The Ruins Should Be Inhabited as Part of a Process of Repair

Why rewrite a text after having written and published it a few weeks earlier?

Because something horrible is happening in Palestine

and it is happening to us too, once again.

Who is this us? Humanity.

The horror of the Nakba repeats on our screens,

broadcast directly by its victims, who also send testimonies.

We don’t even know if they have survived when their messages reach us,

since the genocide continues with money and arms that the US and Europe

continue to send to Israel, so that what happened in 1948 could be repeated. 

Palestinian journalists in Gaza via Ghalia Hamad’s Instagram page (screenshot Hyperallergic)

In one of these testimonies, a Palestinian named Nizar writes

from the heart of these crimes against humanity

that are being inscribed on their bodies,

“We feel very close to death here in Gaza, 

we feel death every second. We smell death everywhere.”

I still don’t know if Nizar was able to protect his children after he described

how hard it is to look into their eyes: 

“What you see is only fear and tears, and you feel that you are not able

to protect them or save them.” 

Knowing full well that the plans for extermination enacted by the Nazis

and inscribed upon the bodies of the Jews, 

the Romani, the queer, and members of other groups,

would not, alas, be the last, Hannah Arendt went to Jerusalem 

to attend Eichmann’s trial and write a detailed report for us,

so that we never forget the principle of those crimes against humanity,

which that court failed to clearly articulate in 1961.

Those crimes are inscribed upon the bodies of their victims.

However, at the same time as these racialized groups are being targeted,

an attack is also being carried out on the very foundations 

of the communities where these crimes are being perpetrated. 

They put the community in grave danger and damage its law.

Regardless of how this community is defined — as a nation, 

a state, a village, a people — the imperiled law is that of human diversity. 

Emptying Palestine of Palestinians and creating a state 

to prevent their return was a crime against humanity.

Its perpetrators, those who executed it, were Zionist Jews

who were schooled in Europe in how to become colonial agents. 

In the wake of the Second World War

Euro-American imperial powers gave control over Palestine 

to these Zionists with Palestine through the international body 

they formed at the end of that war, to help them impose 

a new world order

Palestine is yours, they said, by the law of the United Nations.

And they thereby designated the Palestinians

as those onto whom these crimes against humanity would be inscribed.

In the last few weeks, the lieu de mémoire of these crimes, 

one of which was the invention of Gaza as a “strip” — a narrow piece of land 

in which 200,000 Palestinians expelled in 1948 from other parts of Palestine

were squeezed into eight refugee camps built there  —

has been wiped off the face of the earth.

At the same time that the memories of these crimes 

and of the ways Palestinians rebuilt their lives in Gaza were leveled to the ground,

new memories of a Nakba are being reinscribed, tattooed

on the bodies of descendants of the 1948 Nakba,

and their children.

And the government of the State of Israel, together 

with Western governments, would have us believe no genocide is being committed.  

Crimes against humanity are not defined by the suffering of the victims,

as great as it may be, but by the actions of the perpetrators.

The deadly attack of October 7 against Israelis, 

was also an act of resistance by Palestinians against  

“the thousand deaths” they have died since 1948. 

This must not be forgotten, even if we refuse to justify it,

and must be loudly repeated when this attack is used 

to justify a crime against humanity,

whose purpose is to eliminate Palestinians

for the reason of being Palestinian, a threat to Israeli sovereignty,

which doesn’t want them there, that is, on Palestinian land. 

Genocide unfolds in stages

which can be long and disconnected, or fast and entangled:

expulsion, concentration, murder.

These stages don’t always take place in this order, 

but they share the same goal: to eliminate one or more groups,

in order to invent a people or a body politic free of these groups’ presence.

With hindsight, this genocide has been ongoing since 1948, 

and it is entangled with the genocide 

inscribed on the bodies of the Jewish people — both originated 

in Euro-American racializing and colonizing technologies and imaginaries.

For that, we must recall,

that the State of Israel was also created with the aim of eliminating the Jews, 

making them disappear into new kinds of Jews

bereft of their longer history and unruly memories — the Israelis.

A “potential history” is needed

to counter the discipline of history 

which considers what has been accomplished through violence

as a fait accompli, with no return possible. 

Potential history refuses to see the partition of Palestine 

starting in 1947 as a fait accompli, and Israel as its inescapable future; 

it refuses to forget the role and interests of Europe and later, the US,

in the formation of this colonial project and its perpetuation, 

including now. 

Turning Palestine into a question was the beginning of a colonial project.

