Watch: Omar Barghouti on “ethical decolonization” and moving beyond Zionist racism

Earlier this month, an American university professor wrote an editorial for The New York Times about the failure of the two-state solution in Palestine and the need to consider alternatives.

The editorial provoked various discussions in the media, but I was disappointed that every time someone has this epiphany, the ensuing discussion neglects the movement-building and dialogue that have been happening for many years among Palestinians, Israeli Jews and others who are committed to decolonization and equality in a democratic secular state.

“Ethical decolonization”

It was serendipitous that I found a video featuring a presentation by Omar Barghouti that dispenses with the “peace process” and “two states” completely and focuses on the ethics and mechanics of decolonization.

Barghouti refers to the work of the Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire when explaining the moral responsibilities of the oppressed, and he proposes “indigenizing” the settler-colonial population through a process of “ethical decolonization.”

“Indigenizing” the settlers

The argument escapes the common traps about “Jewish self-determination” and the “Jewish state” by outlining a path where the settler-colonial population becomes entitled to determine the future of the state through joint struggle with the indigenous community and on condition that the settlers abandon their colonial privilege.

The excerpt below is edited slightly for readability:

Accepting modern day Jewish Israelis as equal citizens and full partners in building and developing a new shared society — free from all colonial subjugation and discrimination, as called for in the democratic state model — is the most magnanimous, rational offer any oppressed indigenous population can present to its oppressors. So don’t ask for more.

Only by shedding their colonial privileges, dismantling the structures of oppression — the laws and the policies and so on — and accepting the restoration of the rights of indigenous people of the land — especially the right of Palestinian refugees to return and to receive reparations and the right of all Palestinians to unmitigated equality — only then can settlers be indigenized and integrated into the emerging nation and therefore become entitled to participate in determining the future of the common state.

I make a distinction between self-determination for Jewish settlers in Palestine, which I categorically oppose — never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination not in South Africa, not in Algeria, not in Ireland, not anywhere. Colonizers are not entitled to self-determination, by any definition of self-determination, but post-colonialism, post-oppression, after justice has happened, then we must envision integrating the former colonizers into a common nation that can determine its future. So they are part of the future determination of the state if they are indigenized.

The indigenous population on the other hand must be ready after justice has been reached and rights have been restored to forgive and accept the settlers as equal citizens enjoying normal lives, neither masters nor slaves.

Transformative Justice

Barghouti’s talk was part of a round-table organized by Networkers South-North, an “organization with a goal to generate, disseminate and mobilize critical knowledge in the field of human centered development engagement and values in international cooperation with a particular view for perspectives from the South.” The entire series of videos from the event is listed in sequence below.




These proposals are very interesting and humane. Indeed, how else can a real future for squatters and Palestinians alike be achieved in the "Occupied Territories"? Alas, the squatters there tend to be the most intransigent and racist of Zionists in the entire Zionist Entity and surrounding Palestinian lands. The uphill struggle to achieve integration and equality thus are very formidable!


Indeed,very wise words.Unless we have a major world wide shift in consciousness ,this is going to be a difficult road .But this must be,as there is no other solution.
One Palestine ,for Jews,Arabs and anyone else that would so choose to live there.


Omar says: "Never in history was a colonizing community ever allowed self-determination, not in South Africa, not in Algeria, not in Ireland, not anywhere."

Omar, I'd hate to think that for the sake of this argument you're ignoring the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, to mention the most obvious cases of settler-colonialism in which it can be said that the colonists realized self-determination because their dispossession of the indigenous peoples was virtually complete and accompanied by cultural if not actual genocide.

None of us wishes that kind of ultimate "success" for Zionism, but the point is that it has gone much of the distance already, and to simply categorize Israeli Jews as inevitably facing the same fate as South African, French (Algeria) or British (Ireland) colonists is, well, simplistic. Nor is the post-colonialist experience in any of those places itself simple, or identical to any others.

An honest look at Zionism's success, despite valiant opposition, leads to the realization that a Jewish Israeli nation has come into existence, with its own internal forms of class, gender and racial oppression to boot. In other words, it's not the same as South Africa, Algeria or Ireland, and the concept of self-determination, as developed by Lenin in his discussion of the definition of nationhood, cannot be so facilely dismissed.

How many other nation-forming phenomena around the world did not involve some some degree of dispossession of others who were weaker? Hardly any, I suspect. And many of the losers' stories have been lost, because we know who writes the history books.

A broader, historical perspective should help us understand that the conflict is not purely "colonial." Nor is it purely "national," of course, as some liberal Zionists would have us believe, arguing that we should right the wrongs of 1967 but not 1948. In fact, it contains elements of both, and both must be addressed in forging the necessary future of equality.