I have a friend who is a leader of a rightwing Zionist organization. While working with him to oppose the UN resolution on Palestinian statehood, he asked me why I am so passionate in my commitment to a two-state solution.
My answer: I have fought for Israel my entire life. Perhaps someday I will decide to live there. And when that happens I want to be living among Jews. Not entirely, but primarily.
His response: How can you say that?
My response: Ze’ev Maghen, in his book John Lennon and the Jews, talks about “preferential love.” That is what we are talking about here. I care about humankind, but I love my own group a bit more. I am more comfortable with them. I care more about them, just as I care more about my family than other families. Without a two-state solution, Israel will not longer be a state for my group; it will be a bi-national state without a clear Jewish identity. That is not the kind of place where I, or most Israeli Jews, will want to live.
His response: Are you saying you don’t want too many Arabs in the Jewish state?
My response: Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying.
His response: What do you say to your Arab friends?
My response: I tell them that just as I want the Jewish state to be organized around my group, I assume that they want a Palestinian state to be organized around their group. Fine. So be it. In the Middle East, there is little to suggest that other arrangements can work.
His response: You are a bigot. We on the right are perfectly prepared to live with Arabs.
My response: In the first place, I don’t apologize for my views because I don’t apologize for Zionism. Zionism came into being to create a state in which a total Jewish experience would be possible—a place where Judaism belongs to the public domain and Hebrew is the language of everyday. This requires a large Jewish majority. In the second place, I don’t believe you. You say you are prepared to live with Arabs, but the conduct of too many rightwing settlers – the people you call your allies – suggests otherwise. Living with Arabs not only means being around Arabs – after all, I recognize that Israel has, and will always have, an Arab minority – but it means living with them on equal terms. And your movement has not fought for the equal rights of Israeli Arabs, as I have; as for West Bank Arabs, nearly everything you have supported over the years indicates that you want them to remain without a state, without rights, and subservient to Jews.
His response: You are changing the subject. I repeat: you are a bigot.
My response: I repeat: Zionism is about creating a country for Jews and a democratic framework in which Jewish life can flourish. Movements that do not want to do this should not call themselves Zionist.
We then returned to the work of opposing the UN resolution. I did so because of my fear that it would not help in the creation of a Palestinian state, and he did so – I suspect – because of his fear that it would.