Jewish Empire? The Guardian refers to communities in Jerusalem as “colonies”.

Whilst we’re all too used to Guardian reports which demonize Israeli communities on the ‘wrong’ side of the 1949 armistice lines, we occasionally notice that their reporters at times adopt language about the ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria which parrots that of the most extreme anti-Zionist activists.  

A perfect example of this rhetorical expression of pro-Palestinian sympathy was Harriet Sherwood’s use of the term “political prisoners” in a Guardian story in May to characterize the pre-Oslo prisoners, all of whom were convicted of (mostly terrorist related) murder, accessory to murder or attempted murder.  Though we were able to influence the Guardian to remove that grossly inaccurate term from the article in question, we recently came across another example of the propagandistic manipulation of language in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

In “Middle East peace talks: prisoner release and new settlement push raises temperature, August 11th, Harriet Sherwood writes the following: [emphasis added]

“Eight hundred of the new homes will be built in colonies across the pre-1967 Green Line in Jerusalem – the part of the city the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state. Construction could take two years. All settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.”

Similarly, a month earlier in “EU takes tougher stance on Israeli settlements“, Sherwood wrote this: 

“The European Union has dealt a harsh blow to the Israeli settlement enterprise in a directive that insists all future agreements between the EU and Israel must explicitly exclude Jewish colonies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.”

Of course, the word “colonies”, as it is normally understood, typically refers to a group of people from one country who settle in a foreign country distant from their homeland – an accurate characterization of the former British Empire, for instance.  Indeed, by the early 20th century Britain had ‘acquired’ foreign colonies representing over one-quarter of the world’s land mass, including territories in Africa and Asia thousands of miles from the British mainland, with large indigenous populations.

The neighborhoods in “East” Jerusalem to which Sherwood refers – areas such as Pisgat Ze’ev and Gilo which non-Jews, including Israeli Arabs, will also live – are currently uninhabited and are adjacent to existing Israeli neighborhoods.

map of jerusalem borders 67 before and after

To refer even to Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) as “colonies” is ahistorical, given the historical Jewish connection to these ancient lands, but to impute such a pejorative status to such neighborhoods in Jerusalem is nothing more than extremist agitprop – denying Jews’ religious and historical connection to the city (literally the epicenter of the faith), as well as Jews’ continuous presence there for thousands of years.

The only time of course that “Arab East Jerusalem” was indeed completely Arab (without any Jews) was after the Arab-Israeli War in 1948-49 during which they were forcefully expelled by the Jordanians – a Judenfrei status which only ended in 1967. 

To refer to neighborhoods in Jerusalem where Israelis live as “colonies” not only grotesquely distorts history and ordinary language, but also echoes the hateful anti-Zionist rhetoric of Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada and Ben White – those who continually attempt to undermine not only the legitimacy of the “settlements” but the very right of the Jewish state to exist within any borders. 

63 replies »

  1. If could also be said that unlike what Israel is doing in Judea and Samaria, where standards of living have been raised under “occupation,” the British and their European cronies ruined much of what is today the “Third World,” particularly Africa. They forcibly transformed societies in ways that befit serving their empires with devastating effects.

    • The Guardian doesn’t represent British opinion.
      “British and their European cronies ruined much of what is today the “Third World,” ” -grossly over-simplified and innacurate, a bit like Harriet Sherwood. One, the British didn’t have any European “cronies”. Two, would India, Australia and New Zealand be democracies if the British hadn’t been there? dream on.

      • Rafi if you are going to pass yourself off as someone called “John Welsh” you need to learn how to spell, use punctuation and grammar correctly first.
        Itsik gave you some good advice earlier.

        Then it might help if you had a clue about the subject you are writing about.

          • Certainly ‘John’.
            You claim that “One, the British didn’t have any European “cronies”. ”
            But how would you describe the Berlin Conference held at the end of the 19th century called by Leopold of Belgium and attended by the European powers to carve up Africa?
            How would you describe the ‘Scramble for Africa’ and the division of Africa into spheres of influence by the European powers? (And I include Britain among the European powers, as there are those misguided souls who refer to Britain and Europe)

      • Then you’ll know that any comparisons of the British Empire with modern Israel are absolutely ludicrous.

      • So Mr. Welsh – you still do have the largest empire in the world. When are you going to give up all your colonies and bring your colonists home? Nearly 50 of them around the world. The French have about 25, then there are the Dutch, the Spanish.

        Most Eurotrash have colonies – we however only occupy our own lands

        • we however only occupy our own lands

          The West Bank is part of Israel? Since when?

          So why not just annex the WB and be done with it? The question is: what do you have in mind for the native Palestinians?

  2. The Guardian and all the radical left view Israel as a colony. Indeed, many in the UK foreign office have not yet cottoned on to the difficult fact that Israel is a sovereign state.

    Jewish too!

    • “Sorry Gerald”

      That’s Ok ‘John’
      But tell me, who are you going to be today ‘John Welsh or John Walsh’?
      Not a big difference, after all what is a vowel between friends.

