Actually, Herzl was a colonialist

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Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies was on Russian television today speaking of her disappointment in Obama and Mitchell. The talks are a "photo-op," she said, because the Palestinian refugees and the Palestinians in Gaza are not represented. And the terms have been set by Israel. "The U.S. has not brought real pressure to bear" on a simple legal matter, ending the settlements. "Until you stop, we are cutting off aid. That sentence was never spoken."

I always wonder why voices like this are not more prominent in our media. Bennis tells me that she sent a letter to the New York Times the other day in response to Gadi Taub’s op-ed on the importance of saving the Zionist state by getting the settlers out of the West Bank. The Times apparently chose not to run it, so Bennis said we could. (This version is slightly longer than her original).

Gadi Taub is right that Israel’s settlements in the occupied territory are a huge problem. But he is wrong when he says that somehow "settlements and continued occupation” will undermine the vision of Theodor Herzl, founder of political Zionism. In fact occupation was central to Herzl’s plans. Taub claims that Herzl’s Zionism was part of the “tradition of democratic national liberation movements.” But the truth is quite the opposite. Herzl’s Zionism was old-fashioned turn-of-the-century colonialism.

His diary includes the text of a letter Herzl wrote to Cecil Rhodes, shortly after the infamous Briton had colonized the land of the Shona people in Africa – whose land he claimed and renamed Rhodesia. “You are being invited to help make history,” Herzl wrote to Rhodes. “[I]t 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… [Y]ou, Mr. Rhodes, are a visionary politician or a practical visionary… I want you to.. put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain…."

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