Irredentism and the Palestinian Crisis – It is not only Settler Colonialism

Defining Zionism as an Irredentist movement and subjugation of the Palestinians as a result of irredentism is not mere polemics; it is the most essential feature in understanding the past, present, and future of the crises that Zionism has caused.

Elements of Settler Colonialism appear in the Middle East crisis and these elements have been fitted together to obtain the accepted definition. The term is ominous; previous Settler Colonialism operations ended by either indigenous people regaining lands and dignity, as in the African nations, or evolving into the destruction of native people, as occurred in the Americas. Under Settler Colonialism, the fate of the Palestinian people leans heavily in the direction of destruction. No change in the 75-year-old monotonic trajectory of Settler Colonialism is apparent; economic, legal, and physical avenues of contention to the oppression have been explored and none has been successful.

Analyzing the Middle East crisis through the lens of Settler Colonialism reveals the end game of Zionism and how it affected the Palestinian people. It does not tell us how it affected and, still affects, the Jewish people and the entire world. Settler Colonialism is an apt but incomplete term; another layer of narrative exists to complement the established explanation and offers a more accurate description of events.

Portrayed as a vanguard of Jewish thought and aspiration, leading the masses of Jewish people to freedom and fulfilling the promises denied to them by an adversarial world, Zionism is contradicted by history, especially as a mass movement by the Jewish people. A brief and more descriptive narrative of Zionism as an irredentist movement provides an improved analysis of the historical development of the oppression committed upon the Palestinian people and its international effects.


At the Zionist 1897 conference, Theodore Herzl insisted “in the futility of Jewish assimilation and efforts to combat anti-Semitism, promoting instead the idea that Jews should remove themselves from Europe and establish their own independent polity so as to secure their national rights. He proposed an independent state as the solution to the so-called ‘Jewish question’ and laid out a detailed plan for its establishment.”

Contrary to most colonial adventures, the Zionist leader did not proceed with financial assistance from speculative investors interested in exploiting an area for monetary gains, such as The East India Company, which was founded in 1600 and not dissolved until 1874, controlled large parts of the Indian subcontinent and colonized parts of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. No assistance came from European crowns that managed to gain complete control of other established colonies and sent settlers to populate the lands. These settlers, unlike Israel’s settlers in the West Bank, did not come specifically to dislodge the indigenous people and force them into subsistence; they came at difficult times and from impoverished surroundings as farmers seeking improved lives and interested in owning and working their land.

Herzl proceeded from another avenue for advancing his Zionist agenda ─ Irredentism, a form of ultra-nationalism. Irredentism is

…the theory and sometimes practice of restoring territories that are claimed to have once belonged to a (usually ethnic or ethnoreligious) nation.

…the belief that part of the nation finds itself outside the state borders and needs to be not only “freed,” but “redeemed” from foreign influence. As such, irredentism relies on myths of the nation’s geographical, linguistic, and historical unity. 

Included in irredentism is the forceful replacement of indigenous people who are not part of the irredentist polity. Zionism may have developed tracings of Settler Colonialism but it was always and still remains irredentist, with a pernicious dictate to extend borders and gather flock. How pernicious is Irredentism? Nazi Germany’s irredentist policies towards Czechoslovakia and Poland precipitated World War II. Russian President Putin has irredentism in his plans.

Sidetracked from history is that a preponderance of Jews never gave much attention to the original Zionist proposal. Zionists were a small group of disaffected Jews.

Reform Judaism in a series of proclamations, which culminated in the 1885 Pittsburgh Conference, rejected the Zionist program (Note: Overturned in 1999 by contemporary Reform Judaism):

We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community; and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a Jewish state.

The first Zionist Congress (1897) was to have taken place in Munich, Germany. Considerable opposition by the local community leadership, both Orthodox and Reform, forced a transfer of the proceedings to Basle, SwitzerlandIn Tsarist Russia, the principal population to which Zionism should have had appeal, there is no evidence that a massive amount of Jews accepted Zionism.

