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Zionist Dream or Zionist Nightmare - The future is up to us


We peace folk have been busy trying to get the the smirks off our faces following the recent disengagement and the apparent demise of the Greater Israel movement and militant religious Zionism. Our joy may be premature.

The public commitment to peace and coexistence with Palestinian Arabs by Ariel Sharon in his speech no doubt marked a watershed in Israeli political life, and in the direction of Zionist endeavor. However, we aren't out of the woods. Before his assassination, Itzhak Rabin vowed to change Israeli national priorities - from settlement construction and occupation to constructing a better Israeli society inside Israel. It is too early to say that we are, at last, fulfilling the heritage of Yitshak Rabin. In fact, we are very far from it. The future depends on four factors:

The Palestinians
The Israeli government
The relgious Zionists
The Zionist left and progressive supporters of Israel

If the Palestinians return to violence in the spring, as many predict, there is little doubt that Israeli public opinion will move right. The right will hold up the violence as "proof" that disengagement does not work. Netanyahu and his supporters will triumph in the Likud primaries, and everything will be back to abnormal as usual.

The Israeli government at present is apparently committed to do doing as little as possible in any direction, with a general eye to maintaining and strengthening the settlements in the West Bank, and especially, but not only, an unspecified group of "settlement blocs" that are supposedly going to be annexed to Israel in a future settlement. This suggests that the government will want to direct national energies in the coming years to settlement in the West Bank rather than to development within Israel, and it will allocate defense resources to occupation rather than basic security needs.

The extreme religious right, which had really hoped apparently, to stop the disengagement, suffered a serious blow. They may be down, but they are not out. Some on the religious right have called for a moderate soul-searching revision of their goals. However, a hard core of revanchist fanatics have an entirely different plan: religious Zionists will take over the leadership of the Zionist movement and of Israel. Moshe Feiglin promised:

Either they are going to destroy us and it will not stop at the Green Line or we must take the reins and be the ones giving the orders to the generals.
If we create a real Jewish and faithful alternative for leadership in Israel - it will send a shock through Israeli society. It will wipe the smile of the faces of the self-haters who think they have buried us in the sand of Gush Katif. They will pale at the sight of us rising like a phoenix from the sand of Gush Katif to the leadership of the State of Israel.

We can imagine what such a country would look like: a vision of Zionism that would make the worst caricatures of Counterpunch and al-Jazeerah seem mild by comparison. The dream state of Noam Federman and David WIlder: Springtime for Feiglin and the settlers, the "real" Jews, winter for all of us fake Jews and everyone else.

It can happen, because the Zionist left and progressive "camps" in Israel and in Jewish communities abroad have abdicated leadership of the Zionist movement by default. True, "the Second Intifadeh" stabbed the peace camp and the Israeli left in the back, but we didn't have to stand against the wall and drive the knife further in. The "progressive camp" in its different factions, made several mistakes.

The moderate left lost faith. The Intifadeh did not challenge any of the basic truths, however unpopular they might have seemed. The future of Israel and the future of Zionism still requires peace in the Middle East. There is no other way, either for the Jews and Arabs of Israel or the the Arabs of Palestine. Instead of hammering home this message, day and night, the Labor party left to Ariel Sharon the task of announcing Israeli support for coexistence in the UN General assembly.

The remainder of the peace camp was often very active, but not always active in the right direction. The last five years have not been pleasant for Israelis or for Diaspora Jews. It is all very well to decry the occupation and the excesses of the IDF, but since the fall of 2000, the situation changed. Since the Intifadeh, Israel and the Jewish people have been subject to an unrelenting campaign frankly designed to delegitimize Zionism and Israel, to delegitimize Jewish nationalism, and to legitimize "terror" as the only way to fight the occupation. The Palestinians found plenty of supporters, especially abroad, and some supported them only too well. US university campuses were rife with anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The Jewish people, especially those abroad, required leadership in difficult times. Who provided it? Who protested when Israeli leaders were depicted as baby eaters and IDF soldiers were shown crucifying Palestinians in cartoons?

