"Israeli Michael Lucas, one of the world’s wealthiest gay porn producers, used Frontpage Magazine, a neoconservative cell headed by David Horowitz, to pour his acerbic pronouncements on the Palestinians. Lucas declared, “I hate Muslims absolutely.”
In order to attack Muslims, he produced a video called Men of Israel, which became a vehicle for his gay tours, featuring two actors having sex inside a Palestinian village that was ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias in 1948.
Lucas wrote in a press release, ‘We went to an abandoned village just north of Jerusalem… However, that did not stop our guys from mounting each other and trying to repopulate it. Biology may not be the lesson of the day, but these men shot their seeds all over the village.’
After the filming concluded in the ‘abandoned’ village, Lucas and his cast were received by a news crew from Israel’s Channel 1, which covered the porn shoot as a boon to Israeli public relations.”
Carl de Keyzer - Zona.
La Grande Arche, Paris, Johann Otto von Spreckelsen, 1985-89.
How do we recognize and teach, in constructive and productive ways, the relationship between US settler colonialism and Israeli settler colonialism, for example? How do we do so in classrooms and institutions where many of our students and colleagues are critical of Israel’s colonial practices? How can we use Thanksgiving to underscore that we, those who live work and love in the United States, are ourselves settlers (even if critical settlers) within a settler colonial society and state? How might this understanding force us to think critically about how to teach the Middle East and issues related to that region from the geographic location of a settler colony that happens to be the world’s strongest state and a state that is locked in an imperial relationship with the contemporary Middle East? Most importantly, how do we underscore these connections in a way that empowers our students and their critical faculties and activities, rather than immobilizes them?
I do not think that there are answers to these questions, at least none that are satisfactory. In fact, I think it is impossible to have “the answer,” as pedagogy is always more about interrogating rather than resolving. I still believe, however, that is important to think and ask that which cannot, and can never, be satisfactorily answered. As a teacher, I struggle with ways to recognize and engage deeply with US settler colonialism—not only in ways that segregate its lessons to the week of Thanksgiving and not only in ways that confine the analysis to a comparative framework with Israel or colonial projects that included settlers, such as French Algeria (although these connections are vitally important). For example, it is important to continue to underscore the ties between the birth of liberalism and capitalist understandings of land ownership on the one hand, and the settling of North and South America and its attendant genocides on the other. Robert A. Williams’ work has been instructive on this point. This is not to somehow write off liberalism and capitalism as ontologially racist and built on dispossession (which clearly they are) but rather to understand and sit (perhaps uncomfortably) with how what we call “civilization,” and the ways that our very grounded and quotidian attachment to liberal modernity, is built upon and sustained through barbarity towards others. Thus studies of capitalism and liberalism, and their colonial trafficking in the Middle East, are always already imbricated historically with the practices of settling the North and South America and the racial logics undergirding that genocide—just as they are imbricated with histories of slavery, indentured servitude and capital logics and accumulations…
[I]t is crucial to continue to underscore the fact that the United States is today actively engaged in settling and colonizing native lands and people. Patrick Wolfe’s formulation concerning the temporality of settler colonialism: [that] invasion is a structure not an event, is instructive. As he and others have suggested, settler colonialism is ongoing—and it is precisely the definition of settlement as temporally bounded that enables it to continue with ease in the United States, as Scott Morgensen recently argued. Once relegated to the past, the catastrophe of settlement is tamed and we appear helpless before it. In this framework the settlement of the United States is not our problem, and it is we who inherit this past and must then distance ourselves from its’ gross inequalities and violences.
A similar sentiment operates in Israel, whereby generations that have been born as Israeli citizens do not consider themselves “settlers” because they did not travel to Israel from elsewhere. They did not physically displace Palestinian towns and villages. They merely live on and in the ruins of that past violence But as many scholars have argued (see Wolfe, Piterberg, Smith, Kauanui, Morgensen, Barker, Elia, and Shafir to name but a few) being a settler does not require consent to the colonial project, it merely requires birth (or immigration) into a settler colonial structure that privileges the new indigene (the citizen) at the expense of native peoples. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect that I face in my classroom. How to teach the fact that we, sitting around a seminar room, are settlers—even if we are differently positioned, racialized and gendered settlers? What utility might this recognition bring?