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Over the weekend, one of my friends from high school, a Harvard graduate, posted to Instagram an image of Hamas terrorists climbing atop a commandeered Israeli tank. Superimposed on the image was a quote by Frantz Fanon: “Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.” He might as well have used an image of the mangled body of one of the many women raped and tortured by Gazan men—it would have been more honest. 

My friend is far from the only American elite seduced by Fanon, the Marxist grandfather of postcolonial theory, into believing that the rape and indiscriminate slaughter of civilians is justified, necessary, and cathartic when done in the name of “decolonization.” While Fanon’s animus for colonialism stemmed from his experience growing up in the French colony of Martinique, his writing has provided inspiration for national liberation movements across the world, and has become integral to Western intellectualization of anti-Israel terrorism. Peruse social media, and you will see quotes by Fanon from academics relishing violence: “Colonialism is not a machine capable of thinking, a body endowed with reason. It is naked violence and only gives in when confronted with greater violence.” “Decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men.” Or, as one Somali-American writer put it: “What did y'all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? Losers.”

She is right. Decolonization is liberation through naked violence. In The Wretched of the Earth—published in 1961, the year of Fanon's death, and for decades treated as canonical in humanities departments across the country—Fanon describes colonialism as the complete imposition of violence by the settler on the natives, who are given a “colonial identity” and thereby dehumanized. Colonialism “is the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the native.” The only way out, the only way to become human again, is through violence. Through violence, “the native discovers that his life, his breath, his beating heart are the same as those of the settler. He finds out that the settler’s skin is not of any more value than a native’s skin.” “Violence . . . frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” Decolonization challenges the colonial arrangement through cathartic violence against the settlers, dehumanizing them in return. According to Fanon, the essence of decolonization’s inversion of order might be found “in the well-known words: ‘The last shall be first and the first last.’ Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence.” The words of our Lord must be instituted by “searing bullets and bloodstained knives.” 

The left’s embrace of Fanon reveals the consequences of abandoning our Christian heritage. Gone is the talk of human rights, the equal dignity of Palestinians and Israelis, and the desire for a practical, enduring peace. Instead, Fanon has seduced the left into embracing resentment and looking upon whomever they deem the colonizer as a subject to be overcome through genocide. There is no good here—only will to power. Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups, for example, channel Fanon when they write: “We . . . hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Or take Columbia Students for Palestine, who wrote in response to the bloodshed: “Despite the odds against them, Palestinians launched a counter-offensive against their settler-colonial oppressor.” Our future policymakers think the rape of young women at a rave was cathartic. Our academics think murdering whole families is liberating. 

When Hamas kills and tortures civilians, they do not do so because they’ve read Fanon, or because they want to secure peace and justice for all. Hamas kills Israelis because Hamas does not accept the political equality of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. The existence of an Israeli state brings shame to Islamic fundamentalists. The only way to purge this shame is to cleanse Israel from the Earth. Hamas and their allies usually galvanize support for this aim using the traditional Western vocabulary of freedom and rights. Hence, “from the river to the Sea, Palestine will be free [from Israelis].” But for leftists saturated in postcolonial theory, such euphemisms become superfluous. Postcolonial theory induces them to be activist-scholars committed, unconditionally, to the liberation of marginalized groups. So long as Hamas is the “weaker group,” postcolonialism will side with them. While these scholars may not participate directly in Hamas’s violence, they celebrate it because the underdog can do no wrong. Even genocide is allowed. 

Do not be fooled. Postcolonialism will be used to justify violence in your own neighborhood. Indeed it already has been. Remember the summer of 2020, when you were told that “riots are the voice of the unheard” or that looting liberates the oppressed? If your business is looted and your home burned to the ground, the response on the left may very well be some version of “Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.” Postcolonialism must be rebuked for what it is: the politics of Cain, the desire to make the first last by meeting injury with even greater injury. It is the ideology of anti-Christ. 

The only way forward is to begin anew with the words of our Lord: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Politics begins with the desire to live well together, to establish peace. Force is often necessary to secure that order. The violence advocated by Fanon, and practiced by Hamas, doesn’t establish an order but destroys everything in its path, including its perpetrators. While no human peace is perfect, we must insist that coexistence is possible. We must insist on the basics of Christian reality in the face of barbarism. We must again pronounce: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And we must heed Paul’s warning: “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:14-15).

Stiven Peter is an M.A. student at Reformed Theological Seminary-NYC.

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Image by D. Benjamin Miller via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

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