Universities in Malaysia should seriously consider transforming how international relations is taught.
Incorporate other frameworks of interpretation. Theories from the fields of sociology, anthropology, language and literature, art and history are essential to understanding how nations interact.
The reality is that there will always be some form of conflict among nations. However, we must be conscious of several neglected truths about the nature of wars and why statesmen start or prolong them.
Considering the recent humanitarian atrocities committed against the Palestinians in Gaza, it is timely to reflect on global affairs, from the perspective of colonialism.
The tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict has been lost in official statements and the mainstream media narratives. What we know about the war has been shaped by big power geopolitical interests in the region.
Also, what we should know has been framed one-dimensionally, mainly, that the conflict is a religious one, which has led to the current “occupation” of land.
Subjugation of indigenous people
In truth, the conflict has been raging on for decades because the goal is the systematic domination, subjugation and dehumanisation of an indigenous people.
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The cruel use of material force, including deploying the “Flying Ginsu” missile to achieve this aim, should be accurately interpreted as settler colonialism.
Settler colonialism is a system of oppression based on genocide and colonialism. It aims to displace a population of a nation (often an indigenous people), replacing them with a new settler population.
Malaysians and most of us in the Global South know exactly what colonialism does to a people’s heritage, their attachment to the land and their identity. What more, settler colonialism.
The horrifying attack by Hamas on Israel must be condemned. However, Israel’s response to collectively punish all Palestinians (mostly civilians, including thousands of children) is atrocious, unacceptable and a war crime.
Furthermore, we must not be distracted. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians goes back long before Hamas’s attacks.
The use of the phrase “Israel has the right to self-defence” is grossly misleading.
A more accurate, ‘decolonial’ assessment is that Israel continues to expand, despite military retaliation by a subjugated indigenous community, the Palestinians. They are the ones who are acting in self-defence.
Shutting off water and electricity to civilians in Gaza and bombing hospitals and other vital infrastructure amounts to genocide. In addition to incursions into the Jenin refugee camp and Gaza throughout 2023, this latest violence which began on 7 October must be linked more accurately to settler colonialism.
Furthermore, it is only half the truth to speak and write about the “occupation” of Palestinians by the state of Israel. Since the Nakba of 1948, Palestinians have lived under settler colonial conditions. Their lands, culture, and bodies have been under constant occupation, in addition to the Israeli military’s tight control over Palestinians. They have no freedom of movement.
The settler colonial premise of the Israel-Palestine conflict is an accurate framework for analysis. Historically, colonialism has been the fundamental cause of violence throughout the world.
Colonialism still exists
Therefore, to end this violence, we must first change how we report it in the media, and how leaders around the world comment about war. They must apply the correct concepts. The goal is to be conscious that colonialism still exists, that it is inhumane and cruel, and that it must be rejected.
Also, the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel must be seen as a continuation of centuries of settler colonial domination throughout much of the Global South. For example, indigenous peoples’ struggles in the African continent, the Americas and the Asia Pacific region have shown how settler colonialism operates as an inhumane system of elimination.
This is why using the term occupation without the notion of settler colonialism and elimination, is merely a half-truth.
The history of South African apartheid is a stark referent to the current Palestinian reality. Amnesty International has defined the Israel-Palestine situation as one of apartheid. Thinkers and freedom fighters such as Angela Davis, Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X called for solidarity with Palestine.
Similarly, the international community of leaders and ordinary people in every corner of the globe must consistently denounce colonialism in all its guises. The continued silence about its colonial origins prolongs the injustice committed against all indigenous peoples, including the Palestinians.
What we must do
We in Malaysia must continue discussing the conflict within the framework of settler colonialism. I hope our leaders and anyone who might negotiate between the different parties do not just reiterate to “end the immediate violence”. They must denounce and call for an end to settler colonialism.
Mainstream and social media in Malaysia must also foster critical conversations about the colonial condition under which this conflict is being waged. Consider associating most, if not all conflicts, in this manner.
Malaysia’s support for the Palestinians must include the nation’s commitment to global decolonisation. In addition to this, our universities and educators must commit to educating society about the history of colonialism.
Our lecturers must also be informed of the decolonial turn as part of their analytical and discursive engagement in the classroom. It is a relevant interpretive framework to use. Try to include this in most of the social science disciplines, if not in others. Be conscious of how colonialism had centuries of influence over intricate aspects of our lives.
Lastly, the crime of settler colonialism makes the Israel-Palestine conflict very much a land issue; it is also highlighted mainly as a religious issue in our media. However, the conflict is more about the subjugation of a people, whose self-determination has been assaulted and crushed.
It is my hope that Anwar Ibrahim will lead all Malaysians to be consistent in highlighting the reality of settler colonialism in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict is not only an issue of land and occupation.
Rather, occupation must be linked to settler colonialism. In this way, the reality of subjugation and the systematic dehumanisation of an indigenous population come to the fore. This is the most accurate framework to contextualise what is happening in Gaza today. – Free Malaysia Today