Settler-colonialism: A Process of Dehumanization and Evisceration
In this piece, Palestinian scholar Abdulla Moaswes, an ally of the Kashmir freedom struggle, explains how settler-colonialism is a process of “dehumanization with an objective of evisceration,” and sheds light on how this occurred in the Palestine case. He expresses his anger in the world order that is sitting by idly and allowing this to happen in Kashmir, and encourages us all to collectively fight towards our liberation.
Lots of people have rightly started using the term settler-colonialism to describe the movements that the Indian government is initiating in Kashmir. This thread is less a scholar’s analysis and more my unbridled anger at the world that sits idly by as this all unfolds before it.
After 5 centuries of settler-colonialism built on the physical, epistemic, and structural annihilation of indigenous peoples, and after the formation of an entire UN to supposedly facilitate a decolonial process after WW2, we have settler-colonial overtures taking place in 2020. As this happens, that same UN, already guilty of allowing the creation of another settler-colonial state in Israel, passively watches as the Indian state begins making provisions for the movement of settlers to Kashmir. But let’s be clear, Kashmir was already colonised by India, just as it was starting to leave the clutches of British colonialism.
And let’s also be clear, settler-colonialism is not simply the settlement of people in a place they were not born in. Settler-colonialism is about categorising people. About creating an entire structure of violence that renders indigenous people rightless, expendable, and an inconvenience. It is a historical process that began with dehumanisation with an objective of evisceration. Settler-colonialism is not about the extraction of value from the labour of the indigenous. It is about replacing them entirely, either literally or in the sense of abolishing their old allegiances and identities and replacing them with alien ones enforced from above.
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My people know this well. We were first denied the permission to refer to ourselves as Palestinians. Once our name became known, we were divided into Gazans, Palestinians from the West Bank, and Arab citizens of Israel. As if we have nothing in common with one another. These identities were enforced through paperwork, documentation, and juridical processes. They were created by spectacular violence that drew lines that determined what rights who had. And, ashamedly, some people bought into the inequality. But the violence of settler-colonialism is not just that done through categories and paperwork.
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It is real and painful to the body and soul. The killing of people, the razing of homes, the coercion of land, the murder of trees, the bruising of mountains. The theft of water, the drowning of roots, the isolation of the sea, the building of borders, the scarring of soil, the suppression of words, the diktats of misery. This is what settler-colonialism is. It is not natural nor is passive. The screeching of fearful children, the wail of a father, the dust that covers a mother’s brow. The defiance of the cactus, steadfast and convinced of its right to stand where it does. It should never be required that a plant fight for the rights of those who planted it. The annihilation of innocence, incarceration of justice, the spread of hunger and thirst. This. Is. All. Deliberate. This is what settler-colonialism is. Let the gravity of each word sink into your eyes and flesh.
And it is horrific that after what happened in the US, in Canada, in Australia, Azania, Palestine, the world is letting this happen again. Why should the burden of liberation always fall after the fact? Do we not have enough history and present to recognise what is happening? And I don’t only condemn the international community for its silence, but for its complicity. Settler-colonialism does not simply happen when one state seeks to colonise another. It takes a village to raise a child? It takes a world to accept a colonial power. Settler-colonialism does not happen in a vacuum. It is interlinked with other oppressive structures and processes. It uses the same weapons wielded by genocidal autocrats, the same technology used by a surveillance state. It is a paradigm that requires the consent of the powerful and the support of the insecure. The effects of settler-colonialism in Palestine are felt in Ferguson. The effects of settler-colonialism in Kashmir will be felt far beyond its extremities. And this is but an example.
Complicity is not a passive silence. Settler-colonies are laboratories of pain for unjustly judged and tyrannically ruled masses of the world. They are the bread baskets from which oppression eats. We must all recognise our places in these global constellations. Let us make duaa that this Eid not be the start of a new struggle, for these struggles are as old as our ancestors. Let us make duaa that this Eid simply be a milestone or a new dawn on the way to our liberation. Inshallah aameen.
Abdulla Moaswes is a Palestinian researcher and educator interested in comparative and connective (settler-)colonialisms in a planetary context. Reach him on Twitter @KarakMufti.