Meretz debates if it’s Zionist

The left-wing party continues to face tribulations after its head recently quit the Knesset, this time debating over self-definition.

October 29, 2017 02:11
3 minute read.
Zehava Gal-On

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On presenting the party's diplomatic platform. (photo credit: MERETZ)


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Meretz’s leadership sent mixed messages Friday on whether it defines itself as Zionist, after decades of calling itself the Zionist Left or a “humanist Zionist” party.

The confusion came after a Makor Rishon investigation pointed out that Meretz has not called itself Zionist in its platform in the last three electoral campaigns, going back to 2008.

Before that, it used the phrase “humanist Zionist,” and in 1999 called itself “the only Zionist faction opposed to the First Lebanon War.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Zionism as “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.”

Meretz’s chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, and Secretary-General MK Mossi Raz gave different answers as to whether the party is Zionist.

This week, Raz was sworn in as an MK, after Gal-On resigned from the Knesset to work on internal party issues.

On the Meretz Facebook page, Gal-On “emphatically rejects the claim that Meretz removed Zionism from its platform. Meretz is a left-wing Zionist party, an Israeli party in which there are Jewish and Arab members, and it will never stop being one.

“Meretz’s platform always says that Meretz acts in the spirit of the values of Zionism,” Gal- On said. “It never said that Meretz is a Zionist party, because we didn’t see a point in writing what is obvious.”

The 2015 party platform, available on its website in a searchable format, does not use the word “Zionist” or “Zionism” in any form.

Gal-On added that Meretz believes Israel is a state of the Jewish people and all its citizens. She quoted the 1948 Declaration of Independence, which says “the State of Israel will have social and political equality for all its citizens, without difference of religion, race or gender,” which encapsulates Meretz’s belief that Israel should aim to be a “model society that defends human rights and supports the right to self-determination by the Jewish people and by the Palestinian people in its own state.”

Raz repeatedly tweeted that “Meretz never defined itself as a Zionist party in its platform,” but that the party’s Jewish MKs are Zionists.

“A party with Arabs in it cannot, by definition, be Zionist,” he wrote.

When challenged on Twitter that Bayit Yehudi also has Arab members, Raz responded: “Bayit Yehudi [members] aren’t Zionists, anyway, because the First [Zionist] Congress said that rights go according to international law, which opposes the occupation. Therefore, supporters of the occupation are not Zionists.”

All of Meretz’s Jewish MKs, other than Raz, identified with Gal-On’s statement.

MK Ilan Gilon, who plans to challenge Gal- On for the party’s leadership, tweeted: “Meretz is a Zionist party, it was, and it will remain. We will not let anyone try to change Meretz’s identity.

Our motto was and remains: For Zionism, for socialism and for the brotherhood of nations...

The lack of the word ‘Zionism’ in our party platform does not show our ideological identity.

The Declaration of Independence doesn’t have the word ‘Zionism’ in it, either.”

MK Tamar Zandberg took issue with what she called a “musty, hypocritical and impudent loyalty test.”

“The greatest destroyers of Zionism come from the population group that the newspaper Makor Rishon represents,” she said, referring to religious Zionists, “who prefer settlements over a model society and the Greater Land of Israel over a democratic and egalitarian country. The Right wave ‘Zionism’ around every time they want to justify messianic, twisted ultra-nationalism.”

Meretz’s sole Arab lawmaker, Esawi Frej, did not comment by press time, and MK Michal Rozin’s office said she agrees with Gal-On.

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