Monday, March 14, 2005

The political and ideological heritage and memory of statesmen and politicians can be a problematic subject, especially if the state decides to adopt and finance it, and even more if the person's heritage involved controversial or outright reprehensible actions and ideas. In today's Ha'Aretz we find an interesting article about a bill proposing to erect a memorial for Rehavam Ze'evi z"l, the man who introduced the term 'transfer' into Israeli politics, and who is the only Israeli politician murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Ironically enough, today the term 'transfer' is used by many political soulmates of 'Ghandi' to give a negative connotation to the evacuation of Jewish families out of settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. That the bill is supported by 70 MKs should not surprise us. What is surprising, though, is the fact that so many of the so-called Left were among its supporters. Just to get an idea of parliamentary logics, and of how members of parliament spend our tax money by studying the subjects they are supposed to vote on, here is a quote from the article: Deputy Minister Orit Noked (Labor) said that she "is in favor of anything that preserves and commemorates things associated with a love of the Land of Israel, and I know that Rehavam Ze'evi very much loved the Land of Israel. I made an absolute distinction between the person's political opinions and the content of the bill." Asked if an additional research institute on the Land of Israel was needed, and if this was not a waste of public funds, Noked said, "I admit that I did not delve too deeply into this question."
To me personally it seems that most of the centers named after illustrious statesmen and politicians are a waste of public funds, the main goal of which is to provide nicely paid moonlighting jobs for political friends. But in the case of Ze'evi, I think that the racist ideas which made him into much more than just another controversial public figure should preclude the use of public money for anything more than a state ceremony in remembrance of his murder, and possibly a small monument near or inside the Hyatt hotel, where he was murdered. I agree with most of what Meir Pa'il ( and Yossi Sarid ) say(s) in the article:
Historian Meir Pa'il, who served in the Knesset as a representative of Moked and then Sheli, said that the mere submission of the bill "is very definite proof that a fascist right is rising in our midst.
What are the life's work and heritage of Ze'evi that the bill is immortalizing?
The Greater Land of Israel, with `blood and fire and columns of smoke,' and the Sons of Ishmael, who have the legal standing of a mob. If they stay, they have no rights. If they are wise guys - they are expelled. When you gain control on the ground, if it is possible to take advantage of the tumult and expel as many as possible, then even better. Gandhi's heritage is, I would say, a fascist, chauvinist, Zionist heritage. It is a classic example of the sort of intolerant beliefs that could be found in the big, wide world among fascist Nazi elements," responded Pa'il.
But Ze'evi spoke of "voluntary transfer."
"There's no such thing as `voluntary transfer.' That is demagoguery. There isn't a single Arab in our region who would be willing to do `voluntary transfer,' " Pa'il said. Pa'il said that Ze'evi "died like an irresponsible person, who despite his opinion goes to stay in an hotel close to the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, without taking the trouble to protect himself, to see to it that he is secure. Such a man, with these opinions, should have been careful." Pa'il said he finds no parallels between Ze'evi and Rabin, calling them "two opposites." "During his term as prime minister, Rabin succeeded in making a real push toward peace with Jordan and the Palestinians. That is why he was murdered. And if there was anything wrong about the Rabin affair, it is those who did not guard him in an adequate fashion," Pa'il said. He said that Ze'evi, on the other hand, "is a negative national figure and military figure. A nationalist and a brutal racist of the first rank. So in my opinion, establishing an institution named after him would be another indication of an extremely severe moral decline."

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