An U.S.-based academic who grew up in Israel criticized Israeli settlements, referring to the conflict as the "colonization of Palestine" during a lecture in Istanbul on Saturday.
"Palestine and Israel need to be understood in two features," said Gabriel Piterberg, a professor of Near East history at the University of California in Los Angeles. "First, this is a conflict between settlers and indigenous people. Second, this is an unresolved settler situation where the settlers are incomparably more powerful, and the natives have not disappeared and will not disappear."
Born in Argentina and raised in Israel, Piterberg fought against the Palestinian Liberation Organization during his required military service, but his lecture Saturday at Sabancı University, titled "The Zionist Colonization of Palestine in the Comparative Context of Settler Colonialism," centered on his pro-Palestinian take on the decades of hostility.
Piterberg said he welcomed the opportunity to speak in Turkey; ties between Ankara and Tel Aviv grew increasingly tense after Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound aid ship and killed eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent.
"This country is more critical of Israel than most," Piterberg said. "The opposite atmosphere of this would be the U.S. It would be very hard to give a lecture like this there."
Piterberg first defined the study of comparative settler colonialism and then analyzed the works of two prominent early Zionists, Haim Arlozorov and Arthur Ruppin.
On the colonization of Palestine, Piterberg connected the history of the settlement with the colonization of other countries such as the U.S. and South Africa. He drew comparisons between the ways both countries sought to collect massive amounts of land and dispel the natives, and he detailed the problems that persisted in each.
Piterberg also pointed out the flaws in Arlozorov's basic argument that an "interethnic joint merger can't work." He criticized Arlozorov's belief in the separation and subjugation of the Palestinian economy by the Israelis.
Anti-Semitism and "outright racism" were inherent in Ruppin's work, which was intended to "renew the purity of the Jewish race," Piterberg said. He also made a connection between Ruppin's work and the social scientists directly involved in the Holocaust.