Zionism’s dying – a change in Israeli perspective?

By Ray Bergmann 13/08/08

Israeli historian Ze’ev Sternhell, described in The Founding Myths of Israel (published in Hebrew in 1995 and in English in 1998), the motive of Israel’s leaders for retaining the conquests of 1967 as “imperial expansion”, and he decried the Israeli occupation and Israel’s nationalistic settlement of the West Bank as a major impediment to “Israel’s ability to develop as a free and open society.”

In this book he claimed that, in the Oslo agreements, the Jewish national movement had implicitly recognized the equal rights of the Palestinian people to freedom and independence” and he warned of “the moral and political price Israeli society will have to pay to overcome the resistance that the hard core of the settlers is bound to show to any just and reasonable solution.” (Z. Sternhell, 1998, The Founding Myths of Israel, ISBN 0-691-01694-1, pp. 339-345)
In Ze’ev Sternhell’s latest essay Zionism’s dying between Hebron and Yitzhar (published by Ha’aretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009632.html on 8/08/2008) he quotes Berl Katznelson in 1929 justifiying the early Zionist eterprise as a “conquest enterprise” in which “all means were permitted to carry out the task” to ensure the survival of the Jewish settlement in Palestine.” In his book Sternhell had described Jewish nationalist aspirations as legitimate in its early days because of the threat of death hanging over the Jews in the first half of the 20th century which impelled the drive to establish a refuge for the Jewish people preferably in Palestine which had always been focussed by Jewish religious aspirations. (Z. Sternhell, 1998, The Founding Myths of Israel, ISBN 0-691-01694-1, p.338)
But in Zionism’s dying between Hebron and Yitzhar he criticises Israel’s subsequent imperial expansion as “an ugly and violent form of colonial occupation: the authoritarian regime in the territories, the creation of two legal systems, the placing of the army and police at the service of the settlement movement, the robbing of Palestinian lands. These all symbolize not the fulfillment of Zionism but rather its burial. It is there, between Hebron and Yitzhar, that the settlements are burying the democratic Jewish state.”
Stenhell describes in the Ha’aretz article how this came about.
“The nationalist-messianist fervor and the desire to end the War of Independence merged into the momentum for occupation: The entire right and most of the left … bear joint responsibility for the gradual creation of the disaster in which Israeli society is wallowing.”
“Since it was impossible to take control of the lands legally, a mafia-like culture of theft, lies and deception developed in the territories, in which the various government authorities are still wallowing, from ministers in tailored suits to the last of the policemen sweating on the highways. Contrary to the rules of international and Israeli law, contrary to elementary rules of justice, contrary to all logic and every genuine Israeli interest, broad areas were confiscated for the sake of the settlers and huge sums were poured in.”
“When the public finally realized that if the Jewish national movement does not absorb universal foundations of human rights, democracy and the rule of law it will doom itself to destruction, a force had already arisen over the Green Line that now threatens to drown all of Israel. Thus a minority took control of the fate of the entire society and held it hostage, due both to the left’s ideological impotence and a lack of character, determination and leadership. If society does not find the emotional strength to remove the noose of the settlements, nothing but a sad memory will remain of the Jewish state as it still exists.”

Whether Sternhell’s realizations are the harbinger of a change in the perspective of the Israeli public can be surmised from the comments at the bottom of the article at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009632.html – a very curious mix of supportive realism and antagonistic hyperbole. I’ll go with comment 107 by Margot Salom: “its really good to hear about the imminent death of Zionism – let it be quick and allow Jewish ethics to return to Israel.”

See http://all-born-equal-rights.newsvine.com/_news/2008/08/12/1743457-zionisms-dying-a-change-in-israeli-perspective-by-ray-bergmann-130808#comments

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