Viser arkivet for stikkord zionism

Uri Avnery: Israel´s Salvation Front

Uri Avnery
March 28, 2015

THE 2015 election was a giant step towards the self-destruction of Israel.

The decisive majority has voted for an apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in which democracy will slowly disappear.

The decision is not yet final. Israeli democracy has lost a battle. It has not yet lost the war.

If it does not draw the lessons, it will lose the war, too.

All the justifications and alibis of the Israeli left are useless. It’s the bottom line that counts.

The country is in existential danger. Not from the outside, but from the inside.

An Israel Salvation Front is needed now.

We have no other country.

FIRST OF ALL, the full extent of the debacle must be acknowledged and full responsibility must be taken.

The leaders who lost must go. In the struggle for the life of the state, there is no second opportunity.

The struggle between Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu was a match between a lightweight boxer and a heavyweight.

The idea of a National Union government must be rejected and roundly condemned. In such a government, the Labor Party would again play the contemptible role of a fig leaf for the policy of occupation and oppression.

Now a new generation of leaders is needed, young, energetic and original.

THE ELECTION pitilessly exposed the deep chasms between the different sectors of Israeli society: Orientals, Ashkenazis, Arabs, “Russian”, orthodox, religious and more.

The Salvation Front must encompass all sectors.

Every sector has its own culture, its own traditions, its own faith(s). All must be respected. Mutual; respect is the foundation of the Israeli partnership.

The foundation of the Salvation Front needs a new authentic leadership that must emerge from all sectors.

The State of Israel belongs to all its citizens. No sector has exclusive ownership of the state.

The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us.

The salvation of the state must be based on a return to equality as a basic value. A reality in which hundreds of thousands of children live under the poverty line is intolerable.

The income of the upper 0.01%, which reaches to the heavens, must be brought down to a reasonable level. The income of the lowest 10% must be raised to a humane level.

THE ALMOST total separation between the Jewish and the Arab parts of Israeli society is a disaster for both and for the state.

The Salvation Front must be based on both peoples. The chasm between them must be eliminated, for the good of both.

Empty phrases about equality and fraternity are not enough. They lack credibility.

There must come into being a sincere alliance between the democratic forces on both sides, not only in words but in actual daily cooperation in all areas.

This cooperation must find expression in frameworks of political partnership, joint struggles and regular joint meetings in all areas, based on respect for the uniqueness of each partner.

Only a permanent joint struggle can save Israeli democracy and the state itself.

THE HISTORIC conflict between the Zionist movement and the Palestinian Arab national movement now threatens both peoples.

The country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is the homeland of the two peoples. No war, oppression or uprising will change this basic fact.

If this conflict continues without end, it will endanger the existence of both peoples.

The one and only solution was and is their co-existence in two sovereign states: a free and independent State of Palestine side by side with the State of Israel.

The two-state solution is not a recipe for separation and divorce. On the contrary, it is a recipe for close co-existence.

The 1967 borders, with mutual agreed changes, are the basis of peace.

The co-existence of the two states in the joint homeland does necessitate frameworks of partnership at the highest level, as well as open borders for the movement of people and goods. It also needs solid security arrangements for the good of both peoples.

Jerusalem, open and unified, must be the capital of both states.

The painful tragedy of the Palestinian refugees must find its just solution, agreed upon by the two sides. This solution will include return to the Palestinian state, a limited symbolic return to Israel and the payment of generous compensation by international funds to all.

Israel and Palestine shall work together so as to achieve a return of Jewish property left in Arab countries or the payment of generous compensation.

The State of Palestine will keep its affinity with the Arab world. The state of Israel will keep its affinity with the Jewish people in the world. Each of the two states will have sole responsibility for its immigration policy.

The problem of the Jewish settlers in Palestine will find its solution in the framework of agreed border changes between the two states, the inclusion of some settlements in the Palestinian state with the agreement of the Palestinian government and the re-settlement of the rest of the settlers in Israel.

Both states shall cooperate in the creation of a democratic regional partnership, in the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, while resisting anarchy, terrorism and religious and nationalistic fanaticism throughout the region.

The masses of Israelis and Palestinians will not believe in the chances of peace and co-existence if there is no real and open partnership between the peace camps of both peoples.

To establish such a partnership, organizations and individuals of both sides must start right now to conduct joint political action, such as constant consultation and joint planning on all levels and in all areas.