Unwaveringly secularist in its beliefs, the Russian Bund discarded the idea of a Holy Land and a sacred tongue. Its language was Yiddish, spoken by millions of Jews throughout the Pale. This was also the source of the organization’s four principles: socialism, secularism, Yiddish, and doyikayt or localness. The latter concept was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.” The Bund disapproved greatly of Zionism and considered the idea of emigrating to Palestine to be political escapism.

The 19th-century emancipation movements liberated West and Middle European Jews and permitted them to integrate into European society. Jews participated in political, social, financial, educational, and creative life. With Jews becoming well represented in educational institutions and government positions, becoming well known in all cultural representations — music, art, theatre, and writing — and managing to become successful wage earners in many avenues of employment, the Zionist case that “Jews could never satisfactorily integrate into western nations” became more dubious with each passing day.

A perception that Jewish emancipation meant a loss of Jewish identity and a slow decrease in followers of Judaism motivated the Zionists to “remove themselves from Europe.“ Jews rejected an agenda that prompted nations to question their loyalty, impeded their advances, and reinforced a race-baiting theory that Jews engaged in international conspiracies. Anti-Zionist Rabbis insisted: “Zion exists everywhere but in Zion.”

Examine the Russian Jews. They had significantly more problems than other European Jews and did not consider Zionism as a relief for their difficulties. Between 1881 and 1914, 2.5 million Jews migrated from Russia — 1.7 million to America, 500,000 to Western Europe, and almost 300,000 to other nations. Until 1914, only a mere 30,000 – 50,000 Russian Jews followed the Zionist call to Palestine and 15,000 of them eventually returned to Russia.

The Zionists had no reasonable narrative to pursue their objective; just unproven and fantastic propositions that scattered Jewish communities throughout the world, who spoke different languages, had different histories, exhibited different cultures, had different mores, ate different foods, and practiced different customs, constituted a nation and sought an ingathering. Highlighting the Zionist spurious irredentism tells the contemporary world, Jewish and non-Jewish, that Zionism is a retrograde philosophy, based on racism and falsehoods, was forcibly rejected by a resolute and clear-minded Jewish community, managed to subvert much of contemporary Judaism, and made the Jewish people a party to the destruction of the Palestinian people. At the beginning of World War I, Zionism was a moribund enterprise; at the end of World War I, it came alive again.


Western affinity to Settler Colonialism propelled organizations to revive irredentist Zionism and further its acceptance on the international stage. The “who asked for it” 1917 Balfour Declaration informed the world that “His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, arranged to finalize peace terms and end World War I, the “who asked for them” World Zionist Organization was invited (or did they invite themselves) and presented their concept, complete with map, for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.


The European Zionists claimed all the aquifers, territory from the Sinai to the Litani River in Lebanon, and the land from the Mediterranean Sea to almost Amman, Jordan. Based on what?

Zionist intrusion into post-World War I affairs occurred again at the April 19-26, 1920 San Remo Conference, where the victors met and determined the precise boundaries for territories captured by the Allies. Injected into the conference declaration was that, “The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

All this occurred, despite the recommendation of President Wilson’s King-Crane commission, “that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, by various forms of purchase. In view of all these considerations, and with a deep sense of sympathy for the Jewish cause, the Commissioners feel bound to recommend that only a greatly reduced Zionist program be attempted by the Peace Conference, and even that, only very gradually initiated.” Why were President Wilson’s King-Crane Commission’s recommendations overlooked? For an inexplicable reason, its 1919 report was not released until 1922.

Regardless of its more welcoming presence on the international stage, Zionism still did not gather abundant adherents. Its initial appearance of Jewish settlers establishing colonies and working the soil was fading. In 1920, after the Zionist population had grown to 60,000 in a Palestine composed of 585,000 Arabs, a reporter noted that earlier settlers felt uncomfortable with the later immigrants. They were less willing to work in agriculture and had no ability to live off the available land. From Zionist Aspirations in Palestine, Anstruther Mackay, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, July 1920.

