Israel must choose
between right and wrong
foundation of Zionism is crumbling
Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path
and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer.
Israeli nation today
rests on a scaffolding of corruption and on foundations of oppression
and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already
on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last
Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will
be a different sort, strange and ugly,There is
time to change
course, but not much.
What is needed is a new vision of a just
society and the political will to implement it. Nor is this merely an
internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews, for whom Israel is a central
pillar of their identity, must pay heed and speak out. If the pillar
collapses, the upper floors will come crashing down.
The opposition does not
exist, and the government coalition, with Ariel Sharon at its head,
claims the right to remain silent. In a nation of chatterboxes,
everyone has suddenly fallen dumb, because there's nothing left to
say. We live in a thunderously failed reality. Yes, we have revived
the Hebrew language, created a marvelous theater and a strong
national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are
traded on the NASDAQ. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish
people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new
weaponry, computer security programs or anti missile
missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we
It turns out that the
2,000 year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of
settlements run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are
deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking
justice cannot survive. More and more, Israelis are coming to
understand this as they ask their children where they expect to live
in 25 years. Children who are honest admit, to their parents' shock,
that they do not know. The countdown to the end of Israeli society
It is very comfortable
to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra.
The biblical landscape is charming. From the window, you can gaze
through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation.
Traveling on the fast highway that takes you from Ramot on
Jerusalem's northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a
trip that skirts barely a half mile west of the Palestinian
roadblocks, it's hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the
despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded
roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the
This cannot work. Even
if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger
forever, it won't work. A structure built on human callousness will
inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism's
superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding
hall. Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars
below are collapsing.
We have grown accustomed
to ignoring the suffering of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder
we don't hear the cries of the abused woman living next door or the
single mother struggling to support her children in dignity. We don't
even bother to count the women murdered by their husbands.
Israel, having ceased to
care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised
when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers
of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places
of recreation because their own lives are torture. They spill their
own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites because
they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.
We could kill a thousand
ringleaders and engineers a day and nothing would be solved because
the leaders come up from below from the wells of hatred and
anger, from the "infrastructures" of injustice and moral
If all this were
inevitable, divinely ordained and immutable, I would be silent. But
things could be different, and so crying out is a moral imperative.
Here is what the prime
minister should say to the people:
for illusions is over. The time for decisions has arrived. We
love the entire land of our forefathers, and in some other time we
would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The
Arabs, too, have dreams and needs
Between the Jordan and
the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so,
fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without
paying a price. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an
Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy
in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights
for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the
territories and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish
state not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish.
Do you want the greater
Land of Israel? No problem. Abandon democracy. Let's institute an
efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and
detention villages. Qalqilya Ghetto and Gulag Jenin.
Do you want a Jewish
majority? No problem. Either put the Arabs on railway cars, buses,
camels and donkeys and expel them en masse or separate ourselves from
them absolutely, without tricks and gimmicks. There is no middle
path. We must remove all the settlements all of them
and draw an internationally recognized border between the Jewish
national home and the Palestinian national home. The Jewish Law of
Return will apply only within our national home, and their right of
return will apply only within the borders of the Palestinian state.
Do you want democracy?
No problem. Either abandon the greater Land of Israel, to the last
settlement and outpost, or give full citizenship and voting rights to
everyone, including Arabs. The result, of course, will be that those
who did not want a Palestinian state alongside us will have one in
our midst, via the ballot box.
That's what the prime
minister should say to the people. He should present the choices
forthrightly: Jewish racialism or democracy. Settlements or hope for
both peoples. False visions of barbed wire, roadblocks and suicide
bombers, or a recognized international border between two states and
a shared capital in, Jerusalem.
But there is no prime
minister in Jerusalem. The disease eating away at the body of Zionism
has already attacked the head.
David Ben Gurion sometimes
erred, but he remained straight as an arrow. When Menachem Begin was
wrong, nobody impugned his motives. No longer. Polls published
recently show that a majority of Israelis do not believe in the
personal integrity of the prime minister yet they trust his political
leadership. In other words, Israel's current prime minister
personally embodies both halves of the curse: suspect personal morals
and open disregard for the law combined with the brutality of
occupation and the trampling of any chance for peace. This is our
nation; these are its leaders. The inescapable conclusion is that the
Zionist revolution is dead.
Why, then, is the
opposition so quiet? Perhaps because ... they are tired, or because
some would like to join the government at any price, even the price
of participating in the sickness. But while they dither, the forces
of good lose hope.
This is the time for
clear alternatives. Anyone who declines to present a clear-cut
position black or white is, in effect, collaborating in
the decline. It is not a matter of Labor vs. Likud or right vs. left,
but of right vs. wrong, acceptable vs. unacceptable. The
vs. the lawbreakers. What's needed is not a political replacement for
the Sharon government but a vision of hope, an alternative to the
destruction of Zionism and its values by the deaf, dumb and callous.
Israel's friends abroad Jewish and non Jewish
alike, presidents and prime
ministers, rabbis and lay people should choose as well.
must reach out and help Israel to navigate the road map toward our
national destiny as a light unto the nations and a society of peace,
justice and equality.
This article, which
appeared in English in The Farward, was adapted by Avraham Burg from
an article that appeared in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot and
was translated by J.J. Goldberg.