THE JEWISH character of the State of Israel finds its expression in its culture and its affinity with the Jews throughout the world. It must not express itself in its interior regime. All citizens and all sectors must be equal.

The democratic forces within the Jewish and the Arab public must join hands and work together in their daily actions.

International pressure by itself will not save Israel from itself. The salvation forces must come from within.

World-wide pressure on Israel can and must assist the democratic forces in Israel, but cannot take their place.

BASIC VALUES do not change. However, the ways of talking about them with the public must change.

The old slogans are ineffective. The values must be re-defined and re-formulated in up-to-date language, in line with the concepts and language of a new generation.

The two-state vision was defined after the 1948 war by a small group of path-blazers. Since than, huge changes have taken place in the world, in the region and within Israeli society. While the vision itself remains the only practical solution of the historic conflict, it must be poured into new vessels.

There is a need for political unity, a unifying salvation front that brings together all the forces of peace, democracy and social justice.

If the Labor Party is able to re-invent itself from the bottom up, it can constitute the basis of this camp. If not, an entirely new political party must be formed, as the core of the Salvation Front.

Within this front, diverse ideological forces must find their place and engage in a fruitful internal debate, while conducting a unified political struggle for the salvation of the state.

The regime within Israel must assure complete equality between all Jewish ethnic communities and between the two peoples, while safeguarding the affinity of the Israeli-Jewish public with the Jews in the world and the affinity of the Israeli-Arab public with the Arab world.

The situation in which most of the resources are in the hands of 1% of the population at the cost of the other 99%, must come to an end. A reasonable equality between all citizens, without connection with their ethnic origin, must be restored.

There is no social message without a political message, and there is no political message without a social message.

The Oriental Jewish public must be full partners in the state, side by side with all other sectors. Their dignity, culture, social status and economic situation must be accorded their proper place.

The religious-secular confrontation must be postponed until after peace is achieved. The beliefs and ceremonies of all religions must be respected, as well as the secular worldview.

The separation of state and religion – such as civil marriage, mass transportation on Shabbat – can wait until the struggle for existence is decided.

The protection of the judicial system, and above all the Supreme Court, is an absolute duty.

The various associations for peace, human rights and social justice, each of which conducts its laudable independent struggle in its chosen field, must enter the political arena and play a central role together in the unified Salvation Front.

-Are you a Zionist?

Uri Avnery
January 31, 2015

MANY TIMES people ask me: “Are you a Zionist?”

My stock answer is: “Depends on what you mean by Zionism.”

This is quite sincere. The term Zionism can mean many different things. Like the term socialism, for example. Francois Hollande is a socialist. So was Joe Stalin.

Any resemblance?

WHEN I was young, there was a joke making the rounds in Germany: “A Zionist is a Jew who asks a second Jew for money in order to settle a third Jew in Palestine.” My father was such a Zionist. That was before the Nazis came to power, or course. I suspect that this definition applies nowadays to many American Zionists.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, did not really want to go to Zion, a hill in Jerusalem. He did not like Palestine at all. In the first draft of the Zionist Bible, Der Judenstaat, he proposed Patagonia as the preferred site of the Jewish state, because of its mild climate. Also, because it was sparsely populated after a genocidal campaign by Argentina.

When the movement turned towards Zion, Zionism still meant many different things to different people. Some wanted the country to become merely a spiritual center of the Jews. Others wanted it to become a socialist Utopia. Others wanted it to become a nationalist bastion based on military force.

The renewal of the Hebrew language, which has become such an integral part of our lives, was not a part of the Zionist project at all. Herzl, whose initial ambition was to become a great German writer, thought that we would speak German. Others would have preferred Yiddish. The fanatical desire to rejuvenate Hebrew came from below.

Even the desire to found a Jewish State was not unanimous. Some ardent Zionists, like Martin Buber, dreamed of a bi-national state, half Arab, half Jewish. “Practical” Zionists wanted to fulfill the Zionist dream by patient settlement in the country, “Revisionist” Zionists wanted to achieve at once an international “charter”.

Religious Zionists want a state based on and dominated by the Jewish religion. National-religious Zionists believe that God has sent the Jews into “exile” because of their sins, and wanted to compel God by their deeds to send the Messiah now. Atheist Zionists declare the Jews are a nation, not a religion, and want nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

And so on.

