Guest Column: No to 'stage two Zionism'

Sarah Kreimer says it's time to stop defining Israel's Jewishness by the amount of land. I beg to differ.

By AVRAHAM FEDER
May 7, 2008 11:55
Guest Column: No to 'stage two Zionism'

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As a presumably prophetic suggestion for celebrating Israel's 60th birthday, Sarah Kreimer recommends "moving on to 'stage-two Zionism'" (April 30). According to her view of Zionist history, "stage-one Zionism" has been "state-building." "Stage-two" is to be "society-building," where the Jewish powers-that-be who have been building and ruling the State of Israel these 60 years are to surrender the original Zionist vision of a Jewish state in favor of an amorphous binational entity made up of Jewish and Arab communities living together in idyllic tranquility. Why does Kreimer refer to what she wants as "moving on to a 'stage-two Zionism'" when in fact she is calling for a retreat from the classical Zionist idea into, at best, a muddled post-Zionist recasting of neo-Canaanism, if not a bald anti-Zionist vilification of the Jewish national right to political self-determination? Neo-Canaanism was the stillborn idea of a fringe group of Palestinian Jews in pre-state days that all those who make up the population of Israel-Palestine should cancel out all previous Israelite/Jewish history and tradition and revert to a pre-Hebrew Canaanite cultural mind-set. It was always assumed (do we have to add "rather naively") by these neo-Canaanite dreamers that the Arab/Muslim denizens of Israel-Palestine would also agree to forget their history and tradition and join these self-denying Jews in this experiment of creating-out-of-nothing a new political and socio-cultural entity. The idea went nowhere. Yet, there is a touch of mawkish Canaanism in Kreimer's self-description as a "liberal Jew from America" who "immigrated to Israel to be part of building a society of which I could be proud." In her reading of contemporary Israeli history, it appears that Kreimer would be proud if Israel in effect divested itself of much of its Jewish ethnic and religious baggage in favor of being a "state of all its citizens" - this latter phrase a well-known code term for denying the national yearnings of the Jewish People for its own independent state. KREIMER IS deeply concerned that Israeli Arabs suffer from an existential problem of identity. Of course they do. In the State of Israel, a Jewish state, where the significant majority is Jewish and where the relevant authorities - as in any country in the world - consider themselves justified in making certain that a significant majority remains Jewish, any minority constituency may feel itself (though not necessarily) less than fully empowered. Nevertheless, the existential problem plaguing Israeli Arabs is not just the "normal" malaise felt by any minority in a "normal" democratic polity. Kreimer herself admits that Israeli Arabs have a particular identity problem because of their self-identification as Palestinians, and, as we know, the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs do not want the Jewish state to exist. This is the crux of the existential problem of the Israeli Arabs. BUT WHY on the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish State of Israel should we hold ourselves hostage to guilt feelings over the existential "torment" of Israeli Arabs? What is Kreimer suggesting - that we committed an original sin in 1948 in appropriating land of Arabs who fled their homes at the urging of their leaders who assured them that the Jews would soon be slaughtered? Shall we also feel guilty over what Kreimer describes ingenuously as the "violent interruption" of the Oslo process in October 2000, as if the suicide-bomber war against us was initiated by some impersonal spontaneous combustion and not by the direct orders of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat? And, of course, the worst of all sins according to Kreimer is the "settlement enterprise." But when she would have us "jettison the settlement enterprise," she is not just referring to Judea and Samaria. She points in particular to the Negev and the Galilee. How dare we, as she puts it, "Judaize" the Negev and the Galilee! (Need we remind ourselves that the Negev and the Galilee are within the Green Line?) In fearing and opposing the Judaization of the Negev and the Galilee, Kreimer has not only invalidated what she herself has called "stage-one Zionism," the Zionism of state-building, but has revealed her full identification with the "stages strategy" of the so-called Palestinian "moderates", admitted to by the late "moderate" Faisal al-Husseini in his "Trojan horse" image shortly before he died. After achieving a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem, the next campaign would be to fight for the autonomy and eventual excising of Galilee from the Jewish state. Kreimer is thus pushing not merely for what most people assume to be a two-state solution, i.e. a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem. In truth, she wants an Arab Palestine alongside an Israel that is Jewish but also Arab, with an additional caveat against the Judaization of the Galilee and the Negev. On the 60th anniversary of the state, this is a program not for stage-one or stage-two Zionism. It is a prescription for national suicide. ISN'T IT interesting that in all discussions of the two-state solution, it is assumed that the envisioned Palestinian state will be judenrein? Why should this be so? If there is goodwill on the Palestinian side, enough for Israel to agree to surrendering Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem, why should those Jewish settlers who might consider it worthwhile to remain in the "Jewish homeland" even if it were not part of the Jewish state be forced to vacate their homes? And if they must vacate, why should Arabs (or should they be called Palestinians) living in Jewish Israel be immune to reciprocal eviction - or shall we call it "transfer"? What would Kreimer's answer be to such a "cruel" question? Perhaps even Kreimer's naivete has limits. She must know that until the constant hatred among the Palestinians for the Jewish State of Israel is exchanged for political common sense, then not only is the "two-state solution" deluded, but dreams for Palestinian socio-moral normalcy on either side of the Green Line will remain at best cloudy. In the meantime, the Jewish State of Israel has a right to celebrate its 60th birthday, praying for wisdom, courage and the moral strength to continue its exemplary effort to build for itself a country of which we are already proud. The writer is rabbi emeritus of Moreshet Yisrael, a Masorti congregation in Jerusalem, and author of Torah Through a Zionist Vision (two volumes) just published by Gefen. www.israelbooks.com

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