On Palestine Solidarity in/from Singapore: Racism, Dehumanization, and Colonialism

Antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and all other forms of racism are all central features of the dehumanization that is necessary to colonialism’s projects of extermination, dispossession, and exploitation. Colonialism is antisemitic, Islamophobic, anti-Black, and, more generally, racist and dehumanizing. To oppose Zionist settler colonialism is not antisemitic. It is a duty of those who are against all forms of racism, including racism against Jews.

I write from the former British colony of Singapore, where many of our ancestors, racialized in a variety of different ways, but always inferior to the white man, provided the necessary labor to enrich the Crown, as well as European and American private capital, while being denied their dignity. To write from such a perspective is to reject the dominant narrative peddled by the ruling class in Singapore today that colonization had its benefits and our success story is one of Anglo-Chinese ingenuity. It is no coincidence that our colonial (yes, colonial and not post-colonial) government recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of colonizer Stamford Raffles landing in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew and Stamford Raffles, a Chinese and English success story.

This is supposedly the benign, or even positive side of colonization. But the history of our ancestors far from benign. There are no two sides to colonization. From systematic expropriation of land and resources and the racialized exploitation of unfree labour to massacres, summary executions, and detention without trial, the history of colonization in Asia is inexcusable.

That is, it is inexcusable as long as we consider those victimized by colonialism as fully human in the first place. Then as now, not everyone is accorded humanity. How else to explain the colonial cruelty that we see clearly both in our history and present? For those unsure what this looks like today, spend a day in the shoes of one of the countless migrant workers whose exploitation has built this metropolis.

And so, to write from Singapore is to write from this local history and present. And to write from this local history and present is to see clearly the ongoing, longstanding dehumanization of Palestinians by Israeli colonizers. Against the dominant media framing of a “conflict” or “clash” between two sides, we must continue to reject any attempt at normalizing colonialism.

The central logic of the violence wrought upon Palestinians today is not dissimilar from the logic of colonial violence in Malaya, India, apartheid South Africa, or the Americas. In Palestine, the tools of colonialism—which is to say, extermination, displacement, dispossession, and exploitation—were sharpened through the long history of European supremacy and are currently deployed with the inhumane precision and cruelty that history has prepared us to expect from colonizers. From Singapore, as it must be the case from Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, Johannesburg, Port-au-Prince, or La Paz, there is a common thread in our history that compels us to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, who are facing the violence of a colonial power.

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