Why is Israel failing? asked Israeli historian Ilan Pappé on December 8.

“It is quite possible that the early thinkers and leaders of the Zionist movement, back in late 19th century Europe, imagined, or at least hoped, that Palestine was an empty land and if there were people there, they were rootless nomadic tribes that, in essence, did not inhabit the land.

“If this had been the case, quite possibly the Jewish refugees making their way to that empty land would have built a prosperous society and, maybe, would have found a way to prevent polarizing themselves from the Arab World.

“What we do know, as a matter of fact, is that quite a few of the early architects of Zionism were perfectly aware of the fact that Palestine was not an empty land.”

“These architects of Zionism were too racist and orientalist, like the rest of Europe, to realize how progressive Palestinian society was in relation to that period, with an educated and politicized urban elite and a rural community living at peace within a genuine system of co-existence and solidarity.

“Palestinian society was on the threshold of modernity – like so many other societies in the region; a blend of traditional heritage and new ideas. This would have been the basis for a national identity and a vision of freedom and independence on that very land they had inhabited for centuries.”

“At the time, Palestinian villages had no walls or watchtowers, and they still do not have them today.

“People moved freely in and out, enjoying the view of villages along the road, as well as the food and water available for every passerby.

“Zionist settlements, on the contrary, religiously guarded their orchards and fields and perceived anyone touching them as robbers and terrorists. This is why, from the very beginning, they did not build normal human habitats, but bastions with walls and watchtowers – blurring the difference between civilians and soldiers in the settler community.”

“For a short moment, the Zionist settlements won the accolade of the socialist and communist movements around the world, simply because they were places where communism was unsuccessfully and fanatically experimented with. The nature of these settlements, however, tells us, from the very beginning, what Zionism meant to the land and its people.

“Whoever came as a Zionist, whether hoping to find an empty land, or determined to make it an empty land, was drafted into a settler military society that could only implement the dream of the empty land by sheer force.”

“Those who remained in historical Palestine continued to prove that the land was not empty and that the settlers needed to use force to achieve their goal of turning an Arab, Muslim and Christian Palestine into a European Jewish one.”

“With every passing year, more force needed to be used to achieve this European dream at the expense of the Palestinian people.”

“Billions and billions of American taxpayers’ money was, and is still needed to maintain the dream of the empty land of Palestine – and the relentless Zionist quest to realize it.

“The human cost paid by the Palestinians for this failed project has been enormous – and is around 100,000 to date.

“The number of wounded, traumatized Palestinians is so high that probably every Palestinian family has at least one member, whether a child, a woman or a man, who can be included in this list.

“The nation of Palestine – whose human capital was able to move economies and cultures around the Arab world – has been fragmented and prevented from exhausting this incredible potential for their own benefit.

“This is the background for the genocidal policy that Israel is now enacting in Gaza and for the unprecedented killing campaign in the West Bank.”

“In response to historical trauma,” wrote Israeli-American psychologist Yoav Litvin on December 21, “Jewish people have a deep fear of anti-Semitism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this fear, along with disdain for oppressors, led to the formation of autonomous Jewish self-defence groups in various geographies.

“Zionism, a European colonial movement, recognised the potential of this dynamic. It syncretised Jewish longing for safety and self-defence with White supremacist, messianic and fascistic ideologies. This synthesis birthed a new, nationalist Jewish identity that equates Jewish safety with the construction of an exclusivist homeland in Palestine through the displacement of the region’s Indigenous populations.

“Settler colonial endeavours typically depend on depicting the targeted territory as ‘uninhabited’, and its existing inhabitants as inhuman barbarians unworthy of any land. This portrayal allowed Zionists to displace the Indigenous population of Palestine without moral qualms, portraying the establishment of Israel not as the destruction of a people but as the construction of a ‘villa in the jungle’.

“For Israelis to break their addiction to aggression, they would need to go through a process of deprogramming and decolonisation. This would require them to embrace the truth about the history and nature of their country, commit to sincere accountability, recognise the humanity of Palestinians, and empathise with their suffering and plight.

“Once the oppressive structure, Zionism, is disassembled, it can be effectively dismantled, paving the way for a process of rehumanisation and reconciliation through the use of empathy. Liberation, reconciliation and an end to Israel’s genocidal violence can only be achieved within a steadfast and unwavering anti-Zionist framework that aligns with wider leftist, antiracist, anticolonial values.

“Dedicated to the late Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer.”

The photographs are by historic Gaza photographer Kegham Djeghalian. His grandson in an interview says Kegham travelled to Jerusalem as a toddler with other survivors of the Armenian massacre in 1915. In the early 1940s he moved to Gaza with his wife and established the studio Photo Kegham in 1944.

“He was not a photojournalist… He did not work for any publication. He just had this urge to document everything.”

“He loved Palestine… He loved Gaza. It was his home.

“Through word of mouth I met someone in London who is from Gaza and he happened to be the 12-year-old boy who was charged with actually transporting these negatives to Egypt. He told me my grandfather was extremely patriotic and a supporter of the Palestinian cause. He had even earned the nickname Al Musawer Al Fedai [The Guerrilla Photographer].”