Why I Stopped Being a Zionist
PALESTINE - ISRAEL, 28 May 2018
The breaking point for me in relation to Zionism came in the beginning of 1997. The Israeli army demolished the houses and evacuated Palestinian-Bedouin inhabitants of the Jahalin tribe in order to expand the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. This was during the period of the Oslo peace process. At a time when most of us were under the illusion that Israel had turned toward the path of peace, the state took advantage of the inattention to do the thing that most characterizes the Zionist-Arab\Palestinian conflict – it expelled people from their homes and lands because they were Palestinians in order to settle other people in their place, because they were Jews. I participated in the struggle against this crime already during the time of Rabin’s Labor Party government. The evacuation was carried out during Netanyahu’s first stint as prime minister.
Every time I visit El Araqib, a Bedouin village which the Israeli government has destroyed more than 120 times so that a forest can be planted on its ruins, my anti-Zionist stance is reinforced.
Every time I visit Umm el Hiran, where the Israeli government is busy expelling people from their homes and village because they are Bedouins, in order to settle other people there because they are Jews, the anti-Zionist stance I have developed is reinforced. And to my horror, there are plans to do the same to more Bedouin villages in the Negev. In the occupied territories as well, I am continually confronted with efforts to expel Palestinians in order to expand Jewish settlements.
I grew up on a kibbutz founded, among others, by my parents, who were ardent Zionists. In the Jewish history classes I took in school I noticed a motif that constantly repeated itself: People were persecuted not because of their actions, but because they were Jews living as a minority among other nations. The logical conclusion was that Jews needed to live in a state of their own, the State of Israel. And yes, until today I agree with the Zionists that the historical experience of the Jews living as a minority failed, and that accordingly the Jews need a state of their own.
The first argument that I remember having with my classmates was around the question how we as Jews, who suffered from continuous persecution as a minority, can persecute the Arab minority that lives among us. With the passing years, as my knowledge of what was happening to the Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories widened, this question became more acute.
This was a long and painful process. The transition from acknowledging Zionism to opposing Zionism was not easy for me then, and it is not easy today. I can’t ignore the terrible history of my people. But against this stand moral and existential questions. The moment the Zionists got power in their hands, they behaved just like the persecutors of the Jews in the past. The moment they have the power they ignore every moral consideration, and the only thing that can prevent them from carrying out crimes against minorities and occupied populations is if enough pressure and threats are applied such that the price they will be forced to pay is too high.
And there is the existential issue: Today in Israel, more than any other place in the world, there is a huge effort to hurt us and eradicate our existence, because we are Jews. And this effort does not stem from anti-Semitism, it stems from the past and present actions of Israel. Israel, because of its actions, has turned itself into the most dangerous place for Jewish existence!
Sometimes I think that my activities for human rights and peace come from my desire to be a Zionist again.
Amos Gvirtz is founder of Israelis and Palestinians for Nonviolence, was chairperson of the Committee against House Demolitions, and a peace and human rights activist. He is a former Israeli representative to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and wrote the book, Don’t Say We Did Not Know (working on the translation to English).
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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 May 2018.
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