative is a critical component for anti-Zionists because the definition of a “colony” means an “area under full or partial control of another country.” While France may have set up a foreign colony in Algeria, it is nonsensical to say that the entire European continent set up a joint colony for everyone’s benefit. But what choice do the anti-Semites have? If they are forced to recognize that Jews are from Judea and the land of Israel, then by definition it is not a Jewish colony but a righteous return of Jews from their diaspora. The phrase “European settler colonialism” is anti-Semitic in denying Jews their basic history in the land of Israel.

Jews Came To Palestine Before The Palestine Mandate

Anti-Semitic anti-Zionists argue that the European colonial project launched with Lord Balfour’s 1917 declaration and then the Mandate of Palestine in 1922. Those slightly more knowledgeable about history might point to Theodore Herzl’s First Zionist Congress in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland.

The reality is that Jews have always lived and moved to the land of Israel. During the last century of Ottoman rule (1800 to 1914), the Jewish population jumped more than 13.4 times. The Christian population only grew by 3.2 times over that period while the Muslim population barely moved, increasing only 2.1 times, meaning that no Muslims migrated to the holy land during that time, as such growth is the natural trend of births minus deaths.

The reason the Jews moved to the land is that the land is holy to Jews. Jews from all over the world pray facing Jerusalem, the only religion to do so. Jews are commanded to visit Jerusalem three times every year. There are commandments that Jews can only keep in Israel.

Saying that Zionism is a “European colonial project” is anti-Semitic as it denies the centrality and holiness of the land to Jews.

Israeli Jews Are Not European

The smear that “Zionism is Racism” was hatched by Muslim nations in the 1970’s, after the Arab world failed to destroy Israel for the third time (1948-9, 1967 and 1973 wars). The outrageous UN resolution was overturned by the United States in 1991, but the charge has been re-launched in modern times under the banner of “white supremacy”, “imperialism” and “European colonialism.”

The simple fact is less than one-third of Israelis have ancestors from Europe. As of 2018, only 31.8% of Jews were Ashkenazi, of European heritage, and 12.4% were from the former USSR. That compares to 44.9% who are Mizrahi and 3.0% from Ethiopia. The balance of Jews (7.9%) are of mixed heritage. Then there are 21.1% who are Arab (Muslim and Christian) and 5% are other groups including Ba’hai (a religion banned in several neighboring countries), Samaritans and others.

Saying that Israel is a creature of “European colonialism” is non-sensical at its most fundamental, as most Israelis do not come from Europe.

Poor Attempt To Distract From Muslim Arab Anti-Semitic Edicts

The charge that Zionism is based on European colonialism is anti-Semitic on many levels. It is used in a pathetic attempt to advance the cause of a Palestinian state, when in fact, it does the opposite by showing that Arabs are terrible anti-Jewish neighbors.

  • Admitting that Jews predate Arabs by thousands of years does not mean that Arabs have no history in the land, so stop pretending otherwise.
  • Admitting that the Temple Mount is only the holiest place for Jews does not mean that it holds no significance for Christians or Muslims.
  • Admitting that Jordanian/Palestinian Muslim Arabs banned Jews from entering the Old City of Jerusalem and the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron while they controlled it, does not mean that Jews will ban other religions from entering these sacred locations.
  • Admitting that Jordan issued an anti-Semitic citizenship law in 1954 that granted citizenship to people in Judea and Samaria, as long as they weren’t Jewish, doesn’t mean that the Jewish State of Israel will ban non-Jews from becoming citizens.
  • Admitting that most Israelis are not European Jews does not mean that Israel will constantly point out that the largest demographic in Israel are the Jews who came from Muslim Arab lands who were expelled and driven out of their homes.

The modern state of Israel is simply the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in their historic homeland. The attempts to vilify Israel as a product of European colonialism and imperialism is both false and deeply anti-Semitic, and actually hurts the Palestinian cause in showing their inability to live peacefully with the Jewish people.

Related articles:

Israel was never a British Colony; Judea and Samaria are not Israeli Colonies

Palestinians Are Still Actively Fighting The 1947-9 War Against The Jewish State. They’re Losing Again

Biden To Push Coexistence Agenda To Palestinian Arabs Not Interested

The UN Cannot See Palestinian ‘Lies and Loathing’

Antisemitism Includes the Denial of Jewish History

Palestinian Actions Matter

The Calming Feeling of Palestinian Refugees: Rashida Tlaib in Her Own Words

Israel was never a British Colony; Judea and Samaria are not Israeli Colonies

Many uniformed critics of Israel criticize the creation of Israel and claim that Israel was established as a colonial outpost of Great Britain. The statement is absurd and easily disproven.

International Law, Not British Law

Various international laws approved the immigration of Jews to Palestine and international bodies approved the creation of the Jewish State of Israel.

May 1949: International Approval: The United Nations voted to admit the State of Israel  as a member state, at the end of Israel’s war with Arab countries.

May 1948: International Approval: The United States, the Soviet Union and several other countries recognized Israel soon after Israel declared Independence.

May 1948: Israel Declares Independence, but not from Great Britain: Israel waited to declare its statehood until after Great Britain left the holy land and completed its mandate. The Israeli Declaration of Independence never mentioned Great Britain, as GB never viewed the land as a colony (compare that to the language in US Declaration of Independence which mentioned severing ties with GB.)

November 1947 UN Partition Vote: The United Nations voted to create a Jewish State in Palestine with 33 votes in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions (Great Britain abstained).

July 1922 League of Nations Established Jewish Homeland: The League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) voted to break apart the old Ottoman Empire and placed the area of Palestine under British oversight. That area of Palestine included areas of Jordan and Israel which were to include a “national home for the Jewish people.”