A place cannot be transformed into a question unless entrepreneurs of empire

disregard it as a world and see there only the resources they can extract.

Turning a people into a question — the “Jewish question” was also 

the beginning of a colonial project.

A people cannot be transformed into a question unless entrepreneurs of empire

force individuals and their surrounding communities to leave their ways of life behind,

as they begin to fashion “solutions” to get rid of them for the benefit their interests.

This kind of foundational violence, which transforms a place or a people 

into a “question,” is often buried underneath other waves of violence, 

to make even those colonized by the imperial question forget that their struggle is not only 

a struggle against their immediate perpetrators but also 

against those who have forced them to become the question or the solution.

Here is where I started this text when I first wrote it in September.

Whoever speaks about the question of Palestine 

should start by saying who they are, 

how they are impacted by this question 

or how they have been implicated in maintaining Palestine as an imperial question, 

for which, by definition, only imperial solutions can be given.

Who am I, then?

Well, I am a Palestinian Jew — today, almost an extinct species.

And I am an Algerian Jew, a nearly extinct species as well. 

Why talk about extinction? 

Because seemingly innocent terms such as 

freedom, the people, the nation, the nation-state, international law, and sovereignty 

are not only concepts, they are also Euro-Christian imperial technologies,

forcibly used to extinguish these identities and forms of belonging,  

which were seen as obstacles to the invention of modern nations,

including a modern Jewish nation, 

based on the phantasy of a homogenous body politic, 

which the apparatus of the state, of the nation-state, must uphold. 

This is what happened starting at the end of the 18th century, 

imperial violence was exerted against Jewish communities, 

different from one another and scattered all over the world, 

forcing them to recognize themselves in 

a made-up entity — Jewish people or Nations,

an entity foreign to their beliefs, practices, and laws, 

which were neither centralized nor homogeneous. 

In this way the Jewish problem and its first “solution” — unification — were born. 

These efforts at unification were carried out through the violence

of assimilation and emancipation, 

with the aim of eliminating the Jews and turning them into something else. 

These efforts also failed because the Jews persisted

in the European imaginary as a problem.

Christian Zionists and groups such as the London Society 

for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, 

with chapters in Palestine since the start of the nineteenth century,

had already turned Palestine into “a question,”

and mobilized the place of Palestine/Zion in the hearts of Jews toward a political project in which they are used

to fulfill a role in the Christian imperial conception of the world. 

Christ Church in Jerusalem, established in 1849 (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Assimilation was entangled with conversion, and following its imposition,

many Jews in Europe — expected to live as Christian secular persons 

and allowed to be Jews only at home — converted and led these missions in Palestine.

Christ Church, founded in Jerusalem in the early 1840s, is one example. 

Most histories of Zionism overlook the fact that, since the early 19th century, 

non-Jewish Zionists from France, England, and Germany 

were the ones to draw up the first designs for the colonization of Palestine 

by Jews, who were unwanted in Europe 

unless they converted and fulfilled this mission.

It was only later, with the rise of racism against Jews

and the contagious expansion of the nation, the nation-state, and nationalism 

(and the violent technologies that impose them), that the political imaginary 

of a world organized solely in the form of nation-states was consolidated, 

and Europe’s Jews gradually trained and encouraged 

to transfer themselves to Palestine and adopt this European project — 

a project seeking to dispose of them — as their liberation project,

one that would finally allow them to regain their human dignity, 

which had been crushed and wounded by Europe. 

Throughout the 20th century, Europe continued to seek 

territorial, that is, colonial solutions — places to which the Jews could be transferred:

Uganda, Madagascar, and Theresienstadt, 

until finally Palestine was “chosen.”

By the end of the First World War, Palestine had already been 

conquered by Europe, partitioned from Syria, and divided as a trophy 

between the British and the French — partially also as punishment of Germany. 

All three European countries were responsible for inventing different Jews 

as the Jewish people, a people with the particularity that they had no land. 

This is how the solution to the “Jewish problem” started to become entangled

with a solution to the question of Palestine.

This is how Palestine could become a colony, a settler colony —

a European project outsourced to Jews who ended up participating 

in “solving” the problem they posed to Europe, 

and serving as the solution for Europe’s fear

of losing Palestine to its inhabitants, who resisted its colonial power,

and filed grievances against it. 

This is how a Jewish nation-state “akin to all the others” could be born

and its leaders recognized as representatives of the Jewish people worldwide. 