SO WHAT does Zionism mean nowadays? The word is bandied about in Israel without much thought. Almost every party wants to be seen as Zionist and brands its adversaries as anti-Zionist – a deadly accusation in Israeli politics. Only small minorities at the edges decline the honor. Communists on one side, ultra-Orthodox on another. (These believe that it is a great sin to go back to the Land of Israel in large numbers without God’s express permission.)

For many Israelis, Zionism means nothing more than Israeli patriotism. If you want Israel to exist as a “Jewish state” (whatever that means) you are a Zionist. Also, you have to believe that Israel is a part of the world-wide “Jewish people” and its leader, a kind of command-center. In up-to-date terminology: “the Nation-State of the Jewish people”.

In a deeper sense, Zionism may mean the profound belief that all the world’s Jews will eventually come to Israel, either by their own free will or driven here by anti-Semitism. The inevitable victory of anti-Semitism in each and every country is taken for granted. Therefore any real or imagined anti-Semitic wave – like the present one in France – is greeted with secret satisfaction (“We told you so”).

WHERE DO I stand?

A few years before the foundation of the State of Israel, a group of young people in this country, mostly artists and writers, declared that they were not Jews, but Hebrews. They were nicknamed “the Canaanites”.

Their gospel was that the Hebrew-speaking young people in this country were not a part of the world-wide Jewish community, but a separate new Hebrew nation. They wanted nothing to do with the Jews. Some of their announcements sounded positively anti-Semitic. They conceived the Hebrew nation as a continuation – after a brief interval of a few thousand years – of the original pre-Biblical Canaanite people. Hence the nickname.

Four years later I founded another group, nicknamed the “Struggle-Group”. We also proclaimed that we were a new Hebrew nation. But contrary to the Canaanites we acknowledged that this new nation was a part of the Jewish people, much as the Australians, for example, are a part of Anglo-Saxon culture.

We also contradicted the Canaanites on one other crucial element of doctrine. The Canaanites denied the existence of an Arab nation or nations. We not only recognized Arab nationalism, but declared that the Arab nation was the natural ally of the Hebrew nation in the creation of a new Semitic Region.

Soon after, Israel was founded. 40 years ago, in a libel case, I was asked by the judge to define my attitude towards Zionism.

In response I invented the term “post-Zionism”. The Zionist movement, I testified, is a historic movement with incredible achievements – a totally new society, an ancient-new language, a new culture, a new economy, new social models like the kibbutz and the moshav. But Zionism also performed grievous wrongs, especially to the Arab Palestinian people.

However, I said, this is history. With the creation of the State of Israel, Zionism has fulfilled its role. Israeli patriotism must replace it. Like scaffolding that is dismantled once the new building is finished, Zionism has outlived its usefulness and should be discarded.

This is my belief today, too.

THE WHOLE question has come up again now because of the decision of the new combined election list of the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s group to call itself officially “the Zionist Camp”.

On the pragmatic level, this is a clever move. The Rightist parties almost always accuse the Left of being unpatriotic, even traitorous, a fifth column. In our case, the Left is being accused of being anti-Zionist. So it makes sense for a new combined list to call itself Zionist. Not “a” Zionist party, but “the” Zionist party.

(By the same logic, a very moderate French party once called itself the “Radical Party”, the word “democratic” has appeared in the official names of several communist countries and the German fascists called themselves “National-Socialists”.) Being sure of their hard-core adherents, they hope the misnomer will attract votes on the fringes.

One negative practical aspect of the name of the Labor list is that it automatically excludes the Arab citizens. For Arabs everywhere, Zionism is the synonym of evil. Zionism took away their country, Zionism expelled the Arab Palestinians and carried out the Naqba, Zionism today discriminates against the Arab citizens of Israel in all spheres of life.

However, very few Arab citizens voted in the recent past for the Labor Party anyhow, and these don’t care either way about Zionism as a name. All Arab political forces in the country, including the Communist Hadash party which has a number of Jewish members, united this week in a common Arab list, and are expected to harvest almost all the Arab votes.

(This, by the way, is one of the ironies of Israeli politics. The “Israel Our Home” party of Avigdor Lieberman, which some consider fascist, wanted to evict the Arabs from the Knesset. Noting that none of the three Arab lists achieved 3.25% of the votes, they enacted a law that raised the threshold for entering the Knesset to this level. As a result, all the Arab parties, which detest each other, united in a common list that may reach 10% and more.

