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US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
For Arabs Everywhere, Zionism Is the Synonym of
By Uri Avnery
February 9 2015
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.
MANY TIMES people ask me:
"Are you a Zionist?"
My stock answer is: "Depends on what you mean
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.
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
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".
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.
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
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".
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
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.
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.
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.
quite a coup that Herzog and Livni ran away with the coveted label.
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