Get Rid of Zionism


Yitzhak Laor - Haaretz

Had masses of Israelis had the sense to say that on the morning after the occupation, instead of choosing to ‘discover our undivided country,’ we would be in a different situation today.

The 45th year of occupation is now beginning. The depth of the entanglement, from which there is apparently no way out without bloodshed, is as great as the obedience of the intelligentsia: Just as European colonialism was collapsing once and for all, the local intelligentsia found a way to collaborate with the claims of Israel’s governments, leaving us today with both a right-wing coalition and a right-wing opposition.

Few people understood at the time that remaining in the territories in any fashion would give rise to a desire for control. The astute ones were Pinhas Lavon during his last lucid hours, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon momentarily, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

There were of course a handful of political parties – Rakah, the New Israeli Left and Matzpen. But in the center of the political map, those who argued in favor of withdrawal from all the territories came down to Prof. Jacob Talmon, Prof. Yehoshua Bar-Hillel, writer Amoz Oz and a few others. The vast majority of the intelligentsia trailed along behind the generals and the politicians. That’s how it is: Intellectuals work at honing the government’s arguments. Few of them dare to oppose it.

As a rule, arguments don’t play a central role in politics; they merely help the government implant itself in its citizens’ language. For example, the claim that Israel faced an existential threat in 1967 was a propaganda lie. It would have been possible to unravel the complicated situation caused by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, but Israel and the United States decided to exploit the Egyptian mistake.

Today, these things can be discussed in academic discourse. But political discourse, aided by the intelligentsia of that period, is exempt from questions – even about those thousands of graves from the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Moreover, the politicians and the intellectuals claimed that Israel, as a “victim of aggression,” had the right to alter its borders. But the main aggressor in that narrative was Egypt, and it got back all its land, up to the last grain of sand, in the peace treaty that followed the 1973 war. The legal argument was shelved.

There were also military arguments about “strategic borders,” and those were nonsense, too: No Israel Defense Forces general, either from that General Staff or those that followed, really believed in them, because the Yom Kippur War dealt Israel a harsh blow despite “defensible borders.” This truth also applies on the Golan Heights, to this very day.

So we are left with the West Bank, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead us with his dual rationale: This is the land of our forefathers, and also, Hamas will attack Ben-Gurion Airport. There is no connection between these two arguments. As a rule, dual arguments serve as props to bolster each other’s weakness. But the mixture of strategy and messianism explains the power Israeli politics has to drug its subjects.

The “Land of Israel” is a phantasm. Withdrawing from “parts of it” is presented as a “concession” even by supporters of the move. But the only concession we needed to make, even back in 1967, was giving up the messianic claim that this is our land, from the Bible, and therefore we have a right to it. In comparison with this claim, the Serbs, with their preoccupation over the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, are rational, secular people.

Life is in no need of “ancestral rights.” Most of us were born here. That has no connection with the Bible, which for the most part is a very nice book. It has no connection with the prayers of the religious. We don’t need religion, either as a menu in a restaurant or as a strategic analysis.

Had masses of Israelis had the sense to say that on the morning after the occupation, instead of choosing that of all moments – with the help of professors, poets and writers – to “discover our undivided country,” we would be in a different situation today. Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word. In any case, what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate, strategic relations with the U.S. and a huge army hungering to justify its existence.

If our fathers erred in their use of myth, we should part from it, for the sake of our sons and daughters. We don’t have to leave this place or give up our lives. But for their sake, we have to get rid of Zionism.

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