The “Gulf” in Zionism

“Fragmented beyond repair,” wrote Gershon Baskin in the Jerusalem Post July 26 about Israeli society. He may be right; he is dreadfully wrong as to the nature of the problem. Saying his worldview is “different” from the settlers’, Baskin purports to represent true Zionism. In fact, he betrays the very essence of our Zionist principles. He represents, in effect if not intention, the “post-Zionist” anti-Jewish ideology preferred by Israel’s enemies.

Baskin decries the settling of thousands of Israelis – observant and non-observant – in the areas Israel has administered since June 1967. He writes of “saving Zionism from those who have tainted the noble aspects of its cause since 1967” with no recognition of two critical facts: That cause, in all its “aspects”, is the same as it was in Herzl and Ben Gurion’s days; and the vast majority of “those” settlers were sent by their Zionist leaders, Left and Right, to fulfill the Zionist mission: settling the land and claiming sovereignty over it.

Baskin writes: “Zionism is not about occupying the West Bank and Gaza,” and “continuation of the settlement enterprise is an act of suicide for the Zionist dream.” People may disagree as to the political correctness or feasibility of “the settlement enterprise” in the disputed territories, but Baskin and others like him twist history and ideology when they suggest that settling the Land of Israel is anything other than the most basic means and goal of Zionism.

A Zionist believes in the Jewish right to the Land of Israel. Quirks of history dictated the provisional borders of the State of Israel. Zionist leaders accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947 reluctantly, not as the fulfillment of the dream to create a Jewish State in all of the Land of Israel, but as the best they could get. Neither the Partition borders, nor the eventual armistice lines of 1949, were seen as permanent borders. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of the Zionist dream -- not the end.

The Jewish claim is based on legal and historical foundations including the Balfour declaration, the League of Nations Mandate to Britain, and Israel’s acquisition of the territories in a war of defense as defined by the UN Charter, over and above the continued Jewish presence in the area for over 3500 years and the moral and religious underpinnings often cited. If in response to practical and political realities over the past century Zionist leaders have made territorial compromises, that claim remains legitimate, despite not being pursued.

This includes accepting the unilateral decision by Great Britain to create an Arab state in eastern Palestine in 1922, TransJordan; accepting the UN’s recommending another Arab state be established in western Palestine with Partition in 1947; and relinquishing control of the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria including Hebron and Shechem, cities of our Patriarchs, as part of the Oslo process in the 1990’s.

A true Zionist acknowledges this reality even though he or she may agree to waive that right in favor of a competing Palestinian claim. While not asserting our claim to the Land of Israel, we do not surrender it. The “close settlement” of the Land of Israel was and is a defining theme in Zionism. Yet Gershon Baskin and others (including most of the world) view this land as the Palestinians’ – calling it “their” land. True Zionists, if they have any intellectual integrity, recognize and publicly affirm the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel, rather than accepting and strengthening the use of biased terms for the disputed territories like “occupied territories”.

Judea and Samaria, the “west bank of the Jordan river”, has had no legal sovereign accepted by the UN or the western world since Britain renounced its mandate in 1947. Israel has at least as powerful a claim to these territories as do the Palestinians, who did not exist as a separate Arab “nation” until at least the founding of the PLO in 1964. If we Zionists don’t remind the world of this fact, even if we support the Palestinians’ claim, how can we expect others to recognize our sacrifice or acknowledge our own legitimacy?

Baskin says “the Zionist enterprise is at risk as long as we continue our occupation and domination over the West Bank and its people”. In fact, the Zionist enterprise is at real risk when “Zionists” reject its essence. If Gaza and Hebron are “theirs”, illegally “occupied”, then so are Haifa, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Jerusalem and all the rest of Palestine -- which is precisely what Hamas claims, as do many of our “moderate” Arab neighbors and PA textbooks and media. The Israeli “occupation” ended in 1995 with the implementation of Oslo II, by which time 98% of Palestinians were under PA rule.

The original goal of Zionism -- the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel -- was achieved in the last century. The fundamental ideology of Zionism -- the Jewish claim to this Land and the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish State, in whatever borders are eventually agreed upon with our neighbors -- is under attack around the world, not least by the Palestinians, and by a loud and influential, if small, minority in Israel. It is this battle against those who deny legitimacy to Israel as a Jewish State which will determine the strength of Israel and the Jewish people in the 21st Century. In Israel, those who wish to see Israel lose its Jewish identity and Zionist ideals are called “post-Zionists”.

Baskin’s demagogy* targeted at “the settlers” and his rejection of the settlement idea reveal the true nature of his Zionism. He certainly claims to be a “real” Zionist -- just within the ’49 armistice lines.

Like Baskin, I came to this country over two decades ago from the USA, and brought many of my American values with me. As a Zionist, I am committed to the strengthening of Israel as a Jewish state and I assert the Jews’ right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel -- even if the actualization of that right is not possible. I also happen to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state, which I advocated as early as 1989 in these pages, before even the Labour party accepted its inevitability. But my advocacy of a Palestinian state is conditional on the Palestinians’ and other Arabs’ acceptance of Israel -- de jure, not de facto.

And my support rests on that Palestinian state being free, open, and tolerant and protective of its Jewish minority. This too is a Zionist stance: If Gaza and Hebron are not under Jewish sovereignty, Jews should at least be able to live there without fear. Any other approach is not Zionist. Suggesting, as the world (and Baskin, it seems) does, that an emerging Palestine must be Judenrein, is anti-Zionist -- and irrational.

Baskin may be correct, we Jews in Israel are somewhat fragmented. But not between Right and Left, or between more-observant and less-observant. We are divided between Zionists and Post-Zionists, and following this withdrawal from Gaza our debate – and the world’s debate with us – will be along these lines. True Zionists will be judged not by their advocacy of a “Greater Israel” or of greater territorial concessions to the Palestinians, but by their commitment to Jews’ right to live in the Land of Israel, and Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State.

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* Baskin blames “the settlers” for fragmenting Israeli society, equating them with right-wing religious extremists -- deepening the rift while pretending to lament it. He demonizes them with casual references to violence, whereas the reality, recognized by the media and authorities, is quite the opposite -- including multiple instances of restraint in the face of police brutality. He suggests that Islamic terror awaits “provocation” from Israeli settlers, whereas Israel and the world has seen the rise of Islamic terror based on anti-Semitic and anti-western religious themes entirely independent of the acts of religious or other settlers.

Referring to the opposition bumper-sticker slogan "Jews don't expel Jews," Baskin suggests it implies “that Jews may expel non-Jews.” This more reflects his twisted perspective than the intent of the opponents of the Gaza withdrawal and the understanding of the majority of Zionists and Israelis. The slogan refers to the others -- the many others, including our current Arab neighbors and those around the world who would see us pushed into the sea -- who have expelled Jews (or tried to) throughout the centuries. Few settlers or Zionists, and certainly no leaders, “believe they can subjugate the Palestinians” as Baskin asserts. Most wish nothing more than to live in peace and prosperity with our Arab neighbors, and the vast Israeli consensus agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel -- which in fact Oslo was meant to lead to, had the Palestinian leadership been more interested in gaining independence than in attacking Israel.

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