Crusaders, settler colonialists, or strategic assets for American imperialism?

Yossi Schwartz, ISL the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 30.01.2022

Israel, an apartheid state

There is overwhelming evidence that the system instituted by the Zionist state against the Palestinian people meets the UN definition of apartheid defined in Article7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002).

The Rome Statute defines the Crime of apartheid as: “inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

The Zionist state of pre-1967 and the remaining Palestinian territory occupied in 67 constitute one territorial unit under full Israeli-Zionist control. Palestinians are around half of the total population. Under Israeli law, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are treated differently in almost every aspect of life: housing, education, health, employment, family life, residence, and freedom of movement. Dozens of Israeli laws and policies institutionalize this system of racial discrimination and domination. Segregation is carried out by implementing separate legal regimes for Jewish Israelis and Palestinians living in the same area. In the occupied West Bank, Jewish Israeli settlers living in settlements are governed by Israeli civil law, while Palestinians also living in the West Bank are governed by Israeli military law.

The Palestinian citizens of Israel are second-class citizens. Jews are afforded a set of rights and privileges above the ‘Arabs who have restricted rights and privileges. This separation was enshrined in law when Israel passed the Nation-State Law in 2018, essentially codifying decades of discrimination and enshrining two classes of citizens.

It is expected that four resolutions against Israel will be passed at the UNHRC’s (UN Human Rights Council) 49th session, due to be held from February 28 to April. Israel has intensified its campaign to prevent the UNHRC from designating it an apartheid state, saying that the UNHRC could take such a step as early as June when its open-ended Commission of Inquiry against the Zionist state is due to publish its first report. [i]

Even United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not adopt the Zionist International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which has been a key demand made by Zionists groups of governments and organizations around the world. A definition that designates anyone who says that Israel is an apartheid state as Anti-Semite.

The UN will not act on such designation as the Zionist state is protected by other imperialist states in control of the Security Council. However, such designation will assist the BDS and further isolate the Zionist state.

How did Israel become an apartheid state?

Zionism was born as a nationalist response to the Anti-Semitism of the 19th century in Europe. It was an adoption of the core of the Anti-Semitic ideology that Jews are a foreign body in the nations they live in. To escape the discrimination of the Jews the Zionists sought a colony to settle in. Palestine was one of the options. Ben Gurion and his movement who called themselves “socialists” advocated the total separation of the Jewish European colonialist settlers and the local Palestinians. They adopted the slogans of Hebrew work, Hebrew products, and redemption of the lands for Jews.

After 1948 this policy continued and the Palestinians who were not driven out had to live under military rule. After 1967 the Palestinians occupied in the war have been living under military rule. Thus, the history of the Zionists in Palestine all along has been that of apartheid.

Of course, the Zionists were able to institute their racist policy because they were supported by other imperialist states. First British imperialists to guard their interests in the Suez Canal, followed by West Germany then France for supporting France repression of the Algerians and later the USA to guard their oil interests, and to counter the influence of Russian Stalinism in the region during the cold war. Israel has been perceived as a strategic asset of the USA in the region by the American administrations and the Zionist ruling class.  

Americans traditionally support close ties with Israel for historical and moral reasons, but two leading foreign policy experts say that another compelling rationale is too often overlooked: the important contributions Israel makes to U.S. national interests “Shared values and moral responsibility remain unshakable foundations of U.S.-Israel relations,” argue Robert D. Blackwell and Walter B. Slocomb in their new report, Israel: A Strategic Asset for the United States.” But the relationship stands equally on an underappreciated third leg: common national interests and collaborative action to advance those interests.” [ii]

In the course of his recent Middle East tour, Vice President George Bush was taken aback when an adviser to Prime Minister Shimon Peres voiced concern about what he saw as a troubling shift in Israeli-American relations The adviser, Avraham Burg, spoke out at a meeting Bush held with young Israeli leaders. He said that traditionally, Israeli-American relations have been seen to have a moral foundation–mutual Judeo-Christian values, a shared commitment to political freedom and democracy, a common historical experience as pioneering nations. But it seems now, he said, that the emphasis is on Israel as a “political and strategic asset,” with the idea of a moral partnership pushed aside” [iii] 