It was at the end of the Second World War that the Zionist colonization of Palestine 

emerged as a solution to yet another problem: Europe’s responsibility 

for the crimes against humanity inscribed on the bodies of Jewish men and women. 

Thus Europe, evading its responsibility for the role it played in creating 

the “Jewish question” — to which genocide was one of the “solutions” —

and for its role in creating the “question of Palestine,”

promised Palestine to the Zionists (not for the first time),

on the condition that from now on Palestinians, 

and by extension, Arabs and Muslims,

be their enemies, and that Zionists lead the fight against them.

Since the 1930s, Palestine has also welcomed 

refugees fleeing Europe, most of whom were not Zionists.

Opposition to the creation of a state for Jews in Palestine

was enormous among the inhabitants of Palestine,

as well as among the inhabitants of the surrounding countries, 

including the Jews who had always lived there,

who feared that this state would bring the Jewish Muslim world to its end. 

But this state was nevertheless proclaimed 

and immediately recognized by the UN — the international organization 

created by Euro-American imperial forces to allow them 

to preserve their colonies across Africa

and consolidate the “new world order” they presided over. 

In this nation-state, the nationalization of identity for Jews

was pushed to the extreme.

What these technologies produced was a form of nationality 

that Euro-Zionists were later mandated to impose on children like me, 

born in the human factories that emerged in the Zionist colony in Palestine, 

a completely made-up national identity: Israelis of the Jewish faith.

It must be plainly stated: this identity was conceived 

to prevent the return of Palestinians and of Palestine,

and to oppose the rich and diverse histories of Jewish communities, 

many of which lived within Muslim communities.

In reclaiming and embodying these almost extinct identities:

Palestinian Jew and Algerian Jew, I refuse to recognize myself in the “Israeli” identity

that was invented with the purpose of rendering impossible the return of Palestine, 

and of Palestinians to their homeland, as well as our return, 

as Jews, to the world of our ancestors, 

where we belonged to diverse communities.

The Jews didn’t have lands that Europe could have colonized;

rather, they possessed a strong group identity,

— what Frantz Fanon calls “ontological resistance” —

which they preserved and transmitted to their children for centuries

through social and spiritual principles, practices, and formations. 

Europe sought to destroy and replace this group identity 

with its own forms, principles, beliefs, and technologies of organization,

or, to put it plainly, they sought to colonize it.

Colonization often targets lands.

Without lands to conquer, Europe proceeded to colonize the minds of Jews, 

destroying this identitarian ontological resistance 

to Europe’s devouring imperial secularism 

and dissolving their autonomy and internal organizational principles.

The colonization of Jews, first in Europe and then in 

in what is called North Africa and the Middle East, 

targeted and destroyed their diverse identities, 

forms of belonging, practices, and beliefs, 

subjecting them to a single Law of Moses codified by Napoleon, 

which flattened the plurality of laws and practices they cherished,

and to the control of the colonizing powers of the modern state. 

Europe had a clear interest in associating the “solutions” to 

the “Jewish problem” only with the Nazis, so that the origins 

of “the question” in this colonial formation of Enlightenment Europe,  

which forced, on the one hand, diverse Jews to represent themselves 

as members of a single people — the Jewish people, 

with a unified national history — and on the other, 

to assimilate into the white, Christian, secular space of the modern state

as individualized citizens, and later on, as Jews conforming 

to a model Christian state made for them and in their name. 

Without the support of the Euro-American imperial powers, 

Zionism and its colonial regime in Palestine would not have survived, 

and another political formation seeking to repair the wounds and injustices 

caused by the tragic project that is the colonization of Palestine,

could have seen the light of day long ago.

Each of these solutions to the “Jewish question” and the “question of Palestine”

invented and supported by Euro-American powers and imperial technologies, 

conceals the real issue that gave rise to these questions — Europe,

and the West at large!

The idea of Zionism was born as a European solution for the Jewish people, 

and it has also served as a resolution to the question of Palestine. 

The signal to destroy Palestine was given by the imperial powers 

on November 29, 1947, 

when the resolution to partition Palestine was issued by the UN, 

against the majority of Palestinians inhabiting Palestine,

and against Jews around the world who had not chosen the Zionist path.

In clockwise order: protests in Cairo, Baghdad, and Beirut against the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (imagecourtesy the author)

In Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut, and Palestine, people protested against 

the UN resolution to partition Palestine. 

By then, they knew enough about European colonialism to know that 

what they were opposing was the genocidal violence 

required for the partitioning of Palestine to be enforced.