  3. Gerald, Here is the founder of Zionism with the program for colonizing Palestine
    “In the face of a more active opposition to Zionism from amongst various Jewish leaders, Herzl called on the Congress to “conquer the communities.” In essence, this was a demand that the Zionist movement focus its attention not only on political activity for Palestine but also on work within the Jewish communities. At this Congress, the foundations were laid for the establishment of the Jewish Colonial Trust, a financial body aimed at the development of Palestine. It was also at this Congress that a group of Socialists first appeared demanding representation within the Zionist leadership”

    Well, this, from the horses mouth, makes it very clear the colonial nature of the state of Israel. It is quoted on .

  4. Gerald and itsik let us not get personal but tell us why you think Herzl was wrong to think the Zionist founder was wrong to call the Zionist endeavor Jewish Colonial Trust.

    • Well, JW does have a point re. the very name of the Jewish Colonial Trust. Although that doesn’t mean I’d necessarily call the WB settlements “colonies.”

      • pretzelberg please, what does the name matter?
        Surely of more importance is what purpose was the Trust set up for?
        And what did the Trust actually do?

        • Of course it was for a good cause.

          But if CiFWatch is so insistent on “colony” as a bad term …

          • pretzelberg you know as well as I do that many words can be neutral.

            It is the context in which they are used and whether they are used in a derogatory way that matters.
            In the context of the article in ‘The Guardian’ it is self evident that it is being used as a derogatory term.

  5. Do I need a lesson in English – I do but please refrain from giving it to me all you teachers of English

    My question was, if you did not get it because of my poor English, Why do you think Herzl was wrong to call the Zionist endeavor in Palestine Jewish Colonial Trust?

    • John, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and treat your enquiry seriously.

      1. Herzl was not writing/speaking for a 21st century audience, but a 19th century one. At the time, “colonialization” was not the dirty word it is today. It was the only term used for the settlement of an area by a particular group of people. How else would you describe the plan to encourage Jews from around the world to migrate and settle in what was then Ottoman Palestine? I suppose “migration” might have been a better word, but to the best of my knowledge that was not in common usage at the time.

      P.S. on this subject, you will be aware that Dr Martin Luther King Jr referred in his “I have a dream” speech to the rights of “the Negro”. If a politician used that term today, he’d be strung up as a racist. Political Correctness is a shifting bed of sand.

      2. The original plan – to “colonise” Israel, is not what is under discussion here. There is no RATIONAL dispute that the State of Israel is legitimate. The term “colonialies” is used by Sherwood to refer to Jerusalem suburbs built across the green line which, as Adam clearly sets out, gives an entirely false impression of their a) legitimacy, b) geographical juxtaposition with the Israeli capital city and c) the history and ethnicity of the area.

  6. pretzelberg just to be clear, you are objecting to the settlements called colonies your issue is labeling them settlements as well – Perhaps you can explain why and what?

  7. So, you object to them called colonies Why? and also why do you think Herzl was wrong to call it Jewish Colonial Trust? Perhaps you will explain a bit more this time.

  8. Of course there is not a grain of truth in the accusation that Israel is a colonial enterprise – Here are the dubious connections for all reasonable people to see

    “The JCT’s main activities in Palestine were carried out by the Anglo-Palestine Bank, formed as a subsidiary in 1902. Its seed capital was only £40,000. The bank opened its first branch in Jaffa in 1903 under the management of Zalman David Levontin, and quickly made a name for itself as a reliable and trustworthy institution, which did not consider business transactions and profitability its only goals. In its early years, the bank conducted transactions in support of the Zionist enterprise: land purchase, imports, obtaining of concessions and so on. Branches were opened in Jerusalem, Beirut (then the region’s main commercial center), Hebron, Safed, Haifa, Tiberias and Gaza.

    The Anglo-Palestine Bank established a network of credit unions in the moshavot and gave farmers long-term loans. It also helped with the construction of the first 60 houses in Tel Aviv. During World War I, when the Zionist enterprise faced severe difficulties, the bank managed to keep its funds intact, transferring them to safe locations. The Turkish government, considering the bank an enemy institution because it was registered in Britain, ordered its branches shut and its cash confiscated. The liquidation of the bank’s branches proceeded very slowly and business continued surreptitiously. After the war, the operations of the bank expanded, and other banks were founded in Palestine. In 1932, the main office of the Anglo-Palestine Bank was moved from Jaffa to Jerusalem.

    In 1934, the JCT terminated its banking activity and became a holding company for Anglo-Palestine Bank shares only.

    During World War II, the Anglo-Palestine Bank was able to use the large reserves it had built up to finance the developing industries that supplied provisions to the British army. When the State of Israel was established, the bank was given the concession to issue new banknotes and became the government’s banker and financial agent. In 1950, the bank’s registration was transferred from Britain to Israel, and it was renamed Bank Leumi Le-Israel (National Bank of Israel). When the Bank of Israel was founded as Israel’s central bank (1954), Bank Leumi became a commercial bank.”

    • JW:

      “…Beirut (then the region’s main commercial center)…”

      Now who destroyed Beirut?
      That’s right! Arafat did.

