News ID : 166026
Publish Date : 2/27/2024 12:03:01 PM
Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing, violence, and terrorism

Professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara:

Israel was founded on ethnic cleansing, violence, and terrorism

William I. Robinson, a distinguished professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is not only a scholar whose research encompasses globalization, transnationalism, political sociology, and development and social change, but also an activist, who endeavors to link his academic work with global movements striving for social justice, popular empowerment, participatory democracy, and people-centered development. In the interview, professor Robinson details the influential Israel lobby within American universities, political institutions, and corporations. He then provides a profound historical analysis of how Zionists have shaped and controlled the narrative surrounding the Palestine-Israel conflict. The interview concludes on a hopeful note, as Robinson expresses his belief that as long as the Palestinians continue to breathe on their land, they are resisting the Zionists, their oppression, and their apartheid.

This book, ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’, attempts to document, frame, and contextualize the silencing of pro-Palestinian voices, as well as the voices of critics of Israel, by an entity referred to throughout the book as the Israel lobby. Is that correct?

That is correct, but it’s a little more expansive than that. It has been going on for a very long time, obviously, since 1948. But this has intensified in the past 20 to 30 years, as gradually, the legitimacy of the Zionist project and the Jewish state has been challenged. The censorship and repression of anyone who criticizes Israel has been intensifying. And right now, we’re seeing a wave of censorship, a wave of repression on university campuses, public institutions, the government, the media, across the board; a wave of censorship and repression against anyone now criticizing not only Israel but also, of course, the genocide taking place in Gaza.

So, this hit me, in particular, in 2009. You may remember Operation Cast Lead, which was an earlier attack on and siege of Gaza. It was nothing compared to what’s going on now, and I publicly spoke against that on my campus. The University of California was infiltrated by this Israel lobby that we refer to — I want to get back to the Israel lobby in just a minute. They went after me and tried to get me fired from the university. That is when I became involved in Palestinian solidarity and, more broadly, in this fight against censorship and repression by the Israel lobby in the US.

But this has been going on since before 2009, before that book, and it has intensified since then, and now it has reached levels never before seen. What I want to say about the Israel lobby is that it does exist in the US and is a strong pressure group, which involves a lot of financial blackmail, purchasing of candidates in the political system, financing of the election of those senators or Congress members or local elected officials who are going to defend Israel politically and diplomatically, the US support for Israel, and the suppression of any solidarity with Palestine. It is an extremely strong lobby, but here is the point: it’s not just in the US. It is what we could call the US branch of the larger global Zionist project that suppresses any critique of the project and any solidarity with Palestine. It’s not restricted to the US and Europe at all. It’s worldwide.


It is evident that achieving such influence and control requires significant effort and strategic maneuvering. How do you explain the success of the Israeli lobby in maintaining its influence for such an extended period, considering the challenges involved in unilaterally shaping and influencing the narrative on a topic as divisive and controversial as the Israel-Palestine conflict?

That’s an extremely important question, and in order to answer it, we need to focus on the historic alliance — which continues today into the early 2020s — between the Zionist project and what has been Western imperialism, especially US imperialism (or the US Empire). The US and Western Europe supported the formation of the Jewish state, specifically as an outpost for the expansion of world capitalism into the Middle East at a time when the Middle East was going through decolonization; when Arab nationalism and even socialist and communist and other revolutionary movements and popular mass struggles were taking off in the Middle East. Israel became the outpost to keep control over the Middle East.

That alliance was forged very early on between the larger project of US foreign policy, which has since become a policy of promoting global capitalism around the world and defending global capitalism, and the Zionist project as a representative of that US foreign policy in the Middle East at this time.

So, we cannot understand the power of the Israel lobby outside the relationship of Israel to what we can call historical imperialism and to global capitalism now in the Middle East. That’s a giant part of the story.

The other part of the story, again, is that their control over financial levers is very powerful. I can try and put forth a discourse of support for Palestine, a discourse that critiques Zionism as a right-wing, racist, and imperialist project, but I don’t have financial support behind me. So, I can’t translate my own discourse into financial leverage and therefore into political leverage. That’s not so in the case of the Zionist discourse and of the discourse of the Israel lobby.


Based on your explanation, it seems clearer now why the term “decolonization” as it pertains to Palestine provokes such strong opposition from Zionists, leading them to coerce social media platforms like X into banning the use of terms like “decolonization” or “from the river to the sea”.

Absolutely. Actually, what we are seeing inside Israel now is fascism, and I don’t use the term lightly — just like we don’t use the term genocide lightly. Genocide, however, has a specific definition: it’s the attempt to eliminate, in whole or in part, a people. So, it’s correct to use the term genocide regarding what Israel is doing in Gaza. But the other term I want to use, which is fascism, has an intellectual, analytical, and scholarly history as well. And everything indicates that fascism is now a project that is gaining domination, or hegemony, inside Israel, and it means political suppression. Our colleagues in Israel tell us you can be arrested if you talk inside Israel about the genocide going on in Gaza. But if you make Nazi-like statements about the need to totally wipe out Palestinians, call them animals, and so forth, you’re within the hegemonic discourse. So, there’s actually fascism emerging in Israel, and we have had the inklings of a fascist project here in the US as well. I’m mentioning all of that because it’s true that speaking about decolonization, about apartheid, about genocide, will run you into big trouble with the powers that be, both in the US and especially in Israel.