It may not be generally known, but a goodly number of the Jewish dwellers in the land are not anxious to see a large immigration into the country. This is partly due to the fear that the result of such immigration would be an overcrowding of the industrial and agricultural market; but a number of the more respectable older settlers have been disgusted by the recent arrivals in Palestine of their coreligionists, unhappy individuals from Russia and Romania brought in under the auspices of the Zionist Commission from the cities of Southeastern Europe, and neither able nor willing to work at agriculture or fruit-farming.

Without going into deep detail, it remains unproven that the mass of worldwide Jewry supported Zionism and that those who arrived in the “promised land” did it as Zionists doing Aliyah (immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel). Jews came to the Mandate as employees of the British administration, temporary refugees (Nazi Germany), displaced persons looking for any home (post WWII), exiles from Arab nations due to Zionist actions (Mizrahi), and people seeking an improved economic situation from their depressed surroundings (Soviet refugees, many of whom are dubious Jews). Way back in 2007, The Economist (Jan.11, 2007) reported that only 17% of American Jews regard themselves as pro-Zionist and only 57% say that “caring about Israel is a very important part of being Jewish.”

Ultra-orthodox Jews, who came for messianic reasons and not to join their secular compatriots in common pursuits, are the fastest-growing segment of the Israeli Jewish population. More aligned with Rabbis preaching mystical nineteenth-century philosophies, these Jews isolate themselves from their fellow Israelis and worldwide Jewry.

By partitioning Palestine into a Palestinian state and a Jewish state, the meaningless and misunderstood United Nations (UN) Proclamation 181 completed the Western version of Settler Colonialism. UN Proclamation 181 is meaningless because, if the international community wanted a legitimate vote on how to resolve the Palestine issue, it would have polled the people living in the area and were affected by the dispute and not gather votes from those who had no interest in the situation and found the best way to decide their votes was by “open palms.”

Misunderstanding UN Proclamation 181 comes from the belief that it created two states. Because neither state had official names at that time, the designations of Arab and Jewish states were used to map out the contours of the land where the major portions of the ethnicities lived. The UN did not create two states; it divided one Palestinian state into two Palestinian states ─ a Palestinian state composed of almost 100 percent Palestinians and another Palestinian state composed of about 70 percent Palestinians who were native to the area for generations (400,000 ) and a smaller contingent of foreign Jews and children (100,000-200,000) that had come as Zionists to live permanently in Palestine. Another larger contingent of foreign Jews, about 300,000 to 400,000, had arrived only one to two decades before the UN Proclamation, had little investment in the surroundings, and did not have clear intentions of remaining. By including immigrants who had no “skin in the game” and were hoping to be able to leave, the UN inflated the population statistics in favor of the Zionists.

The UN inquiry committee, which proposed the two separate states, displayed a lack of knowledge of what constituted a nation-state. After the decline of imperial rule, nation-states rose from strong leaders binding peoples of similar linguistic, cultural, social, and historical backgrounds into a national entity. All of the peoples had lived in a contiguous area for generations, Palestinians had the credentials to become a nation-state; the Jews, who spoke different languages, had differing social and historical backgrounds, came from different areas, and had been in the region for a short time, did not have the attachments to form a nation-state.

Without giving attention to the 400,000 Palestinians in a bi-national state, David Ben-Gurion and a small clique of opportunists took advantage of an ill-advised UN, an ill-led, and ill-equipped Palestinian community, and a confused world to declare unilaterally their own state. Seasoned militia forces — Haganah, Irgun, Lehi, and Palmach — cleansed the area of Palestinians and established a state composed almost entirely of imported Jewish people. At this historical moment, the Zionists pondered, “Why are we here?”