Only our damaged perception and broken memories can mislead us into assuming

that among these huge crowds there were not also many Jews, 

whose lives in those endangered Jewish-Muslim worlds were entangled 

with anti-colonial struggles. 

Here is what Siril Shirizi, one of the founders of the Jewish Anti-Zionist League 

in Cairo — a group of anti-partition Arab-Jewish activists — wrote in 1947,

who may have been captured among protestors in Cairo:

Jewish Men! Jewish Women!

Zionism wants to throw us into a dangerous and hopeless adventure. Zionism contributes to making Palestine uninhabitable. Zionism wants to isolate us from the Egyptian people. Zionism is the enemy of the Jewish people.

Down with Zionism! Long live the brotherhood of Jews and Arabs!

Long live the Egyptian people!

These are the last photographs of the worlds European and Zionist colonialisms destroyed.

Jews can no longer be considered an innate part of their ancestral worlds, and 

Palestinians can no longer be considered guardians of their country, 

they can no longer be acting as political subjects who oppose 

a genocidal project imposed by a minority and warn against it.

In all further photographs taken in this region, Jews and Palestinians 

are being assumed as enemies while inhabiting positions of colonizers and colonized,

created for them by Europe and the US, whose role in this genocidal history

should be acknowledged before and beyond the current genocide in Gaza, 

in order for decolonization to be imagined all the way down,

to the colonial heritage of the Napoleonic wars, or even the crusades,

and the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.

It was from that moment on that Zionists 

(who, until the creation of the state, mostly came from Europe),

gained power over many Jews who were not Zionists,

and colonized them through provoked and forced migration from the Jewish Muslim world

in North Africa and the Middle East, indoctrinating them into becoming Zionists,

and acting as their representatives, ensuring that they could act outside  

of the terms set by their violence — a violence Walter Benjamin

described as constitutive of the law, imposed as law, and whose preservation 

requires the indefinite exercise of violence, as we see now.

The law created by this violence established a war between “two sides,”

“two sides” whose creation, of course, was forged in so much violence.  

The purpose of Zionist violence, then, is both to solidify and maintain these “two sides”

such that the word “Palestinian” no longer refers to the inhabitants of Palestine,

but to the enemy of those who became inhabitants of the State of Israel,

created in Palestine to eliminate Palestine. 

This is why I repeat: I am a Palestinian Jew, reclaiming an identity that was outlawed.

We must remember that up until the Second World War, 

the Zionist movement was small, attracting very few Jews worldwide.

After the Second World War, the situation of Jews in Europe 

had to be radically transformed, while the technologies that racialized them 

and exterminated them, along with many other groups, 

technologies that should have been abolished,

were instead preserved and protected by international law.

Nazis and Jews were exceptionalized to clear Europe’s name. 

Rather than abolish Europe and its racializing technologies, the West “gifted” Zionists 

the creation of a state equipped with imperial technologies,

invented and implemented by Europe in America, Asia, and Africa. 

Since then, Zionists, alongside those who support them, 

speak for the Jews and act in their name.

* * *

This was only possible because of the conversion of the Holocaust 

into an example of incomparable universal suffering, 

inflicted by an exceptional and incomparable enemy, 

so as to dispel the similarities and continuities with the genocidal technologies 

used by other European powers in their settlements and elsewhere, 

and by the State of Israel itself against Palestinians. 

With the creation of the State of Israel, centuries of life Jews had shared with Muslims 

were destroyed, consigned to oblivion, and made difficult to imagine.

The destruction of that world is not a coincidence but an imperial crime. 

It is the outcome of the invention of these two entangled questions, 

the Jewish Question and the Question of Palestine, which made Palestine and Palestinians 

into the enemy of the Jewish people, and vice versa; 

Jews were forcibly associated with the Zionists

and with the Jewish people whom the Zionists claimed to represent;

In this way, no matter their history 

or if they opposed the colonial regime in Palestine — Jews were turned 

into the enemy of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. 

Thus, a threefold destruction was the solution for this pair of questions: 

of Palestine, of the diversity of Jewish communities, and of 

the Jewish Muslim communities worldwide. 

To this day, this European racializing technology, compounded by its American variant, 

is leveraged to preserve that split between Jews and Palestinians and 

Jews and Arabs, as if these were mutually exclusive categories,

and to erase from memory the existence of a Jewish Muslim world,

while nurturing the invention of a “Judeo-Christian tradition.”

