Toronto Star Gives Oxygen To False Claims Of Israel Being A Settler-Colonial State

November 21, 2023

In their quest to defame Israel and rob it of its legitimacy, anti-Israel detractors have sought to rewrite history and erase three thousand years of Jewish history in the land of Israel.

While such ahistorical campaigns are nothing new, they received significant attention in a November 17 article in The Toronto Star titled: “Why some Indigenous advocates and Palestinians feel they’re ‘natural allies.’”

Written by Richie Assaly, a digital producer at the newspaper, the 1,500-word article gave extensive coverage to at best misleading, and at worst, overtly distorted claims which masqueraded as factual.

Assaly made reference to “the Nakba – a term that means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and that refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians that resulted from the Arab-Israeli War and the creation of Israel in 1948.”

Although Assaly’s definition of the term is correct, significant context is missing. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the term is often used “to insinuate that the very existence of Israel is a catastrophe and to question the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish national homeland.”

Regrettably, Assaly does not share with readers that much of the “mass displacement and dispossession” of Arabs in 1948 – following the invasion of newly reborn Israel by its Arab neighbours – was at the hands of Arab leaders who actively encouraged Arabs in Israel to leave the Jewish State, expecting it to be quickly defeated, and thus able to return shortly afterwards.

Assaly paraphrased Megan Scribe, an assistant professor of sociology at Toronto Metropolitan University, writing that “Scribe suggests that Indigenous solidarity with Palestinians stems from the Indigenous experience of settler-colonialism – a form of colonialism that functions through the replacement of indigenous populations by a settler society that, over time, develops a distinctive identity and sovereignty.”

Scribe’s words to Assaly demonstrate a breathtaking ignorance and obliviousness to three millennia of continued Jewish presence in Israel. The Jewish People, whose history in Israel predates Islam or the Arab invasion of the region in the seventh century CE, are not only most certainly not settlers in their own land, but in fact the polar opposite: the indigenous population of those lands.

While Assaly gave oxygen to allegations that Israel is a settler-colonial state, he effectively took Palestinian claims of indigeneity at face value.

As Ryan Bellerose, a Metis Canadian, has written, “The idea that ‘Palestinian Arab’ conquerors could become indigenous through conquering the Jewish people, even though the term “Palestinian” was only used in reference to Jews before 1948, is anathema.”

As pointed out by one historian in the article, the definition of colonialism is not a subjective one, but refers to a mother country sending settlers to a foreign land, which is not applicable to the Jews.

Scribe is quoted once again for her outlandish claim that Israel has taken “guidance” from Canada in its “settler colonial project,” specifically “Canada’s reservation system,” and Assaly wrote that “Whether one agrees with this depiction or not, Scribe says it plays an important role in shaping the solidarity between some Indigenous activists and Palestinians.”

Regardless of how this belief that Israel is a settler colonial state is playing out between Indigenous Canadians and pro-Palestinian activists, it remains false and utterly without merit.

Claiming that Israel is a settler-colonial state is not a matter of opinion or based upon “whether one agrees with this depiction or not.” It is preposterous.

There is no dispute as to whether the Jewish People have lived in the land of Israel for three thousand years. Extensive historical proof, ranging from literature, to genetic studies, to archaeological findings, demonstrate this beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Regardless of the motivation behind those who make such harebrained claims, allegations that Israel is a settler-colonial state are based not in fact, but in a misrepresentation, both of the definition of colonialism, and a total disregard to the Jewish People’s indisputed and longstanding presence in their ancestral homeland.

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