The irredentism had not “restored territories that are reclaimed for a Jewish nation.” It collected cultural, political, revisionist, labor, reform, revolutionary, and religious Zionists, who fought a conflict among themselves, and disparate groups of people, especially after the influx of the Mizrahi from Arab nations, who did not comprehend one another and, in some quarters treated each other with disgust. The lack of consensus enabled a combination of revisionist, revolutionary, and religious Zionists to take control. Knowing that Israel could not survive with a diverse Jewish population, the self-imposed leaders sought an integral and unified people. To obtain that objective, Israel created the new Jew, the Israel Jew. In Israel, the contemporary and multi-faceted Jews disappeared from history.

A new people

The Middle East and North African Jews who came to Israel were Arabs; the Ashkenazi were European; the Falasha were Ethiopians; and the Yemenites were from the Arabian Peninsula. Israel replaced the different languages, dialects, music, cultures, and heritage of these ethnicities with unique and uniform characteristics, and created a new people, the Israeli Jews who spoke a new language, modern Hebrew. Destruction of centuries-old Jewish history and life in Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt accompanied the creation of the new people. The Zionists, who complained about the persecution of Jews, wiped out Jewish history, determined who was Jewish, and required all Jews to shed much of their ancestral characteristics before they could integrate into the Israel community.

Reworking the concept of who is a Jew resolved Israel’s integration problem. Irredentism had been mostly satisfied. Bringing remaining worldwide Jewry under a national umbrella required no thought; just extend irredentism across the oceans.

A new land

Ancient Israel was home to ancient Jews. The area that is now Israel was not the ancient home of modern Jews. When ethnicities speak of an ancient home, they speak, such as from the voices of Native Americans, of caring for the land and hunting grounds, for attachment to a soil that nourished them, and with intimate knowledge of ancestors. They may look back at a recognized civilization that gave the world new advances in technology, culture, warfare, administration, or other disciplines and left identifiable physical traces that excite mankind. Modern Jews have no attachment to a soil, no memories of an advanced civilization, no honest attraction to an ancient land, and do not have intimate knowledge of ancestors. The Zionists had no original investment in the area, no physical attachment to the area, and no care for its surroundings. The Palestinians had 100 percent “skin in the game;” they cherished every olive tree their ancestors planted centuries ago, every orange tree that gave aroma to their surroundings, and all the ground eggplant for the baba ganoush they ate.

Zionist irredentism was concerned with the folk; it did not express concern for the land. Keeping biblical names as a subterfuge, Israel turned the land under the biblical names into an extension of northern Europe. In “beloved” Judah, and Samaria, imported pine trees dotted the landscape, hundreds of year-old olive groves were torched, dormitory towns replaced the green hilltops, and super highways paved over the quaint roads. In Israel, forests hid dynamited picturesque villages. Jerusalem, with its train, mall, contrived City of David, proposed cable car, and falsified tourist attractions became a theme park.

A non-state irredentism

Bring Israel’s characteristics together — no fully defined borders, no constitution, nationality dependent on ethnicity, sketchy laws, an unrecognized capital city, failure to respect UN resolutions, severe human rights violations, chaotic political system, biased immigration policy, committing a great number of extra-judicial killings that violate the sovereignty of other nations, and a large number of citizens living outside the country — and the conclusion is that Israel has trappings of a nation but has not evolved from its Zionist ideology to a developed nation-state. Even if it incorporates all of the West Bank and the Golan into a desired perimeter and self-defines its borders, the international community might not recognize Israel’s self-declared borders. Without recognized borders, where is sovereignty asserted? Without respect for international law, how can international legitimacy be claimed? Does Israel want to be a defined nation-state?

By lacking the institutions that define a legally constituted nation-state, Israel remains unidentified, leaving its classification as a combination of a military state, tribal state, theocracy, supercharged council, and a highly refined association of collective minds, all of which are consistent with a lack of constitutional rule.

