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The Colonial Project: Divide and Conquer and Israel-Palestine

Colonialism, Decolonization, Israel and Palestine

Divide and Conquer

It is well known documented that European colonizers has long used the tactic of “divide and conquer” in their colonial violence.

This happened in India, with the different religions and ethnicities. This happened in Sri Lanka, between Tamils and Sinhalese. This happened in Rwanda, between the Hutu and Tutsi. This happened in Hong Kong, resulting in the Umbrella Movement.

This is no different from the concept of “model minority,” which has been used as a tool by white supremacy to drive a wedge between Asians and other BIPOC communities. You can read more about it here and here.

It breaks my heart that the colonial legacy has once again reared its ugly genocidal head. And this time, in two levels…the long European colonial history that has led to the creation of Israel, which has since become a settler-colonial state itself, with continued support by Western powers. And Hamas was originally supported by the Israeli government, as the "answer" to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Divide and conquer. Admittedly, I have a lot more complex history to learn.

And mind you, the human suffering resulting from the Israel-Palestine conflict (both the Hamas attacks and subsequent genocidal bombings) is very much an INTENDED consequence of colonialism.

It’s a very divisive topic. I already have a Jewish friend who has unfriended me on Facebook. And I’ve also chatted with Jewish friends who are anti-Zionists, who are actively attending rallies and donating money. And Israelis are also not a monolith. There’s a history of anti-Zionist movements within Israel, which the government has since outlawed. And important to be mentioned is the intergenerational trauma inherited by many jewish individuals, and the current rise in anti-semitism. All of this pain is real.

And Palestinians are not Hamas. They’re also not a monolith. But we have to note that extreme oppression will breed radicalization and extremism as a form of self-protection. I’m not trying to justify the actions of Hamas – it is simply the reality. We’ve seen it happen over and over again in history. European colonizers know this. That’s why they had sowed the seeds of division everywhere they went – so people will be busy fighting each other, and be too fragmented to fight the colonizers.

Reductionism vs. Love and Compassion

Things aren’t easy, and I understand exactly how it feels. The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong was very contentious for my family, as I held differing views from most of my family members. And as a Chinese person in Canada, learning about China’s colonization of Tibet and Uyghur communities has complicated my own identity as a marginalized person of colour in Canada.

This is what it means to live in a colonial world. Things aren’t neat and tidy, and that makes our human minds very uncomfortable. And because we don’t like to be in that space of discomfort, we often get seduced by reductionist politics and polarization. It’s more comfortable to dehumanize “the other,” so our minds can create in-groups (our allies) and out-groups (our enemies).

But make no mistake – this is the exact mindset that colonialism tries to seduce us into. And in my humble opinion, I truly believe that we need to resist the “us vs them” mentality, as part of the decolonization of our own minds.

And when we’re uncomfortable, instead of engaging in our knee-jerk reaction of anger, let’s take a moment…to take a time-out and re-engage with love and compassion. Love and compassion with ourselves. And love and connection with those around us. It isn’t easy. And for myself, this is still (and forever) an ongoing learning.

I truly believe that healing our own traumas, and increasing our capacities to regulate and work through our emotions, is an important aspect of self-decolonization.

And even as I write this, I am worried. I’m scared of possible repercussions, writing about this very divisive and sensitive conflict. And for total transparency, I had put this off for weeks, because I felt scared to publish this on my blog. And it is probably residual fears from years of conditioning, working in nonprofits, learning to censor my own politics. Ah, how my colonized mind persists.

But I also have to remind myself that one of the reasons that I started my own private practice was so I no longer have to worry about losing my job in moments like these. And I want to continue to do better, and to speak up during the hard moments, because that’s when it is needed the most.

I hope to be able to continue to connect with love and compassion. For a very long time, I was seduced by reductionist politics that has fuelled me with so much anger and hatred. I must stay diligent and move forward with love and compassion.

How We Can Support Palestinians:

1. Donate Money

2. Apply Political Pressure

  • Use the email/phone script. You document also has all the email/phone numbers of the politicians to contact. It just take 5 minutes to copy-and-paste!

3. Follow these organizations for more opportunities to take action

4. Here Gabor Maté discussing this topic, sent to me from a wise friend

As always, thank you for being here with me.

Harry Au

Therapy for Asians

MSW, RSW | he/him

I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.

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