Skip to content

COMMENTARY: Decolonization is not a metaphor

Sylvia Chan-Malik, an associate professor of the Department of American Studies, moderated a public conversation with Nick Estes, Marc Lamont Hill, a presidential professor at City University of New York Graduate Center and Noura Erakat, an associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Rutgers—New Brunswick, on Dec. 17, 2023, which helped many Palestinian students and their allies feel heard despite attempts to prevent the event from happening. – Photo by @SawyerMellon /

When speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people's freedom of recognizing their right to return to their own land, Israeli sympathizers often ask Palestinians the same question: "What is going to happen to Israeli settlers?"

On Dec. 7, 2023, "Race, Liberation and Palestine: A conversation with Noura Erakat, Nick Estes and Marc Lamont Hill"took place. In response, the Zionist Jewish community sent more than 12,000 messages to the Rutgers Administration asking them to cancel their event.

As a result, we, Students for Justice in Palestine, took an immediate call to action to write to University President Jonathan Holloway and Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway to preserve freedom of speech on campus. In the end, more than 100 people attended the event, and our victory demonstrated that the students united will never be defeated.

Nick Estes, an assistant professor of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, said on the deeper meaning behind the backlash Indigenous people receive when advocating for their land back and decolonization, "It's an immediate projection onto us, what the colonizer did to us, that we're somehow going to do (the same) to them."

In a way, Israeli settlers' and Zionists' fears are a confession of their crimes against humanity toward the Palestinian people. The Zionist claim that "From the river to the sea" calls for the so-called violence of Jews illustrates "their imagination, their projection, their idea (that this) is a zero-sum game of elimination and genocide," Estes said.

Stop asking Palestinians what happens to settlers after we liberate Palestine from the river to the sea. This is not a Palestinian problem, this is the colonizers' problem.

Liberal Zionists asking tone-deaf questions illustrates that they only want a free Palestine that is convenient for them. The normalization of the occupation and settlements has demonstrated that Palestinians have to pay the costs of settler colonialism, and Israelis are meant to be immediately granted amnesty.

And Palestinians are constantly asked questions that should be brought to Zionists, not natives.

It is essential not to get "trapped in these (settler) games," Etes said. "Settlers, no matter where they are, they always call us assimilated. 'Oh, we sent you to boarding school, you're speaking English. We taught you how to drive a car.' It's like ... you're assimilated. You're the most assimilated person because you cannot imagine an alternative to this."

Students for Justice in Palestine is a student organization at Rutgers University committed to supporting the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 600 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day's publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe