Thursday, September 24, 2009

Again, Why I Don't Like the Term "Settlers"

The word to describe Jews living in Yesha, that is, Judea and Samaria, is revenant. Someone who returns after a long absence to his ancestral homeland.

Not "settler".

In a review in the Times Literary Supplement of James Belich's "REPLENISHING THE EARTH: The settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world", we read this:

...recent chroniclers and analysts of the Anglo-Americanization of the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the filters used have been those that show up the “imperialism” of the process...

...Belich’s approach brings out two further features...First, “settlerism” was transnational, in several senses, quite apart from the obvious one that it pushed beyond national frontiers. Other peoples did it besides Britons...

The second is that this kind of colonization was not necessarily a case of the centre “exploiting” the periphery. Settlers positively sought out “oldland” goods and capital rather than having them forced on them. They arguably gained more from the exchange than the metropoles did. At the very worst, “exploitation was mutual”. The cultural ties between them were also voluntary. It was the Australians who wanted to retain their British identity, rather than its being forced on them, and Britain which eventually cut the tie between them...

Belich’s own analysis of “Anglo” settlerism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries will be the most contentious section of this book. He is insistent that neither Britain’s early start (which in fact was quite late), nor her institutions, nor any particular virtues or other qualities of the “Anglos”, had much to do with it. Instead he relies on a strict typology of what he takes to be its different stages: “incremental”, “explosive”, “recolonisation”, and “decolonisation”, of which the middle two are further subdivided into “boom”, “bust” (the second) and “export rescue” (the third), which apparently operated in virtually every successful case of “Anglo” settlerism in this period...What he is describing here, surely, are the normal travails of free market capitalism as socialists see them, anywhere, including in metropoles (today, for example), but exaggerated in settler contexts because they were so free...

All this comes from uncoupling “settlerism” from “imperialism” (or from other sorts of imperialism: it depends on your definition), which is the most valuable insight of this book. One effect of it is to free the former from some of the stigmas attaching to the latter; but then, settlerism had quite enough stigmas of its own. Belich deals with most of them, and one in particular: the injury (to put it mildly) done to most of the indigenous races that stood in the settlers’ path...


Settlers went to places that were foreign to them, that were strange, that didn't belong to them.

We Jews came home, to the landscapes of our history, where we developed as a people, where our religion was fashioned, where our kings and prophets and priests acted and spoke, where our language and literature flowered.

No imperialists we; no exploiters; no strangers.

We live in the Land of Israel, in Judea, in Samaria, in its hills, and plains and along its shores.

We are revenants.

3 comments:

BuJ said...

I agree.

Using the word "settler" is as bad to returning Jews as the word "native" is to the Palestinians living in Palestine.

Anonymous said...

Lovely Yisrael - you put it very poetically - Michael

YMedad said...

thanks.