Virtually the only visible groups taking the part of Israel against these attacks were those identified with the right. How many "progressive Zionists" protested when anti-Zionists compared the IDF operation in Jenin to the Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto? When suicide bombers were exploding almost every other day in Israel, the activities of "progressive" "supporters" of Israel abroad seemed to be confined exclusively to descriptions of the supposed genocide that was being planned by the Israeli government against Palestinians, protests against "the Apartheid Wall," plans to bring home setlers, and lobbying the US government to be less pro-Israel.

Opposition to terror, fighting one-state solutions and objecting to accusations that the "Zionists" control the press and own the banks did not have to become the exclusive province of those who champion the Greater Israel movement, but for a very long time it was.

There were no rallies against terror by Zionist peace groups. Zionist peace groups didn't protest campus anti-Semtism and "one-state" rallies. There were few attempts to counter the delegitimization of Zionism. In fact, Zionism discretely became a dirty word, to be hidden in favor of "support of Israel" or "two state solution" or some other euphemism.

Of course, the Jewish right, especially in the Diaspora. capitalized on the situation to delegitimize the left and stigmatize us as traitors, but we can't blame them for taking advantage of the opportunity, can we?

The late and lamented labor Zionist movement drew its strength in the Diaspora from its loyal defense of Zionist principles in times of crisis. When "progressive" Zionist groups in the Diaspora abdicated the defense of Israel, they abdicated the possibility of Zionist leadership. They crossed the line from "loyal opposition" to "outside the camp." In so doing, they lost the ability to be effective spokespersons for peace in the Zionist community abroad or in Israel. Surely, no Palestinian Arabs, in the Middle East or the USA, would be silly enough to follow a Palestinian group that made up tall stories about Palestinian atrocities. How can we expect any Zionists abroad to support movements amd "peace" groups that invent stories about Israeli plans to annex 60% of the West Bank?

Even in less troubled times, being "against" is not usually a sufficient program to attract support, and there have hardly ever been normal times in the existence of Israel or the history of the Zionist movement. Israeli politics, and Zionist politics in the Diaspora, have always been ideologically based. Each group succeeded to the extent that it offered a positive and more or less coherent ideological vision, both for citizens of Israel and for Jews in the Diaspora. Progressive Zionism has ceased to do so. "Let's end the occupation and then everything will be fine" is not a serious plan. What is left of our social vision has been appropriated by demagogues. What is left of our vision for a secular and progressive society has been appropriated by Arab parties and Tomi Lapid's Shinui party. These may be left alone in the breach to struggle against the rising phoenix of the Feiglins. Right now, Israeli radio is broadcasting advertisements for Yom Kippur observance:

In one radio commercial a young man recounts his positive experience last Yom Kippur with the liturgy and prayer.

"As a result of the prayers I experienced a feeling of belonging", he declares.

It won't be long before they broadcast the testimonial from the fellow whose knit Kippah (NRP trademark - a knit skullcap) saved him from sunstroke. Remember that the Israel Labor party is in this government. They don't seem to object. Neither did Mr. Beilin. Only MK Poraz of Shinui objected and that was quickly shot down with an explanation that Israel is not like America. It is a "Jewish democracy" whatever that might mean.

The Israeli "left" makes deals, looks the other way at religious coercion and the continued construction of illegal settlements. The latter are most convenient as subjects for Peace Now protests that embarrass Israel, but they are never the subject of actual political action. If the Labor party wanted to do so, they could get those settlements removed, by making it a condition of continued support for the government. They could demand a freeze of settlement construction. They could demand real changes in the route of the security fence, instead of leaving the peace movements to use it as a means of embarrassing Israel abroad. They could demand real changes in the budget to redress inequalities in the "Arab sector" as it is called, and in development towns, instead of cosmetics.

Do we believe in sodeletedm and social justice or do we support capitalism? Or do we believe in believing in sodeletedm and practicing capitalism? Do we find our role models in pioneers, workers and simple folk, or in Tel-Aviv corporate lawyers and finaglers? Yossi Beilin is the head of the Meretz or Yahad or Ya'ad party - whatever it is called today. What does he look like to you? A symbol of working class solidarity? A paragon of pioneering Israel? A man of the soil? What does he stand for? Geneva Accords. Not as a means to peace, but as an end in itself apparently. Meretz is the party that was first and foremost for ending the occupation, but when Sharon miraculously proposed to get out of Gaza, Beilin at first opposed it! Why? Because it wasn't in accordance with Beilin's plan. What else does Yossi Beilin stand for? Who knows?