    • JW:

      “During World War II, the Anglo-Palestine Bank was able to use the large reserves it had built up to finance the developing industries that supplied provisions to the British army.”

      Gosh, you make it sound like it’s a bad thing!
      Bad for people like you who wish Hitler won the war i guess.

  9. According to many on this blog the Jews were already living in Palestine so why did they meet in Switzerland to decide to move to Palestine. Were the Jews of Palestine as opposed to the Zionist enterprise as the ones in Munich.

    The first Zionist Congress was called by Theodor Herzl as a symbolic Parliament for those in sympathy with the implementation of Zionist goals. Herzl had planned to hold the gathering in Munich, but due to local Jewish opposition he transferred the gathering to Basel, Switzerland. The Congress took place in the concert hall of the Basel Municipal Casino on August 29, 1897.

    Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz­Israel secured under public law. The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:

    1. The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Eretz-Israel of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.

    2. The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.

    3. The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.

    4. Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.

    • “According to many on this blog the Jews were already living in Palestine so why did they meet in Switzerland..”

      Obviously they fancied a skiing trip and some souvenir cuckoo clocks!

    • “According to many on this blog the Jews were already living in Palestine”

      John, Jews were living in the land of Israel long, long before assholes like you ever started calling the indigenous Jewish homeland Palestine after an extinct people who once lived near it.

  10. Gerald you are so right when you are lost for an answer –
    People of color at the time were not allowed to ski in Switzerland. They find it difficult to shop in Switzerland now. Even billionaires of color are turned away from the shops in Switzerland. I can just imagine how the Jews with dark skins would have been received in Switzerland of the 19th Century racist Europe.

    • Not lost for an answer ‘John’ just surprised that anyone would ask such a silly question.
      Of course they didn’t go there for cuckoo clocks, it was the triangular chocolate.

    • JW:

      ” I can just imagine how the Jews with dark skins would have been received in Switzerland of the 19th Century racist Europe.”

      Why, you think the Jews with white skins received any better treatment?

    • JW:

      “Even billionaires of color are turned away from the shops in Switzerland…”

      Now how many billionaires were there in the 19th century, let alone dark skinned ones?

  11. Never been to an opera in my life – I cannot imagine why anybody would sit for hours listening to a fat person singing in a foreign language.

    There is some dispute as to the exact number of participants at the First Zionist Congress; however, the approximate figure is 200 from seventeen countries, 69 of whom were delegates from various Zionist societies and the remainder were individual invitees. In attendance were also ten non­Jews who were expected to abstain from voting. Seventeen women attended the Congress, some of them in their own capacity and others who accompanied representatives. While women participated in the First Zionist Congress, they did not have voting rights.

    • “Never been to an opera in my life – I cannot imagine why anybody would sit for hours listening to a fat person singing in a foreign language.”
      Something else John can’t imagine. We now have two.
      By the way, John, not all opera singers are fat, and what have you got against fat people anyway? You sound like a “fat” racist. Oh, and believe it or not, sometimes music sung in another language can actually sound as beautiful as music sung in your own language, in your case, the language of arrogance, hypocrisy, and chauvinism.

    • JW:

      “While women participated in the First Zionist Congress, they did not have voting rights.”

      I’d like to draw your attention that this was in the turn of 19’th century.
      Now in the 2nd decade of the 21st century women still are not aloud to vote in certain countries…
      In some countries, like the one where Islam came from, women are not even aloud to drive or go on their own without a male relative escort.

    • While women participated in the First Zionist Congress, they did not have voting rights.

      Women didn’t get the vote in the UK until after WWI – over 20 years later.

      What’s your point?

  12. I think you are right Gerald, in the context of the 19th Century and early 20th Century colonization was considered a good thing so nobody was ashamed of colonizing other peoples lands.

    In the 21st Century colonization has been identified as bad and is not considered a virtue. Some people would therefore want to re-define the process of colonization as something else (not sure what) but that is called white washing and would not work.

    • Do you know that you can colonise an area that belonged to no one?
      Yes, believe it or not, you can even colonise the moon.

  13. John Walsh, a new alias for our resident terror praising troll
    The flight from ranamirza to Rafi Mirza, from NSIsmail to Antisemite Rana won`t help you, antisemitic member of the Diane Shame Group of aliases like Mondoweiss Chris/Isac/ liar/Peter Ounce/Islamabadi/diane/dianeshammes/Angel/Rafi aka Nazisse Sharon/Jane/Catherine/Samantha aka HarpalSingh/AaronPatel/AnrewBird/Jeremy Bowles/AlanThornton/Jabal aka
    Alan/Deborah/Jim/Jason/Dirk/Nick/Natzie/Rob, amended by Gerald with Dopey/Grumpy/Sneezy/Sleazy/Tosser/Dorothy/Straw Man/Dick Head/Drek

    • The author of the article seems to be impressed by the linguistic “proof” provided by Peled that the project of Zionism was indeed colonialist in essence because the first settlements were called “moshavot” a term translated as “colonies”. This is hardly proof of anything but the ignorance of the author of the Hebrew language and the dishonesty of Peled’s argument.