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Friday, Bennett said that “this government set a diplomatic status quo. It’s OK that left-wing people like [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid and [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz support the establishment of a Palestinian state, but my camp opposes it.” Bennett said it would be “a terrible mistake to create a Palestinian diplomatic entity in our land” [iv]

The Zionists have been able to conduct their racist policies by using the memory of the Jewish holocaust. In the real world the Zionists like many others had their share of responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust, for example: “The spring of 1933 witnessed the beginning of a period of private cooperation between Zionism and the German fascist regime to increase the inflow of German Jewish settlers and capital to Palestine. The Zionist authorities succeeded in keeping this cooperation a secret for a long period, and only since the beginning of the 1960s have criticisms of it been expressed here and there. The Zionist reaction has usually consisted of declarations that their onetime contacts with Nazi Germany were undertaken solely to save the lives of Jews. But the contacts were all the more remarkable because they took place at a time when many Jews and Jewish organizations demanded a boycott of Nazi Germany” [v]

Not only have this but 25% of holocaust survivors lived in poverty in Israel while the Zionist state received from West Germany 3 billion marks. The payments were made to the State of Israel as the heir to those victims who had no surviving family. An estimated 200,000 elderly Holocaust survivors are living in Israel today, a quarter is who are living in poverty. Some 50,000 survivors in Israel are living a low quality of life, according to Aviv for Holocaust Survivors, an organization that works to inform survivors about their rights and helps them navigate the bureaucratic process, all free of charge. [vi]

The recognition of the Zionist state as an apartheid state has replaced the analogy to the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem. During the height of Arab nationalism, the figure of Salah ad-Din was cherished by the Arabs as a historical hero who united Egypt and Syria and defeated the Crusaders. In the case of Palestine, he defeated the crusading kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a state created in 1099 CE by Crusaders and western settlers after the First Crusade (1095-1102 CE). With Jerusalem as its capital, the kingdom was the most important of the four Crusader States in the Middle East, known collectively as the Latin East or Outrider. Relatively prosperous for two centuries as Europeans created a new life for themselves in a narrow strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean coast. … The kingdom was finally abolished and absorbed into Muslim Mamluk territories in 1291 CE” [vii]

Salah al a-Din was Born around 532 in the Muslim calendar or 1138 AD to a Kurdish family. He served under ‘Imad ad-Din Zangi and then Zangi’s son, Nur ad-Din, Turkish governors of northern Syria. In 1171, after two years as vizier in Egypt, Salah ad-Din deposed the last Fatimid Shi’i caliph and returned Egypt to Sunni 

orthodoxy and, nominally, Abbasid control. With the 1174 death of Nur ad-Din, Salah ad-Din ended his vassalage and seized control of Syria, establishing himself as independent ruler over the lands of his late lord. With Egypt and northern Syria united under Salah al a-Din’s command, the Frankish Crusader states in the southern Levant were faced with a powerful and hostile polity on two fronts. At the head of a large and efficient army, Salah ad-Din exacted his 1187 victories against the Frankish Crusaders at Hattin and Jerusalem: this constituted both a great blow to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem—the impetus for gathering the Third Crusade—as well as the reclamation of a city holy to Islam from the rule of European Christians. He died in 1193” [viii]

By analogy, it was clear that the crusaders were the imperialists and the kingdom of Jerusalem was the Zionist state. Gamal Abdel Nasser before 1967 was compared to Salah Al-Din. So was Yasser Arafat at least until the Oslo accord. A brigade of the PLO army was called Hattin (site of a major Saladin victory); section 15 of the Hamas Charter praises Saladin; the 1973 War was described as the first Arab victory since Saladin; the civil war in Lebanon was called the “Tenth Crusade,” in which Lebanon’s Maronite Christians were compared to the Franks; the 1982 War was called the “Twelfth Crusade”.

