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Hatem Bazian: Palestine… It is Something Colonial

In 1902, Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, wrote to Cecil Rhodes, the Minister of Colonies for Great Britain: “You are being invited to help make history. It doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor; not Englishmen but Jews … How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial.” 

The above is an excerpt from Dr. Hatem Bazian’s book Palestine: It is Something Colonial… He writes, “the occupation of Palestine was the last settler-colonial project the British empire commissioned, and this colonial project is still unfolding more than one hundred years later. In centering Palestine’s modern history around settler-colonial discourses, Dr. Bazian offers a theoretical basis for understanding Palestine while avoiding the pitfalls of the internationally failed “peace process” that, on the one hand, affirms settler-colonial rights and, on the other, problematizes the colonialized indigenous Palestinians and dispenses with the ramifications of the colonial project.” 

Dr. Hatem Bazian has published and contributed to a number of books, including Erasing the Human: Collapse of the Postcolonial World and Refugee Immigration Crisis; The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex; and Annotations on Race, Colonialism, Islamophobia, Islam, and Palestine. His PhD thesis was titled “Al-Quds in the Islamic Consciousness: A Textual Suvery to Muslim Claims and Rights to the Sacred City” and contributed to better understandings of Muslim attachment and informed political attitudes toward the sacred city of Jerusalem and Palestine in general. You can find Dr. Hatem Bazian on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to follow his research and content to become better informed on the history of Palestine and its central role in global advocacy and liberation movements. 

For decades, Muslims in America have invested and continue to invest energy, resources, and action toward the Palestinian cause. Palestine is important to Muslims at large because of the sacredness of the land in the Islamic faith. The Holy Quran mentions the Aqsa mosque, in the verse 17:1: 

سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًۭا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ 

Glory be to the One Who took His servant ˹Muḥammad˺ by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.

Palestine is a land of blessings, prophethood, and the home of the “second mosque.” Muslims used to pray toward the direction of Masjid Al-Aqsa, before it was redirected to the Holy Kaa’ba after the hijra (migration) of the Prophet ﷺ. 

Muslims also feel a sense of obligation to uplift and support their brothers and sisters in Palestine, who experience deep injustice on a daily basis. Muslims in America tend to feel an increased responsibility to advocate for justice in Palestine due to the privileges granted to US citizens – in being able to advocate, lobby, and protest for justice. Islam is a faith that commands Muslims to act in justice. 

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ states, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (Hadith an-Nawawi, 34, 40). This understanding equips and motivates Muslims to speak out against injustice and act against it within their capacity. To this end, many Muslims in America engage in grassroots organizing, education, media work, lobbying and other political work to educate and work toward justice for a variety of causes important to them – including the Palestinian cause. 

The book Palestine: It is Something Colonial was shared and reviewed in the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJIS) by Shelby Perez. She writes, “Hatem Bazian explores the roots of the conflict, locating the Zionist movement as a settler colonial project under the tutelage of British colonial efforts. Bazian’s text is a look at and beyond first-hand accounts, an investigation of and critical analysis of settler practice in relation to similar texts such as Sari Nusseibeh’s Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life, Alan Dowty’s Israel/Palestine, and Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land… 

Palestine…it is something colonial instead is a rich critique of the Zionist movement and British colonialism. It investigates the way British colonialism influenced Zionism and how Zionism adopted colonial ideas and practices. Bazian locates Zionism as a settler colonialist movement still at work today, which historically planned and systematically executed the removal of Palestinians from their land, with the aid of the United Kingdom and (later) the United States. Bazian examines Ottoman collapse, the colonization of Palestine by the British, Israel’s biblical theology of dispossession, as well as British colonial incubation of Zionism, Zionism as a Eurocentric episteme, the building of Israel through ethnic cleansing, and the Nakba, all of these culminating in legalized dispossession. Throughout the text, Bazian is able to tie each chapter to the present state of affairs and remind the audience of the trauma of a people forcibly removed… 

Bazian profoundly concludes his chapter [six] with the story of a Palestinian boy who witnessed the mass executions of men and women of his village and marched away from his home. The boy, now a man, closed his story with poignant words that capture the horror of the Nakba: “The road to Ramallah had become an open cemetery” (241). After the land was emptied the new state of Israel needed to legally take possession of the Palestinian-owned property. Chapter seven, “Colonial Machination,” elaborates this process: “the State of Israel is structured to give maximum attention to fulfillment of the settler-colonial project and the state apparatus is directed toward achieving this criminal enterprise” (243). The name “Palestine” is erased as a name for the land and the peoples; former colonial and Ottoman laws were twisted to support a systematic theft of the land. Bazian concludes his book with a look to the future: “What is the way forward and Palestine’s de-colonial horizon?” (276).”  

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