April 1920 San Remo Conference. The Allies of World War I (Britain, France, Japan and Italy) voted for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The term “British Mandate” has become confused for many people with Israel being a “British Colony.” It is simply untrue. The world powers broke apart huge sections of the Middle East with areas under both British and French administration, including countries today known as Lebanon and Syria. No one refers to any of those countries as a “colony.”

british and french mandates
British and French Mandates covering much of the Middle East

British did not favor Jews in Palestine

Despite language in the 1922 Mandate that the British should “facilitate Jewish immigration” to Palestine, the British sided with local Palestinians that sought to curtail an influx of Jews. On the eve of the Holocaust in Europe, when Jews were desperate for a place to flee, the British issued the 1939 “White Paper” which limited the number of Jews that could enter Palestine.  That edict likely cost hundreds of thousands of European Jews their lives.

The British decree created tremendous tensions between Palestinian Jews and the British. There were many battles between the groups, the most famous being the destruction of the King David Hotel in 1946.

No Transfer of British People

As described above, the British were merely administrators of Palestine for a period of time. They did not seek a permanent presence of soldiers or civilians. Virtually no British Jews (or non-Jews) relocated to Palestine on a permanent basis over the course of the Mandate period through 1948.  The Jews that came to Palestine under the Mandate period principally came from elsewhere in Europe and Russia:

  • Third Aliyah (1919-1923): 40,000 from Russia and Poland
  • Fourth Aliyah (1924-1929): 82,000 (many subsequently left) from Poland; Russia; Romania; Lithuania; Yemen and Iraq
  • Fifth Aliyah (1929-1939): 250,000 from Europe fleeing German Nazis
  • Aliyah Bet (1939-1948): 110,000, mostly illegally, smuggled from Europe fleeing Holocaust

Rights of the Indigenous Jewish People

The world powers voted to enable a national home for the Jewish people for a few reasons:

  • Jews were indigenous to Israel, as stated in the Mandate, the world recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country
  • Jews had been forcibly evicted from their national home
  • The Ottomans and others made it difficult for Jews to move back and acquire land for hundreds of years

The Jews had political kingdoms and religious Temples in the holy land for over 1000 years, but were expelled against their will. The new international laws were meant to remove the modern roadblocks that were placed before Jews from moving to Palestine and owning land.

Even though it was difficult for Jews to move to Palestine and acquire homes and land under the Ottomans, the Jews were the fastest growing religious group from 1800 to 1914. Jews have also been the largest religious group in Jerusalem since 1870.


The official languages in Israel today are Hebrew and Arabic. While English is widely spoken, it is not an official language, further underscoring that the country never was established as a British colony.

RE-ESTABLISHED under International Law

In short, there is no basis whatsoever for calling Israel a British colony. The global community approved facilitating the free movement of Jews back to their holy land, where Jews already lived. The global community ultimately approved RE-ESTABLISHING a Jewish State. This was not Great Britain arbitrarily creating a colony for its own purposes.

It should also be underscored that Zionism was not only a modern idea conceived by Jews as a reaction to anti-Semitism in Europe and Russia.  Henry Dunant (1828-1910), the winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize was an ardent Christian Zionist who strongly advocated for the rights of Jews to live in Palestine in the 1860s.

Israel 1974 bote at UN
Vote for Israel at United Nations, 1947

The “West Bank” is not an Israeli Colony

As detailed above, the global community approved the rights of Jews to move to their ancient homeland in the holy land.  That right was given to the entire region, including Judea and Samaria.  While the UN voted to recognize a Jewish State within a section of Palestine, the right to move throughout the region was approved in repeated resolutions many decades ago.

While the UN does not recognize Judea and Samaria to be part of Israel, they also do not recognize it as part of Jordan that illegally annexed it in 1950 (Jordan gave up all claim to the region in 1988).  The UN would like to see that region be part of a new Arab State of Palestine through negotiations with Israel.

The desire to see a new Palestinian State does not mean that international law protecting the rights of Jews to live in the region are null and void.  The 1922 British Mandate Article 15 specifically stated that “no person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.”  “No person” included Jews, and “Palestine” covered the entire mandate area of 1922.

The Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 which were negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, specifically stated that Israel controls and administers most of the “West Bank.”  As such, Israel approves housing and roads and infrastructure for everyone.  So the Palestinians agree that Israel is in charge of housing and international law approves Jews living in the region.  Israel acts as the administrator, much in the same way that Great Britain acted as the administrator for Palestine from 1922 to 1948.

Lastly, the “settlements” are principally located next to greater metropolitan areas within Israel.  Unlike European colonies which were across oceans and thousands of miles from the country, these Jewish homes are just suburban communities of major Israeli cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.  They happen to be on the other side of an invisible “green line” that was the Armistice Lines of 1949.  Those Armistice Agreements specifically stated that those lines were not to be considered borders.


Jews have lived throughout the holy land for thousands of years, including all over Judea and Samaria/ the “West Bank”.  International laws facilitated the ability of Jews to move back to, and throughout, their homeland.

Jews were self-governing for over a thousand years in the holy land.  International laws reconstituted the national Jewish home.

While Jordan illegally attacked Israel and expelled all of the Jews from Judea and Samaria counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949, those illegal actions cannot make it illegal for Jews to once again live in homes they legally purchase throughout the land.

When you hear acting-President of the Palestinian Authority chant “colonial occupier” or uninformed people claim that Israel is a colonialist tool, send them this article.

Related First.One.Through articles and video:

The United Nations’ Remorse for “Creating” Israel

The Legal Israeli Settlements

Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

The Arguments over Jerusalem

Video: Judea and Samaria (Foo Fighters)

Video: The “1967 Borders” (The Kinks)

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