Israel is not a white supremacist project: Nicholas Woode-Smith

In a recent article, Professor Mokobung Nkomo attempted to explain Israel’s conflict with Hamas by likening it to US imperialism and white supremacy. Nkomo portrayed Israel, the US, and the West as oppressors, alleging a disproportionate response to the October 7th massacre. In response, Nicholas Woode-Smith argues that Israel’s military actions are justified in targeting Hamas, a terrorist group responsible for attacks on civilians and the invasion of Israel. He emphasizes that civilian casualties in Gaza result from Hamas using human shields. Woode-Smith challenges Nkomo’s assertions, presenting Israel’s wars as defensive measures and highlighting the nation’s role as a protector of Jewish existence.

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By Nicholas Woode-Smith

Professor Mokobung Nkomo, in a recent article, sought to explain Israel’s war with Hamas through likening it to US imperialism and white supremacy. Nkomo paints Israel, the US, and the West in general as racists, colonisers, oppressors, and, simply, the bad guys. A simplistic assertion informed by propaganda so easy to dispute that it takes wilful ignorance to fall for such a narrative.

Nkomo claims that the response to the October 7th massacre, where innocent Israelis (many of whom were children and the elderly) were massacred, has been disproportionate. Such a claim belies a naivete around military law and ethics. Proportionality isn’t about an eye for an eye. That would be barbaric in itself. You don’t kill an equal amount of civilians to punish the perpetrator. Ideally, you don’t kill any civilians at all.

Proportionality in a military conflict is simply engaging only in actions that fulfil a justified objective. In this case, the justified military objective is the destruction of Hamas, a terror group that has engaged in acts of terror, the killing of civilians, rocket attacks on Israel, and the invasion of Israel on October 7th. The repeated attacks on civilians, and the continued imprisonment of hostages is justification enough for Israel to seek the destruction of this group – in the same way that any law enforcement should seek the destruction of a criminal cartel.

The IDF is not targeting civilians. It has gone out of its way to warn civilians of impending attacks, while isolating terrorists in an urban labyrinth. The many deaths of Gazan civilians is not due to their intentional extermination. If Israel wanted to kill Gazan civilians, they could kill far more than they have already. Rather, the deaths of innocents has been devastating collateral damage as a result of Hamas using civilians as human shields, forbidding their exit from combat zones, and Hamas’ refusal to reach a reasonable compromise with the Israeli government.

As of writing, there are still well over a hundred Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The UN has found irrefutable evidence that there is ongoing sexual violence being meted out on female hostages. This is in addition to the grotesque and systematic torture, rape and slaughter performed on October 7th.

Israel didn’t start this war. And if Hamas was to release all the hostages, Israel would stop its military operations in Gaza overnight and begin negotiations as they did so during the short truce in November (which Hamas promptly broke). If Hamas was to lay down its arms and surrender, ceasing to exist as an entity, then Israel would have reached its goal of destroying this terror group, and would leave the Gazans in peace. Israel will continue to defend its people and prevent any likelihood of another October 7th happening. Any worthwhile government would do what it could to defend and avenge its people.

Nkomo likens Israel’s sixteen wars with Arabs to perpetrating their own form of Holocaust – stating: “it is hard to contemplate destruction of this magnitude being committed by a people who barely a hundred years ago were victims of racial hatred, pogroms and genocide (the Holocaust) would themselves do the same to others.”

But he neglects to mention that every single one of these wars were declared by the Palestinians or Arabs, seeking to claim the entire territory for themselves. It is only by virtue of Israeli military sophistication that the country still exists. A fact that should not be lost on people condemning Israel’s fixation on ensuring it wages effective military operations.

None of these wars needed to happen. Israel didn’t wage them to exterminate a people. They waged them to defend their right to exist. The right for Jews to exist. As non-Jews, we simply do not understand how important it is for Israel to exist. We don’t require a homeland because we are not being persecuted.

But Israel was formed not as a result of British connivance in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration, which actually caused confusion, but didn’t really amount to anything, as Israel had to take independence from the British by force in 1948. Contrary to Nkomo’s assertion that Israel was a white colonial project backed by the United States, the fledgling Jewish state faced arms embargoes from the United States and most of the world.

Israel was formed because Jews around the world were pushed to form a country that cared about Jews. A country where another Holocaust, Russian pogroms, forced conversions, expulsions and institutionalised antisemitism could never take place.

Many argue that Israel faces so much violence from their hateful neighbours that anywhere else would be better. But would it? Antisemitism is on the rise globally. Politicians in South Africa are calling to destroy Jewish schools, while pro-Palestine supporters harass children outside the Holocaust Museum (and this was before the retaliation against Hamas).

Israel is the only country on the planet that exists to defend Jews. It doesn’t defend them so long as it is convenient. It doesn’t defend them subject to a vote in parliament. It defends them because if it doesn’t, then the Holocaust will happen again. As it has, in different forms, for thousands of years.

Nkomo claims that Israel and the US are partners in imperialism and white supremacy. He thinks that Israel is conducting its military operations out of sheer, Caucasian malice. A racist assertion he repeats again and again. Relegating the entirety of the United States and Israeli people to be united over “conquest, subjugation, and the ideology of white supremacy.”

Most Israelis are racially indistinguishable from their other Levantine brethren. There are Israelis with darker skin than any Arab you’d meet. Yet, they are the white colonisers?

And if Israel was waging an imperialistic war of conquest, then they’re doing a bad job. Israel had full control of Gaza, before they willingly gave it up and supported its independence in 2005. Israel was pro a two-state solution. Five times, Israel has agreed to give sizable amounts of land to the Palestinian people. Every single time, they were spat at. Because the PLO, Hamas and Israel’s enemies don’t want a single Jew in the region.

And for the Palestinians flooding Israeli prisons? Nkomo claims their only crime is resisting occupation. But he fails to mention how their resistance takes the form of brutally murdering, assaulting, and raping Israelis. No one has a right to be a terrorist. By its very definition, it is an evil concept. And there is no justification for it.

Nkomo hides behind academic drivel, obfuscating quite a simple explanation with his vague, pseudo-history and barely hidden racism.

Israel isn’t killing Palestinians because it’s evil. It isn’t killing them because it wants to eradicate the apparent natives and establish white settler colonies. It isn’t killing them because they want to imitate the US.

Israel is defending the right for Jewish people to exist. It is avenging innocent people, and attempting to save every hostage it can. The US could and should do more to protect the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. I wish Nkomo was right about the US’s unflinching support for Israel. I don’t think they’re doing enough.

What is clear is that Nkomo, and many like him, are incredibly confused. He doesn’t seem to know anything about October 7th, much less the history of the region. I urge Nkomo, and everyone else, to read widely on this issue. To learn what happened on October 7th.

And most of all, to ask themselves a simple question: If Hamas raped, tortured, and slaughtered your people, what would you do?

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Nicholas Woode-Smith is a political analyst, historian, and author. He has written extensively on the Israel-Hamas War.