[News] A Placebo Not the Cure: Why Removing Trump and Netanyahu Won’t Relieve the Illness

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 14 10:45:17 EDT 2019


  A Placebo Not the Cure: Why Removing Trump and Netanyahu Won’t Relieve
  the Illness

October 11, 2019

*By Benay Blend <http://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/benay-blend>*

In both the United States and Israel, there is a myth that if we could 
just get rid of certain leaders—namely Trump and Netanyahu—then things 
would go back to normal, the good old days (in truth, for some but not 
for others).

“What have we become?” people ask, thereby glossing over the 
settler-colonial history of both countries. This historical amnesia 
stems from many factors. It satisfies the human desire for a definable 
villain, someone to lay the blame on rather than doing the harder work 
of understanding that it’s the capitalist, colonial system that must be 

In no way does this analysis negate the damage done by both leaders. 
What it does point to is the way that this focus plays into the founding 
myths of both countries. Indeed, Zionism not only stems from an ideology 
born out of nineteenth-century nationalism but also bears resemblance to 
settler states established in the Americas. In this scenario, both 
sought to present a virgin land, ready for fertilization and development.

Instead of “civilizing” the indigenous population or utilizing their 
labor, as was done in other colonial enterprises, the problem for 
Israelis was to find an “empty” land that could be transformed into a 
Jewish homeland, though this meant erasure of 689,272 residents through 
some serious historical revision. Like the so-called “virgin land” in 
the American West, this trope serves to gloss over the Nakba 
(catastrophe) of 1948 just as the American version disregards the 
extermination and/or relocation of the American Indigenous population.

In his “Forward” to Ramzy Baroud’s Last Earth: A Palestine Story (2018), 
Ilan Pappe refers to Al-Nakba al Mustamera, the on-going Nakba, a common 
term for the period after 1948. Moreover, he explains that discrete 
chapters in the history of Palestine, such as the disaster of 1948, are 
not just past events, but instead are a long narrative of massacres, 
land confiscation, displacement, and assassination. Relying on Patrick 
Wolfe, who “adapted and applied” the settler-colonial paradigm to 
Palestine, Pappe explains that the colonial project is on-going, as is 
Palestine’s resistance to it.

Similarly, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes in An Indigenous History of the 
United States (2014) that the history of United States is also that of 
settler-colonialism, i.e. the founding of a country established on the 
premise of white supremacy, the widespread use of African slavery, and a 
strategy of “genocide and land theft” that disenfranchised the 
Indigenous population (p.2). She adds that “those who seek history with 
an upbeat ending” (p. 2), or for the present purposes, those who seek to 
find a Golden Age in America’s past, might be looking far and wide for 
neither that conclusion nor that bygone age, exists.

Trump and Netanyahu, then, are merely just the symptoms, while Zionism, 
settler-colonialism, neoliberalism, capitalism, and racism are all 
elements of the disease. Impeaching Trump will not bring about a better 
world to come. Writing for Aljazeera as far back as 2015, Hamid Dabashi 
that “Trump is a symptom not the disease.”

In short, Dabashi adds, “he is a decoy, a diversion so outrageous, so 
disgusting that it overwhelms and hides the real disease.” The problem, 
he concludes, is “firmly rooted in the political culture of a country 
that began its history by the mass murder of Native Americans, continued 
by the systematic slavery of African Americans, and most recently with a 
stroke of a pen ordered the US population of Japanese descent 
incarcerated in concentration (internment) camps during World War II.

Writing four years later, Philip Weiss explores 
a variation of that same mantra used by liberal Zionists to entice their 
Jewish brethren back into the pro-Israel Democratic fold. According to 
Weiss, their argument goes something like this: “The only thing we need 
to do to end the Democratic Party’s disaffection with Israel is to get 
rid of Netanyahu—and Trump.” Like those who place all blame for 
America’s problems on the shoulders of Donald Trump, liberal Zionists 
locate all of the culpability for Israel’s sins on the actions of one 

“His sins are innumerable and the damage he’s done immeasurable,” writes 
Gideon Levy, “and it would be great to have him out of our lives, but 
blaming everything on him is deceiving and a shirking of 
responsibility.” Yet Levy blames the “values and outlooks” that he says 
have been “ingrained here during decades of Zionists,” not the values of 
white supremacy and ethnic cleansing that have been inherent in Zionism 
since 1948. Levy wishes for a Mandela who would lead a revolution in the 
nation’s values, rather than lead a revolution that would instead 
dismantle the Zionist state.

Racism in both countries is not an individual problem but rather 
embedded in the institutions of each settler-colonial state. When George 
Michelle Obama a cough drop at John McCain’s funeral, it was viewed by 
most as a moment of civility, the kind of hands across the aisle so 
lacking in government today.

George Bush’s history as a war criminal responsible for thousands of 
deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan after 911 was totally erased by a desire 
to believe that we only have to be kind to each other in order to topple 
the racism of Trump’s regime. The same could be said for the practice of 
“normalization” by Israelis, defined 
by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of 
Israel (PACBI) in the following way:

It is helpful to think of normalization as a “colonization of the mind,” 
whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s 
reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and 
that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with.

Those who engage in normalization either ignore this oppression or 
accept it as the status quo that can be lived with. In an attempt to 
whitewash its violations of international law and human rights, Israel 
tries to re-brand itself, or present itself as normal — even 
“enlightened” — through an intricate array of relations and activities 
encompassing hi-tech, cultural, legal, LGBT and other realms.

Frederick Douglass, the 19^th century escaped slave turned statesman, 
said that power does not relinquish power without a struggle. Whether 
that be the dismantling of the Zionist state as advocated by the One 
State Foundation <https://onestatefoundation.org/>, the decolonization 
of the Americas outlined by the Red Nation 
<https://therednation.org/manifesto/>, or any number of revolutionary 
struggles not carried out under the mantle of the colonialist 
enterprise, significant change will not come about by removing one 
person from leadership and / or advocating unity when all parties are 
not sharing equal power.

In an era when the governments of both Israel and the United States are 
working hard to erase the past, it is important to cut through the 
founding myths of each country in order to chart a clear path forward to 
a more egalitarian state.

/– Benay Blend received her doctorate in American Studies from the 
University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and 
Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: 
‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American 
Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle./

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