Thursday, March 18, 2004

Also in today’s Ha’Aretz, on the same page we find two articles on two totally opposed – and, one might argue, mutually exclusive – versions of modern Zionism. First there is a portrait of Yossi Beilin, the diplomatic intellectual or intellectual diplomat who has become the leader of what – with Labor not really being leftwing anymore, nor conducting any serious opposition to Sharon’s non-policies – is supposed to be Israel’s main left-wing opposition party, Yahad ( Social Democratic Israel ). As much as I admire Mr Beilin’s enthusiasm, intellectual integrity and seriousness, he seems to have about the popular appeal of his mentor Shimon Peres. He is a marvelous statesman, admired and welcome in many of the world’s capitals, but in order to really improve things here we are desperately in need of someone who can convince the Israeli electorate, and unfortunately Yossi Beilin just will never be able to pull that one off. Then another article tells us about the identity crisis within the Israeli Right, following the opposition of many towards Sharon’s apparent plans regarding the future of Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the Westbank. Some of the most fascinating – because eclectic – and frightening views on democracy and the rule of law that I ever read are presented by good old Elyakim Haetzni of Kiryat Arba: "It's not enough to define the transfer, the expulsion of Jews from their homes, as a crime. [...] If it's a crime, that crime cannot be accepted, and it makes no difference by what majority the decision to carry it out is made. Even if the Knesset decides by a majority, and even if a national referendum decides by a majority of 99 percent to carry out this thing, to remove me from my home, this isn't only a crime, it's first and foremost a blow to democracy. One cannot decide to carry out a pogrom, and this is a pogrom: We are taking our soldiers and policemen to carry out a pogrom, to destroy houses, to drag people out of their homes, to remove the bones of the dead from the cemeteries. Democracy cannot do such things according to the rules of democracy itself. A local newspaperman came to me and asked me, `And what if there's a majority?' I told him: `We are five in a boat and there's no food. We're going to die of starvation, and decide by a referendum, four against one, to eat you. Does that obligate you? Will you still say `democracy'?" Haetzni shows once again how the hysterical use of Holocaust-related imagery delutes the impact of the vocabulary that historians and survivors use to describe the atrocities committed against the Jews in the years 1933-45. That abuse makes it easier for our enemies to exploit the vocabulary for their own particular causes. In addition, this spokesman for the settlers associates the young men and women who defend our very existence with those who perpetrate pogroms. Just as any comparison between the plight of the Palestinians after 1948 and the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe is ridiculous, unhistorical and morally wrong, so is associating the possible evacuation of settlements - legal or illegal - by a democratically elected Israeli government with some of the most painful chapters in Jewish history. At the end of that same article professor Aryeh Eldad of the National Union says what in fact already is obvious to us: political Zionism is in a very, very deep crisis ( he says “bankrupt”, but I refuse to give up all hope of recovery ). For him the only alternative is religious Zionism, “ which says the Land of Israel is a value in itself rather than a tool ”. I am very much afraid that professor Eldad has a point. All those for whom Zionism is much more than a Jewish-spiritual version of Blut-und-Boden should start seriously working towards creating and upholding parallel, viable versions of an ideology that embraces Jewish nationalism while working towards a true liberation of us as a people, a civilization, and a religion.

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