We ourselves do not believe in our leaders. Shimon Peres is a loser. Ehud Barak revealed himself to be a racist who thinks Arabs are congenital liars. The best that they could say for themselves since Rabin was assassinated was "we are less bad than the alternative" and "vote for us because you have no choice." So I voted. "Ze lo tov, aval zeh mah yesh" - it's no good, but that is what their is. That is not necessarily an inspiring political platform.

The so called "left" aren't competing with moral and political giants. Benjamin Netanyahu is not a paragon of statesmenship, rectitude and vision, and neither is Ariel Sharon or Moshe Feiglin. At least however, they have an idea of what they want, and their actions are consistent with their ideas. Bibi Netanyahu says he is for free-market capitalism, and he helps the rich folks, so they support him. Feiglin says he is for occupation and greater Israer, and he tries to help the settlers, so they support him. Sharon is for Sharon and his friends, and he helps them, so they support him.

The so-called leftist Zionist parties have high ideals, but the deeds don't match the ideals. They alienate the bigots by talking about Arab equality, but they can't get the Arab vote because they don't do anything about Arab equality. They alienate the orthodox by talking about secular society, but they can't get the votes of those opposed to religious coercion because they support the Tal law and don't support civil marriage. The Labor party alienates the rich folks by talking about workers' rights and social justice, but they can't get the support of poor people because all they ever did to further workers' rights is talk. They antagonize the settlers by talking about peace and ending the occupation, but they didn't do anything about that either when they had the chance.

It is not enough to say that the Geneva Accord is a good peace plan. If the overwhelming majority of Palestinians are opposed to it, it is probably unrealistic. It is not a pragmatic plan for now, though it might be a framework for the future. If we think the Geneva Accord is a fair solution, we have to show how to create the conditions that will make it acceptable to both sides and implementable. If it is not implementable, then we have to find another way to achieve peace.

Feiglin and his friends may implement their vision: Israel in the hands of irredentist religious and political fanatics, praising God and passing the ammunition; the dreaded phoenix of fascism rising from the ashes of Israeli political life. If it happens, we can't blame it all on them. To paraphrase Ben-Gurion, "Never mind what they do, what matters is what we are going to do."

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 2 comments

search your souls for TRUTH it is the only thing that can set you as free as the amount of freedom you impose on others. You decide, Your maker will Judge!
Blessed be the peacemakers of the world. A POX on the rest.

Posted by I am who am @ 10/10/2005 11:47 PM CST

Israel's only path is to suck it up and grow up to understand that it will continue to lose it's youth to the diaspora or apathy unless it embraces its biblical heritage as it's only ligitimate reason to have a state in the middle east.
Reintroduce this truth into the public school system, and in twenty years there will be a prouder and more active youth, less confused and more sympathetic to the Orange section of the population. This will bring about more unity and a stronger moral message to the arabs and the outside world.
We should spend more time looking for ways to come together, than for ways to point fingers and set us apart. Surely divisiveness leads to weakness, and unity to strength.
We should not confuse freedom of religion (seperation of church and state) and freedom FROM religion (a rejection out of hand of G-d's moral teachings).
Any battle requires some faith, and we can be proud of our brief history from 1948, but we should look to strengthen this pride by bringing our wonderful biblical history back into our culture.
The bottom line is we will have to choose between living under a coerced Islamic Sharia Law or living under a freedom of choice Judaic Law.
Remember and take note: the Koran spells out quite clearly the concept of Dar al Harb which means that Islamic people have an obligation to war against any nation in the world whose rule of law is not Sharia Law (fundamentalist Islamic Law); ther is no difference between the war against Israel by the so called palestinians, and the war against the wider world (9/11, 7/7 in London, Madrid, Bali, Istanbul, Kenya, etc); until the world recognises this and gets the PA to stamp out hate speech and false teachings from its schools, media and mosques, we will need to make the Judaism choice even more imperative to survive.

Posted by Dar al Harb @ 10/12/2005 03:36 AM CST

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