In the aftermath of the Second World War, 

this invented tradition enabled Europe to be reborn as the savior of the Jews.

It determined who Jews could become, how they could speak 

and act in this world. 

Jews were forced to adhere to this tradition’s mandates, 

lest they turn once more into a problem to be solved by Europe.

If we refuse to forget this, we can no longer continue to view 

Palestine as a war zone involving only Israelis and Palestinians.

Support for the State of Israel granted by these imperial powers

in the form of money, weapons, and laws forbidding protest and truth-telling

reveals, once again, that it is in the interest of these powers to keep Israelis 

in their role as mercenaries of the West against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims.

There is a rise in dissent among those Jews who, after the Second World War, 

had little choice — if they didn’t not want to go to Israel — but to adhere 

to the mandate of this Judeo-Christian tradition, invented to silence them 

and force them to accept this new, made-up history. 

This dissent takes shape in the revival of our ancestral traditions, 

in refusing to recognize ourselves in this state power, and 

in repairing the ruins of this world, tikkun olam

The decolonization of Palestine from the colonial regime is not only

a Palestinian project, it is also a Jewish project.

Many of us Jews in the diaspora are committed to this project 

in our quest for liberation from Zionism — a struggle that also involves 

the revival of ancestral Jewish worlds that preceded Zionism 

and will endure long after its demise. 

We oppose the conflation of Israelis and Jews, Israel and Judaism, 

imposed by Zionist discourse and supported by many Western states

that criminalize criticism of Israel as antisemitism, 

and attempt to silence Jews who refuse to support the State of Israel. 

In the same way that genocide is imminent to the settler colonial regime,

decolonization is imminent to this regime. 

Decolonization may be violent if Israelis continue to deny Palestinians 

the right to freedom, justice, and return; 

or it may be painful — but liberating for all — if Israelis finally recognize 

that Palestinians are not their enemy and that they can stop acting 

as the mercenaries of the West in its war against Arabs and Islam 

in the Middle East, and against Palestinians at a local level.

The freedom of Palestinians is the freedom of Jews too, and to achieve their own freedom, 

Zionists and Jews must liberate themselves from this colonial regime, 

which has robbed them of their diverse histories.

We Muslim Jews, Jews whose ancestors were uprooted from this world 

we shared with Muslims, oppose the reorganization of the world 

through these colonial projects, which made it such that we can no longer live 

among Muslims as our ancestors always had.

We must free ourselves from this European terror, this Zionist terror, 

and strive for the decolonization — and de-nationalization — of the Jewish people, 

in order to become, once again, a problem for the Euro-American “new world order,”

and rejoin other groups racialized by Europe, insubordinate to this global racial order, 

by refusing to embody both the problems and the solutions, 

and by reviving a shared Jewish Muslim world against its old-new racial world order.

Rebuilding the Jewish Muslim world

is inseparable from the decolonization of Palestine,

which can be repaired and become a real horizon of decolonization

only if, together, we dismantle the imperial technologies that enabled its destruction

and fight for the abolition of Europe’s racializing technologies. 

The decolonization of Palestine and of the Jews are inseparable.

Proponents of decolonization cannot aspire to any of the common solutions 

that promise to transform Palestine into a “modern” nation-state.

We must return to what was destroyed, to the ruins and to the possibilities 

that were doomed to appear as “past.”

We must rebuild and resurrect them with and for the sake of 

those who were colonized and expelled, with and for the sake of their descendants.

The ruins should be inhabited as part of processes and formations of repair, 

of a slow repair that draws on the many different formations of 

social, political, and spiritual care that were destroyed by European technologies 

of violence and colonial and international law 

imposed on all pre-colonial communal laws.

These were formations that once organized the Jewish Muslim world,

and they can still be revived, continued, and mended.

This twinned decolonization forces us to return to the piles of ruins —

many of which have not yet been attended at all — and to inhabit them, 

to repair destroyed communities, resurrect the earth, heal wounds, 

forgive and be forgiven — not in order to atone for those who have committed crimes, 

but to achieve humanity’s faith that in Palestine, decolonization 

will not be pursued on Euro-American genocidal terms,

that in Palestine, the racializing laws of empire 

that led to so many crimes against humanity will be abolished.

The return of Palestine as a place in which crimes are not erased 

with other crimes.

The return of Palestine as a place where we call upon and invoke

our diverse ancestors to guide us in reviving the potentials 

they witnessed be destroyed, with the knowledge that they were 

erroneously decried as (sur)passed.

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