Israel never established an Israeli nationality and gave its citizens unique nationalities, one of which is a Jewish nationality. The Nation State Law allows all Jews in the world to be part of a Jewish nation without having Israeli citizenship. This Law established a privileged Jewish community, governed by communal administration, with an extension to Jews in other nations, who can align themselves with Israeli society. Israel has become an atavistic revival to a tribal form of governance, where borders and boundaries are not fixed. Zionist irredentism has been extended across oceans and to nations throughout the world.


Defining Zionism as an Irredentist movement and subjugation of the Palestinians as a result of irredentism is not mere polemics; it is the most essential feature in understanding the past, present, and future of the crises that Zionism has caused. Woven into this history is the exposure of what faces those who seek peace and justice — corrupt leaders who have no care in attending to the obvious violence that irredentism brings, weak institutions that act as tools for the manipulators of society, and passive populations that are easily deceived.

From its inception, as an irredentist philosophy in the minds of Theodor Herzl and his followers, Zionism should have defeated itself. Visions of a solidified Jewish people, subjected, as Herzl imagined from the Dreyfuss case, to constant oppressive forces and prepared to return to their previous land were contradicted by a disparate worldwide Jewry who knew little of one another, had 300 Jewish officers in the French army and no harmful attacks on French Jews from the day that Napoleon gained power, knew the Hebrews mainly from the Old Testament and myths and not from historical documents, and showed little interest and sparse knowledge of Zionism. After 2.5 million Jews replied to the Zionist ingathering by migrating from Russia to Western Europe and the United States, irredentist Zionism became a spectacle directed by a select few, in search of actors and an audience. A defeated Zionism found a sponsor in those who observed a way to use Zionism to exploit others.

World War One’s ferocity and killing rate shocked the world, but Western nations, especially Great Britain, gave little attention to the dangers of violence that succeeds irredentism and continued the route that leads to eventual conflict. Governments surmised that a continued Western presence in Palestine may have future economic and political benefits and that Western civilization would advance the backward peoples of the Middle East.  Zionism was unleashed on the people in the Levant.

The United Nations had an opportunity to halt the irredentism that was flowing from west to east and, instead, demonstrated that the world’s peoples have little hope in achieving peace and justice. The international body, organized to maintain peace and stability in the world, voted to proceed with irredentism and the violence it brings to others. Within one year of UN Resolution 181, the Zionists decimated the Palestinian community, and the UN, which shared responsibility for the massacres, showed no capability of rectifying the mistake.  Three years after the establishment of the United Nations, the UN set the stage for its future endeavors — assist the Western powers in maintaining hegemony in the world, regardless of the havoc it causes and the damage it inflicts on innocent peoples.

Unlike previous irredentist movements, Zionist irredentism extends beyond borders and is a never-ending process. Tel Aviv is everywhere and everywhere is Tel Aviv. Western nations and their peoples pay for Israel’s military needs, associates abroad advertise and schedule tourism for Israel, and Western Jews gain dual citizenship, which enables them to move back and forth between their birth country and their adopted country, bringing vital information and funds to Israel while influencing voting patterns and manipulating media information in their birth countries.

Israel’s tribal and non-state appearance portends dangerous consequences. What has happened to the “Westphalian system?” Can Pakistan erase its border with Kashmir and hint that Kashmir is part of Pakistan? Will President Putin point to Zionist irredentism and Israel’s tribal appearance as an accepted example of why Russia considers all Russians in the Baltics and Central Asian countries an integral part of the Russian nation? Imagine other minorities in the United States — Mexican, Cuban, Chinese, and Russian —  gaining dual citizenship and using their birth nation to promote their adopted nations. Are we going back to tribal rule?

One hundred and thirty years after its inception, irredentist Zionism has a commanding presence in the world, and Western populations permit Israel to incorporate them in the oppression of the Palestinian people and to skew their societies. Valiant efforts to change the situation have failed and the question remains, “What can be done to halt and reverse the Zionist irredentism?” This gigantic subject will be discussed in a near future article. Hopefully, a direction will unfold to bring about the defeat of Zionism.

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan)

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