From radical Zionism to radical anti-Zionism

The argument that Israel must defend its position on the West Bank because of security reasons is self-defeating.

yom haatzmaut 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yom haatzmaut 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Most people who identify as Zionists will say that Zionism means basically two things. One, that there is a Jewish people, with its distinctive history and culture, and people who see themselves as Jews have the right to identify as part of that people. Two, that the Jewish people have a right to establish, and defend, their own independent national community within the area of their ancient homeland, in a society where they are a significant majority and have the possibility of developing their specific form of national culture in all its aspects (and the non-Jewish minority enjoys real, and not just formal, equality).
That is the meaning of saying that Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people. Anti-Zionism essentially denies either or both of these premises, which of course leads to a denial of the existence of Israel – that, in turn, is a genocidal position, because a destruction of Israel can only be achieved by a genocide of its Jewish majority.
In contemporary Israel, a majority of Jews support the Right and its political parties. The Right argues, in a number of different ways, that there should be Jewish control of the West Bank; either through the expansion of settlements that will make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible, or through Jewish supervision of an autonomous or quasi-independent Palestinian entity in parts of the territory. This entity, whatever its form, would be demilitarized and controlled by Israel. The Jordan Valley would be under Israeli control, and the borders of the Palestinian entity would be, in essence, dictated by the Jewish settlements, present and future.
The inhabitants, most rightists would argue, would of course have no political rights in the controlling power structure, i.e. within Israel. The reason adduced is that the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan belongs to us and should be ruled by us. This, in turn, is based on a supposed divine decision, although the Bible includes very different statements regarding the borders of the Land of Israel. Palestinian Muslims will, of course, argue that God gave them the (same) land by legitimate conquest. Religious underpinning of political positions is a very dangerous, and always double-edged, exercise.
The Rightist stance means, in fact, the establishment of some kind of binational community, under Jewish-Israeli control. The Jews may make up a bare majority or a very large minority, but that hardly makes any difference; what matters is who is in charge. Sooner or later, however, some kind of political equality will inevitably be established between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, because the world of which Israel wants to be a part will not agree to the denial of political rights to the Palestinians.
Many on the Right try to paper this over by arguing that Palestinians can have a vote in Jordan, where there is, in any case, a Palestinian majority. But the West – never mind the Palestinians and the Jordanians – is hardly likely to accept a situation where the police chief of Tulkarm is appointed by the Jordanian Parliament and the sewage in Nablus is regulated from Amman, whereas real power rests with an Israeli force.
Some are willing to give Palestinians the vote in an enlarged Israel, but carefully, over time, and with limitations. This would, of course, lead to exactly the kind of a binational solution that will result in a bitter civil war. The argument that Israel must defend its position on the West Bank because of security reasons is self-defeating: there can never be security in a situation that invites constant conflict. Security can only be achieved if there is a peaceful solution based on an agreed mutual compromise.
Direct negotiations have been tried, and have failed. That invites, inevitably, outside pressure.
A tremendous amount of pressure is indeed building up, supporting the Palestinian position that demands a meaningful Palestinian state, contrary to the Israeli one, which only pays lip service to a Palestinian state, and now seems to be intent on suggesting various temporary solutions, none of which are likely to work. It may be possible to postpone that pressure temporarily, by various political maneuvers.
But it is quite clear that the vast majority of world nations are in favor of an Israel within the 1967 borders, with exchanges of territory. This has also essentially been the policy of US administrations, both Republican and Democratic, since George Bush, the father. Pressure directed toward both sides to achieve a solution by compromise stems from the simple fact that the major – and the minor – powers have no interest in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The compromise demanded of the Palestinian appears to be, again by almost universal consensus, to give up the idea of a massive return of Palestinian refugees to Israeli areas
The Right in Israel opposes a Palestinian state, despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pronouncements. Instead, it is looking for various paper decisions to perpetuate the present situation, all of which will inevitably lead to a binational state. The ideal of a state with a significant Jewish majority is being abandoned.
In other words, the Israeli Right is favoring what is, essentially, an anti-Zionist solution. The paradox is obvious. Radical Zionism metamorphoses into its opposite, radical anti-Zionism. Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, and Ze’ev Jabotinsky are turning in their graves.
The writer is a historian.