I want to note something else as well: I want to go back to the point I was previously making that one of the key strategies in the Zionist lobby, and the US government, is to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. I just want to hammer home that point again: the reason they can try and make that equation is because they’re manipulating the Holocaust and the feelings around the Holocaust, of course, and no one wants to be anti-Semitic. People who believe in justice, freedom, and equality don’t want to be anti-Semitic. So, Israel’s whole legitimating discourse, the discourse that legitimizes the existence of a Jewish state, is based on manipulating the Holocaust and the feelings around it. So, if you keep hammering home that criticizing Zionism is anti-Semitic and is embracing the Holocaust, then you have a very powerful propaganda instrument.


When discussing Zionism and its seemingly absurd ideology, there appears to be a sense that the US’s unwavering support for Israel should have been reevaluated at some point. Is it fair to say that the world is finally realizing the absurdity of this unconditional support and that it’s time for it to stop? Or do you believe this support will continue for a while longer?

Well, US support is going to go on for a lot longer. But what is correct is that the pressures against that support, the opposition to that unconditional support, is growing very rapidly. It has already exceeded the bounds of anything we have previously seen. I mean, ever since I was a teenager, as soon as I learned about this, I’ve been in solidarity with Palestine. But it was really in 2009 when I actually became involved in it. And of course, that was the year of the book, ‘We Will Not Be Silenced’. But since 2009, and even prior to that, I’ve never seen anything like what’s taking place right now in the US, in Europe, and of course, all around the world in the former Third World, Africa, Latin America, and, especially, the Middle East. There’s always been rock-solid support for Palestinians, for the decolonization of Palestine, for Palestinian liberation, but I’ve never seen anything like what’s taking place in the US and in Western Europe right now.

So, there is great pressure to end unconditional US and Western support for Israel, but that’s not going to have any effect in the short term, absolutely not, because you’re trying to peel away at something that goes to the very core of US foreign policy establishment ever since the 1940s and, especially, since 1967.

What is going to happen, though, is that as this rock-solid support for Israel and, more generally, for interventionist and aggressive US foreign policy around the world is increasingly challenged, you’re going to have more and more political crises in the US. You’re going to have the system continue losing its legitimacy. President Biden has already jeopardized his possibilities for reelection next November because he’s lost so much legitimacy due to his administration’s association with genocide. Of course, the South African suit in the International Court of Justice is aggravating all of these contradictions.


So, in essence, you’re suggesting that there might be no hope for Palestine due to this undying support.

It’s very important what you’re asking, but let me first say there most certainly is hope for Palestine. If I gave that impression, it is because, first, we have to make an objective analysis of what’s going on. Then, we can have a political assessment of where the hope lies. There absolutely is hope for Palestine, and that’s what I was trying to get at with the mass uprising here in the US, the likes of which we’ve never seen in support and defense of Palestine and against genocide.

Secondly, we have to remember that even though Palestinians in Gaza are being subjected to genocide right now, the military resistance to the Israeli siege is quite significant. It’s not clear that Israel is going to win the military battle. Even if it wins the military battle, at what cost?

Ultimately, I want to make this point crystal clear: The source of all the hope for Palestine is the resistance of the Palestinians themselves. And I’m not just talking about Hamas, and I’m not just talking about the military resistance. Every single Palestinian with every single breath they take in Palestine is resisting the occupation, is resisting Zionism, is resisting genocide. That’s where it starts. It’s Palestinians’ steadfast resistance that sparks Israel to commit genocide, which, in turn, spurs solidarity with Palestine worldwide.

Right now, Israel and the US are losing. They have lost the war of legitimation. They’ve lost legitimacy. Their policy, their practices, the genocide. They have lost legitimacy in world public opinion. They might temporarily be winning on the military battlefield, but they’re losing on the political battlefield. So, there is a lot of hope here.

Now, something else may take place. We are seeing plenty of resistance in the West Bank, but we haven’t seen a full-scale Intifada yet. But the pressure is building. The West Bank is under complete siege, and resistance there is growing. But if this breaks out into an all-out Intifada, and if Palestinians inside Israel are pressured to the point where they join an Intifada, then you would have another change in the political-military equation or, at least, the political correlation of forces in the political equation.

The battle for legitimacy has already been lost by the Zionists and by Washington, and there most certainly is hope for Palestine. The role of us, who are not Palestinian and not directly struggling inside Palestine, is to step up our support for Palestinian freedom in every way possible because what’s at stake in Palestine right now is all of humanity. The Palestinian resistance has become a symbol that has touched a raw nerve all around the world because we see ourselves in it, and this crisis imposed on us by global capitalism is reflected in what’s happening in Palestine.


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