The disappointment with the ruling Fatah party and the opposition to the legitimacy of Israel has been expressed by Hamas and Hezbollah who continue to make the analogy of the Zionist state to the Crusaders.

In the 1960s-1980s some Zionist intellectuals engaged in a dialogue dealing with the nature of Israel. The analogy served as a pretext for posing the question “Who are we”? “Are we Crusaders?” These questions preceded the question “Are we colonialists?” In other words, the Zionist-Crusader analogy reflected a veiled debate in which the colonialist question was dealt with without being called by its name. Thus, an interpretation of the Zionist project as a colonialist project was hinted at in this way until the post-Zionist historians who openly have dealt with the question of the colonialist nature of the Zionist state.

Zia Assail In an article “Zionist Studies of the Crusader Movement” [ix] researched the works of the Israeli–Zionist historians dealing with the Crusaders. About 10% of the members of the Organization for Crusader Studies are Israeli scholars, and among 82 studies on the Crusaders published in 1980, 14 were written by Israeli-Zionists. Asabi’s article ends as follows: “The Israelis have studied the Crusader state to learn from its experience, avoid its mistakes and escape its fate.” [x]

Thus, these historians are aware that they are colonialists and they are not disturbed by this knowledge.

While the image of Salah Al-Din and its war against the crusade is less used these days it does not mean that the nature of the Zionist state is ignored. The modern and more accurate term: an apartheid state has replaced the middle age term the crusaders.

The need for modern Salah Al-Din 

At its height, the Ottoman Empire included the following Arab provinces: Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Some of Arabia, and a considerable amount of the North African coastal strip. The partition of the Middle East as a result of the secret agreement between British and French Imperialism and the incapacity of the Arab bourgeois and petit-bourgeois to lead a democratic revolution.

On May 19, 1916, representatives of Great Britain France and Russia secretly reached an accord, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, by which most of the Arab lands under the rule of the Ottoman Empire are to be divided into British and French spheres of influence with the conclusion of World War I.

Syria and Lebanon went to the French and Mesopotamia and Palestine went to the British. Mesopotamia, comprised of three Ottoman provinces, the Sunni Kurds in Mosul to the North; the Sunni Arabs in Baghdad in the middle; and the Shia Arabs in Basra to the South was conglomerated, renamed Iraq.” [xi]

The Arab states have not gone through the bourgeois’ democratic revolution, that one of its tasks is to unite the separate Arab states into a federation of the entire region. The Pan Arabism movement led by Jamal Abdul Nasser was defeated in the war of 1967 which led to the decline of the Pan Arabism ideology. It has been replaced by open subordination of the local ruling classes to the imperialists. In the case of Syria to Russian imperialism and the case of Egypt to American imperialism. In the case of the Palestinian PA even collaborated with the Zionist state against the opposition to the Zionist’s repression. The same is true for the Arab states that are partners to the Abrahams Accords.

The Arab revolution that began in 2010-2011 has failed because of the lack of revolutionary leadership. Today revolutionary leadership will not be the heroic figure of Salah Al-Din, it must represent the conditions of our times. Such leadership will be working-class revolutionary internationalists in alliance with the poor farmers and the poor people in the cities.

This is the kind of leadership we in the RCIT fight for. Join us!

Down with the Zionist apartheid state!

Down with all the imperialist states!

For a Palestine red and free from the river to the sea!






[v] Klaus Polkehn: The secret contacts: Zionism and Nazi Germany, 1933-1941 Journal of Palestine Studies, Spring-Summer, 1976, Vol. 5, No. 3/4 (Spring Summer, 1976), pp. 54-82



[viii] Emma Kellman “Politicized Historiography and the Zionist Crusader Analogy”

[ix] Ziad J. Asali, “Zionist Studies of the Crusader Movement,” Arab Studies Quarterly, 14 (1992), pp. 45-59.

[x] Ibid, p. 58. 


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