After reaching its zenith, classical imperialism may have declined but its institutions and traditions have remained for historians to study and understand. After evolving through different stages, its objectives were accomplished by justifying the process on moral, religious, political and economic grounds.
When the Europeans discovered the three continents — North America, Africa, and Australasia — they propagated that these were lands without people. It meant that the land was no one’s property and, therefore, could be occupied and used by the imperial powers.
In North America, the settlers occupied land by depriving native tribes of their property. This argument is advanced in the The Frontier Thesis by historian Turner. On the other hand, Australia became the dumping ground for convicts and criminals, who were transported from Britain to work as cheap labour. It was the government’s policy to shift its excess population to the newly discovered continents.
It is another historical epoch but Israel’s occupation of Palestine reflects how classical imperialism has been recreated for use in the modern world
Another policy of imperialism was to establish colonies in the conquered countries. After the conquest of Ireland, England settled its Protestant citizens there, with the objective of controlling the local population. As the landlords were Protestants who were supported and protected by England, the Irish peasants suffered exploitation and mistreatment. This conflict between Protestants and Catholics continues to the present day, especially in Northern Ireland. England adopted the policy of colonisation in North America and in the African continent, where the goldmines in South Africa and the diamond mines of modern-day Zimbabwe were an attraction for them.
As political power strengthened, English imperialism became responsible for committing atrocities using new technological weapons. In Africa, the tribal people lived a simple life when they encountered the white people. They fought with spears, bows and arrows, while the English fought with cannons, rifles and guns decimating the opposing forces easily. Terror and violence were used for political domination. Religious forces were also employed in order to further the stronghold of imperialism. Missionaries arrived to convert the heathens to Christianity in order to make them modern and civilised.
England and the European powers, including France, Germany and Belgium continued to exploit the resources of the African continent. Leopold II, the Belgian king is remembered for his shocking brutality and exploitation in Congo, which was also condemned by the Europeans. Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness exposes the rapacity and cruelty of the Belgian forces and suffering of the Africans. The intervention of Europeans and the economic exploitation of the African natural resources became known in history as the ‘scramble for Africa’.
Africa was depopulated because of the slave trade, casualties, war and deprivation of their national wealth. Their peace and prosperity and their simple life was destroyed by the civilisation mission of the Europeans. Chinua Achebe in his novel, Things fall Apart, portrays the impact of colonialism on the traditional society of Africa which was destroyed as a result.
In the modern period, Israel is emulating the methodology of classical imperialism to strengthen its state. By propagating that Palestine was a land without people, it justified its occupation and use for cultivation as well as settlement. Israel also adopted the policy of terror on the Palestinians to appropriate their property. Its terrorist organisation is responsible for genocide of the Palestinians. In Deir Yassin (1948), the whole population of the village was massacred. This terrified the people from other villages and they fled from Palestine to take refuge in different Arab countries. As the Jewish population was not large enough to counter the Palestinians, the Israeli government encouraged the Russians, Eastern Europeans and the Middle Eastern Jewish communities to come to Israel and settle there. The policy of colonisation still continues.
After the 1967 war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, West Bank and Golan Heights. Israel is systematically building new houses in the West Bank as well as expelling the Palestinians from East Jerusalem on a variety of different pretexts.
Israel also follows the policy of keeping the Palestinians subdued by raiding their villages, cutting olive trees and destroying their farmland. Over the years, Israel has become not only a military but a nuclear power. Its army is well equipped with new, technological weapons. Therefore, each year, it is a routine for Israel to invade Palestinian territories, kill thousands of Palestinians and demolish their infrastructure like schools, hospitals and libraries only to return after a ceasefire. The Palestinians live in prison-like conditions in constant fear and mental agony. Thousands of them are in Israeli prisons because of their resistance and endure torture which is legalised by the Israeli judiciary.
The question is how long Israel would continue to crush the Palestinians’ right for their homeland and how long it would spend its energy and resources to keep the Israeli State intact against any challenge. Israeli imperialism has already created a Palestinian nationalism which will fight against Israeli atrocities and harshness and finally emerge as a triumphant nation.
Zionism- The new imperialism
by Mubarak Ali, dawn.com