Apart from the Orthodox, this will be the only self-styled anti-Zionist party. Everybody else, from the far-right national-religious Jewish Home party to the far-left Meretz, declare themselves staunch Zionists.

So it’s quite a coup that Herzog and Livni ran away with the coveted label.

My Glorious Brothers

Uri Avnery
27.12.14

WHEN I was 15 years old and a member of the Irgun underground (by today’s criteria, an honest-to-goodness terrorist organization), we sang “(In the past) we had the heroes / Bar Kochba and the Maccabees / Now we have the new ones / The national youth…” The melody was a German military marching song.

Why did we look for heroes in the remote past?

We were in desperate need of national heroes to emulate. For 18 centuries, Jews had not fought. Dispersed throughout the world, they saw no reason to fight for emperors and kings who mostly persecuted them. (Though some of them did. The first authentic hero of the new Zionist entity in Palestine was Josef Trumpeldor, one of the few Jewish officers in the Czar’s army, who lost an arm in the 1905 Russian-Japanese war and was killed in a skirmish with Arabs in Palestine.)

So we found the Maccabees, the Zealots and Bar Kochba.

THE MACCABEES, in whose honor we celebrated Hanukka this week, revolted against “the Greeks” in 167 B.C. “My Glorious Brothers” Howard Fast called them in his famous novel.

Actually, “the Greeks” were Syrians. When Alexander the Great’s empire was divided between his generals, Seleucus acquired Syria and the countries to the East. It was against this mini-empire that the Maccabees rose up.

It was not only a national-religious struggle against a regime which wanted to impose its Hellenic culture, but also a cruel civil war. The main struggle of the Maccabees was against the “Hellenizers”, the cultured modernist Jewish elite who spoke Greek and wanted to be part of the civilized world. The Maccabees were fundamentalist adherents of the old-time religion.

In today’s terms, they were the ISIS of their time. But that is not what we learned (and what is being taught today) in school.

The Maccabees (or Hasmoneans, their dynastic name) set up a Jewish state, the last one in Palestine, that lasted for 200 years. Unlike their successors and imitators, they had a lot of political acumen. Already during their rebellion they made contact with the up-and-coming Roman republic and secured its help.

Yet the Maccabees won by a quirk. Their revolt was a very risky adventure, and they owed their eventual victory to the problems that beset the Seleucid empire.

The irony of this story is that the Hasmonean kings themselves became thoroughly Hellenized and adopted Greek names.

THE NEXT great rebellion started in the year 66 AD. Unlike the Maccabee revolt, it was a totally mad affair.

The Zealots belonged to diverse competing groups, who remained disunited to the bitter end. Their rebellion, called “The Great Revolt”, was also a fanatical national-religious affair.

At the time, messianic ideas filled the air in Palestine. The country absorbed religious influences from all directions – Hellenic, Persian, Egyptian – and mixed them with the Jewish traditions. It was in this feverish atmosphere that Christianity was born and the Book of Job and other later books of the Hebrew Bible were composed.

With the Messiah expected any moment, Jewish fanatics did something that now seems incredible: they declared war on the Roman Empire, which was then at the height of its power. As if Israel today would declare war on the US, China and Russia at the same time – something even Binyamin Netanyahu would think twice about doing.

It took some time before the Romans gathered their legions, and the end was as could be foreseen: the Jewish community in the country was squashed, the temple was destroyed (perhaps by accident) and the Jews evicted from Jerusalem and many other places in Palestine.

Throughout, the Zealots believed in their God. In besieged Jerusalem, already starving, they burnt each other’s wheat, sure that God would provide. But God, it seems, was otherwise engaged.

At the height of the siege of Jerusalem, the venerable rabbi Yochanan Ben-Zakkai was smuggled by his pupils out of the city in a coffin, and the Romans allowed him to start a religious school in Yavneh, which became the focus of a new kind of anti-heroic Judaism.

HOWEVER, THE lesson of the catastrophe caused by the Zealots was not learned. Less than 70 years later, an adventurer called Bar Kochba (“Son of a Star”) started another war with the Roman Empire, even more hare-brained than the last.

At the beginning Bar Kochba, like the Zealots, won several victories, before the Romans could gather their forces. At that time, the important rabbis supported him. But his megalomaniac nature caused him to lose their support. He is said to have told God: “You don’t have to support me, but at least don’t obstruct me!”

