False Moral Equivalence: Zionism Equals Colonialism and Imperialism

Israel is falsely demonized as the new absolute evil, falsely equated even with Nazism.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld and Jamie Berk,


For centuries Christianity promoted the idea that Jews were the epitome of absolute evil, because they supposedly were responsible for the murder of Jesus. With increasing secularization, perceptions of all-encompassing malevolence gradually changed, together with the purported role of Jews in that characterization. For the self-styled superhuman Nazis, Jews were by definition subhuman, vermin and bacteria, the ultimate Nazi version of absolute evil. Nazism in turn became the benchmark for demonic behavior after the Second World War.

Nowadays, the West fixates on Israel in its characterization of absolute evil. French linguist Georges-Elia Sarfati summed this up saying that the equivalences used against Israel “attach the four major negative characteristics of Western history in the last century – Nazism, racism, colonialism and imperialism – to the State of Israel. They relate to a collective memory and are easily memorized.”[1]

All four false equivalences have been used by the Palestinians and their allies as part of their total anti-Israeli war. Israel has been demonized and labelled a Nazi, racist, colonialist and imperialist state. This comparison is a false equivalence that undermines Israel’s right to exist.

Four false equivalences have been used by the Palestinians and their allies as part of their total anti-Israeli war.
The claim that Zionism and Israel are inherently imperialist, representing a colonial power in the Middle East, is largely present in the world of intellectuals and academics.

A new academic discipline, post-colonial studies, suggests that current trends in former colonies be viewed through the lens of their colonial legacy, in particular in terms of the power structures and Western influence on these nations. A distorted version of this discipline however includes the false claims regarding Zionism and Israel's imperialist and colonialist nature within its sphere of investigation. In practice, much of modern postcolonial studies is built on the warped concept of the discipline presented in Edward Said’s book Orientalism. He argues that nearly all Western influence on the developing world has been negative and destructive, with Western colonizers imposing their culture and attitudes on colonized populations while treating them like primitive peoples.[2]

Proponents of the distorted version draw a parallel between the Palestinians and indigenous people of color colonized by Westerners for centuries. These hate mongers argue that Zionism justifies the colonization of people of color in their own land by white people, who then rule the entire population and exploit their resources.

A few examples will illustrate this. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappé sets out his arguments in his article “Zionism as Colonialism: A Comparative View of Diluted Colonialism in Africa and Asia.” He argues that the rise of Zionism in the late 19th century can be directly linked to the Age of Imperialism in Europe, and is a philosophy that is interchangeable with the imperialist way of thinking .

Pappé wrote that “Zionism was not, after all, the only case in history in which a colonialist project was pursued in the name of national or otherwise non-colonialist ideals. Zionists relocated to Palestine at the end of a century in which Europeans controlled much of Africa, the Caribbean, and other places in the name of ‘progress’ or idealism not unfamiliar to the Zionist movement. It happened in a century when French settlers colonized Algeria, claiming an atavist and emotional link to the Algerian soil no less profound that that one professed by the early Zionists with regard to Eretz Yisrael.”[3]

American writer and activist Alice Walker also developed this theme, comparing Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, segregationists in the United States, and Nazi Germany. She also drew false equivalence of Zionism and European imperial powers in her book, The Cushion in the Road.  In her description of apartheid South Africa, she stated that “… poor Europeans, though, to save themselves, learned to speak proper English, supported as they were by a system that favored whites. Advancement for them, as for the Jewish settlers in Palestine, was unlimited, if they could blend in, accepting the spoils of war against the indigenous and enslaved, with those in power.

“This is an old, old story and it is a terrifying one. Can people who hunger so desperately for what other people have ever have enough? One thinks of Hitler, of course, and Napoleon; of the American generals who fought wars of conquest against Mexico and Cuba and the Philippines. Guatemala. Iraq. Afghanistan. And countless other places we’ve never heard of.” [4]

Walker and other proponents of the false equivalence between Zionism and colonialism have not gone unchecked. Historian Richard Landes exposed the hypocrisy of this moral equivalence on his website “The Augean Stables." He wrote about the benign nature of Zionist settlement in Ottoman and British Palestine, sharply contrasting with the imperial aspirations of European powers at the time, and with Walker’s own misconceptions about Zionist settlement in Israel.

Landes wrote, referring to Walker’s comment about Hitler, Napoleon, American generals and more, that “behind this rather blandly stated remark lies the path to a real assessment of Israeli ‘colonialism’ and ‘imperialism.’ All (other) colonial projects (e.g., Spanish in Latin America, British in South Africa, French in Algeria), occurred in the wake of a conquest. The only way that the new colonists could make claims to the land was by conquest, by (at best) driving away the inhabitants, and establishing overwhelming military superiority. Political power came from victory in war. In so behaving, the European imperialist-colonialists conformed to the international norms of millennia.

“The Zionist project of colonization worked in a markedly different manner. Rather than arrive as zero-sum military victors, the Zionists arrived as positive-sum neighbors. Granted they had no ability to conquer, and granted they built up their defenses against predatory attacks from both Arabs and Bedouin inhabitants of the land, but they nonetheless made peace with most of those who dwelled there by offering the benefits of civil society: hard productive work made everyone better off.”[5]

Martin Kramer, President of the Shalem Center states that the claims that Zionism is colonialism are a fallacy and a grave offense to Israel. He described this claim as “a very great lie, and it is a self-serving lie. Those who believe it can sustain in their hearts the hope that in any given span of a few years, Israel will disappear. America will decide to dismantle it, or the Jews will decide that it is too costly to maintain, and so will go to other countries that are safer and more comfortable. For colonialism is something that is transient and lasts only so long as it is cost-effective. But authentic nations are forever, the ties of nations to their land are never really severed, and nations are bound by ties of solidarity that cross the generations.”[6]

The false moral equivalence that Zionism equals colonialism can be succinctly exposed. Colonialists conquered other countries in order to lay claim to their resources and exploit them,. They funneled money and value out of the colonies. The Zionists brought money and skills first into the British Mandate of Palestine and afterwards into Israel. Israeli Arabs also significantly benefitted from this. Their current average income per capita is a multiple of that of the inhabitants of the neighboring countries. The Palestinian Arabs would have benefited similarly, had they not followed their leaders’ road to violence.


[1] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Georges-Elia Sarfati, “Language as a Tool against Jews and Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 17, 1 February 2004.

[2] Lufti Hamadi, “Edward Said: The Postcolonial Theory and the Literature of Decolonization,” European Scientific Journal, 2, June 2014. 39-46.

[3] Ilan Pappé, “Zionism as Colonialism: A Comparative View of Diluted Colonialism in Africa and Asia,” South Atlantic Quarterly, 1 September 2008.

[4] Alice Walker, The Cushion in the Road.

[5] Richard Landes, “1948-2008 Part I: The Sad Story of the Nakba,” The Augean Stables, 8 May 2008.

[6] Martin Kramer, “Is Zionism Colonialism? The Root Lie” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1 August 2005.