The seeds of imperialism
I am not one to talk about race, but when its legacy explodes in your face, only fools and the intentionally blind refuse to see it. In 1891, the Jewish population in the area called Israel was owned and inhabited by only 1 per cent Jews — most of them Mizrahi and Sephardi. The total Arab population was 700,000.
Simultaneously, in Europe, there were millions — the European or White Ashkenazi Jews living in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Poland and England. One of them was my Russian great-great-great-grandfather.
The British disdain and imperialist attitude towards all races of colour was well established and their global sovereignty could not go unnoticed. Later on, Sir Winston Churchill, the celebrated British wartime leader, made the comment: “There was no need to apologise for what was done to the American Indian or the Aboriginal people of Australia when they and their lands were taken over by a people of superior culture.”
He did not manufacture that attitude; he inherited it.
Around the end of the 19th century, after centuries of European expansion, the globe was fairly encircled and the Middle East — which then was dominated by the Ottoman Empire — appeared in the European scheme as an essential area to dominate. The imperialists had a pecking order that roughly paralleled colour as the code for the degree of civilisation awarded. At the top of that pecking order was White. In that regard, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were considered the most advanced in that region — the nearest to White. At that time, even the Arab Jews were looked down upon as primitive tribesmen, but the British considered the Ashkenazi with their European culture as being more worldly sophisticated and a superior race.
It was also a fact that these Ashkenazi Jews were persecuted in Europe, although Europeans were without a national homeland. The British required a stable host to entertain their agenda to oust the Ottoman Empire, so they hatched a plot in the early 1890s to repopulate Israel with these European Jews with the pretext of Jews returning to their homeland. Hence, in 1895, Zionism was born — and from its inception was intended to replace the Arab population, which had every possible area that was cultivable under cultivation at that time.
In 1917, Britain initiated the Balfour Declaration, which was its statement of establishing a homeland in Palestine for the Jews. The important point here is it was done as what Britain termed a mandate; it did not consider a discussion with the 700,000 existing citizens as necessary. Within three decades of the decision, the plan by 1917 was in full operation to establish a colony friendly to British imperialism with compatible White settlers who would provide that military proxy in the region while the religious zeal of the theme “Jews returning to their homeland” was used as a form of evangelism in disguise for what was the pure racist replacement of darker-skinned people, whether they be Arab or Jew. Darwinism didn’t help. Rather, it supported the idea of a superior race, which gave some the “righteous authority to colonise others for their own good”.
Unfortunately, it has all backfired and the chickens are coming home to roost. The beast they created and nurtured cannot be fed enough. Like an animal that bites its neighbours, the owners get pulled into the fray. American and British policy where support for Israel is given unequivocally, whether right or wrong, is being tested in the playing field of global opinion.
The tables should be now turned: just as there was no consultation for the creation of a homeland in 1917, there should be no need today for consultation about the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Ominous silence from the lips of our government. Why? Is it because imperialism has no shade? Would it be their same pattern of coming in slowly and moving them out? Is this what is happening to Bermuda? There is more to the Caricom initiative than meets the eye. We have the tendency to look short term without understanding the long-term implications. Australia was never considered by the British as a conquered territory, but rather a settler territory. Never would the Aborigines of the 19th century believe that one day the Australian Parliament would vote that the Aborigines have, after millions of years of territorial existence, no status in their own motherland.
Without a declared status, native Bermudians will similarly become extinct in their own land and be ridiculed for one day claiming they have a culture and heritage that is uniquely theirs. It is already occurring, with at least one Progressive Labour Party MP openly saying that Bermudians have only a borrowed West Indian culture. Worse, as happened in Israel, the poor are moved out and the country becomes flooded with a new population of opportunists.
Bermuda has always had population gentrification. We can recall the early 19th century with the British, in 1857 with the Portuguese, the 1880s with the West Indians, the early 1970s with the Italians, and of late the Filipinos. Never before have we joined an entire territory. For example, we never merged into the European Union or the Maritime Provinces of Canada or Britain. Instead, we had a global policy which in some ways favoured multiculturalism and diversity; more so, it gives the country the opportunity to choose the best of the world as options for its people rather than be regionally polarised.
There is simply no other way of saying this, but we have an immigrant population that sees its culture as the pre-eminent culture. Not all but some, and perhaps a few at that, who long ago recognised the passivity of Bermudians politically, and have exploited that for their own ends. Most Black Bermudians have at least one or two, if not more great-grandparents from the West Indies — I have three!
Reality has it that we all have eight great-grandparents and we need not deny five to perpetuate three. But that isn’t the issue: Bermudians are influenced culturally by having for centuries existed on a maritime economy, which is ostensibly different from those from the West Indies, who were enculturated by an agrarian economy. They are uniquely different; none better than the other, but attitudes generated on a plantation are different from those generated on the sea. Truthfully, if one is open to analysis, Bermudians have more in common with Newfoundlanders and Nova Scotians than with West Indians. A hard realisation but true.
I speak as a universal being — every person has their uniqueness and nativity. That’s what makes life beautiful. Appreciating those differences contributes to making a healthy global society. Whenever there is leadership with an agenda, like in 1891, and it is allowed to propagate, exploitation occurs. There is only one reason a leadership does not consult with its people, and that is because they believe those people’s opinions are worthless. The examples of this historically all over the world are many. With this PLP administration, Bermuda is no exception.