The inevitable defeat of Bar Kochba was an even greater disaster than the previous one. Masses of Jews were sold into slavery, some were thrown to the lions in the Roman arena. A legend recounts that Bar Kochba fought a lion with his bare hands and killed it.

However, the basic Zionist tenet that the Jews were expelled from Palestine by force and that this was the beginning of the Diaspora (the “Exile”) is a legend. The Jewish peasant population remained in the country, and most became Christians, and later Muslims. Today’s Palestinians are probably mostly descendants of this Jewish population which clung to their soil. At one time, David Ben-Gurion supported this theory.

The Jewish religion was actually born in the Babylonian exile, some 500 years before Christ, and from the beginning the majority of the Jews lived outside Palestine, in Babylon, Egypt, Cyprus and many other countries around the Mediterranean. Palestine remained an important religious center which played a significant part in the transition of Judaism into a Diaspora religion based principally on the Talmud.

THE HANUKKA feast symbolizes the basic change of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple – and the counter-change effected by the Zionists in modern times.

The rabbis were against the cult of heroism, whether God-fearing or not. They belittled the battles of the Maccabees and found another reason to celebrate. It appears that a great miracle had happened, which was much more important than military victories: when the Temple was re-dedicated after being defiled by the “Greeks”, the sacred oil left sufficed only for one day. By divine intervention, this small quantity of oil lasted for a whole week. Hanukka was dedicated to this huge miracle. (Hanukka means literally inauguration, dedication).

The Book of the Maccabees, which recounts the struggle and the victory, was not included in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew original was lost.

(Hanukka, like Christmas, was originally a pagan festival celebrating the winter solstice, much as Passover and Easter are based on the pagan celebration of the spring equinox.)

The Jewish sages were determined to stamp out, once and for all, the craving for revolts and military adventures. Not only was Hanukka turned into an innocuous feast of sacred oil, but the Zealots and Bar Kochba were ignored or belittled in rabbinical writings, which shaped Judaism and Jewish life since then until this very day. Jews were supposed to adore God, not human heroes.

Until Zionism appeared on the scene. It resurrected the ancient heroes and turned them retrospectively into Zionists. The Maccabees, Zealots and Bar Kochba became our models. The mass suicide of the Zealots on the Masada mountain after the Great Revolt was celebrated as a glorious deed, generations of children were and are taught to admire them.

Today we have national heroes in great abundance, and really do not need all these ancient myths any more. But myths die slowly, if at all. Still, more and more voices of historians and such are cautiously raising doubts about their role in Jewish history. (I may have been the first, in an essay I wrote some four decades ago.)

ALL THIS may reaffirm the saying that “nothing changes as much as the past”. Or, in the words of Goethe: “What you call the spirit of the times is nothing but the spirit of the lords in which the times are reflected.”

Zionism was a great spiritual revolution. It took an ancient ethnic-religious Diaspora and re-shaped it into a modern European-style nation. To effect this, it had first of all to re-shape history.

It could base itself on the works of a new generation of Jewish historians, led by Heinrich Graetz, who painted a new picture of the Jewish past influenced by the German nationalist historians of their time. Graetz himself died a few years before the First Zionist Congress, but his impact was and remains immense.

While the Germans resurrected Hermann the Cherusker and built a huge statue of him on the site of his great victory over the Romans in the Teutoburger forest, shortly before the Jewish Great Revolt, the early Zionists resurrected the Jewish heroes, ignoring the disasters they caused. Many European peoples, large and small, did the same. It was the Zeitgeist.

Three generations of Israeli children were brought up from kindergarten on these myths. They are almost completely cut off from world history. They learn that the Greeks were the people whose yoke was thrown off by the Maccabees, but learn next to nothing about Greek philosophy, literature or history. It creates a very narrow, egocentric state of mind, good for soldiers, but not so good for people who need to make peace.

These children learn nothing at all about the history of the Arabs, Islam and the Koran. Islam, for them is a primitive, murderous religion, bent on killing Jews.

The exception is the autonomous Orthodox school system which teaches nothing much except the Talmud, and is therefore immune to the cult of heroes, but also to world history (except the pogroms, of course).

The great political change we need must be accompanied by a profound change of our historical outlook.

The heroes of antiquity are perhaps due for another revision of their status.