Not long ago our Netanyahu government chose a committee of Likud-minded ex-judges to propose ways of legitimizing 100 or so illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank (out of the so many that are there "legally", meaning with official government sanction). The committee was successful and we just learned of its absolute findings as presented to a delighted government. There is a joyous outcry by many coalition MPs and government ministers to turn the committee's report into the Law of the Land. The committee unveiled the following "facts":
- 1. The West Bank is not an occupied and conquered territory.
- 2. Israel is not an occupying power in the West Bank.
- 3. Israel is the legal possessor of the West Bank.
- 4. Palestinians in the west Bank have no legal right to self-determination
- 5. Israelis have a right to settle anywhere in the West Bank.
- 6. Private properties taken from Palestinians do not need to be returned.
- 7. The Geneva Conference laws of international behavior do not apply to us.
- 8. Therefore all illegal settlements are now Kosher.
And there we have it. How clear. How simple. We are now Kosher.
This is what happens when a nationalistic/jingoistic right-wing government appoints a committee with predesigned conclusions and asks of that committee to fatten up those conclusions with substance. ….. a committee born of sin meant to legalize an original sin.
But the conclusions are not new……they've been guiding our government since its election. They are the reasons why my government has done all it can to scuttle the possibility of a Two-State modus vivendi with the Palestinians. And my government has been damn-well successful in its intentions.
A week ago a friend, Lily Rivlin, who was one of my first madrichot in Washington D.C. Habonim in 1952 and has since been an activist on many fronts (worthwhile to Google), sent me a recent article by Gershon Baskin, a longtime activist and founder of IPCRI (the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information) and among other things the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel leading to the release of Gilad Shalit. Gershon Baskin bemoans the near-death of the Two-State possibility and writes: "I want to understand if there’s a place left for me in this country. I want to know if my Zionist dream has any validity any more. Is there a place in the State of Israel for a Jew, a Zionist who believes that Zionism means living in peace with our neighbors so that we can devote our energies to making this country the exemplary place that it could be? " ...end-quote.
These past few months I had shut down my keyboard, silently looking at what's happening. Gershon Baskin's article somehow initiated my own letter to Lilly, which I hesitatingly include here (hesitatingly hoping that my bout with some flu or virus is not what is making me light-headed enough to voice some inner rumblings):
Yes, I’ve already read Gershon Baskin’s letter. So simple, so true. A couple of months ago I wrote a very-very similar letter and filed it away for my grandchildren to read in the future. I’ve lately stopped sending letters to a list, mostly because I fear of depressing any of those very few activists who still fight for what I today already see as lost. As an Israeli democratic Zionist I join the Gershon Baskins who feel that a major cause (2-States) is pretty much lost, are floundering at sea in a boat without a sail, trying to figure out “O.K., if this is the case…what now?”. Where do we go from here? What can be our second line of defense or offence?
A number of our friends and neighbors also see themselves as good liberal democratic Zionists. I haven’t understood how they’ve been able to sit back all these years, sometimes complaining in living-room chats, voting correctly once every few years, but never coming out into the streets…mingling with our Israeli public .. and screaming….or at least whispering out loud. Similarly, I haven’t understood our Jewish people around the world who have in the main and knowingly backed and funded a direction leading to the poisonous destruction of the Zionist Dream……(here I am….writing down some of the things I most fear of writing.).
Today’s Israeli street is teeming with active social protests. The protests range from economics (cost of living is too high) to demands for army conscription of the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities who have been exempted till now. And yes, the political Left is out there in these protests. But the so-called political Left is no longer able to muster a protest against the policies creating a “Greater Israel”, which will see two and a half million Palestinians permanently ruled by my Israel in a Ghetto enclave (is that apartheid?) watched over by my army, bereft of any Israeli citizen’s rights, and denied so many normal civil rights. This is a Ghetto thoroughly riddled with Jewish settlements and towns enjoying every right which their neighbors do not. And so, our activism is no longer able to fight the fight of “Two States for Two People”. That one is already a lost battle.
No….this is not a farewell to activism. It only means I’ve taken a short time out for some R&R in order to reassess the realities around us, and figure out what to do next ……… not how to return to a lost cause (Two States), but perhaps how to protest the “Ghetto” and fight the fight for civil liberties and equal right for those annexed Ghetto Palestinians. This, of course is problematic. Equal rights will mean the end of a Zionist State and the actual formation of a Dual-People State. But I’ve always seen our fight for social justice actually as our fight for the kind of Jewish human beings we choose to be. In the choice between being a ruling Jewish Zionist holding millions of native residents prisoners ….. or being a Jewish citizen struggling to defend my own rights in a Dual-People State ……….. I choose the latter. Most Israelis, unfortunately, will choose otherwise. I don’t want to be that kind of Israeli, nor that kind of Jew. This is where our Israeli policies have brought us.
I’m not sure yet how to express and voice this kind of social protest in a country where social protest is filled with the price of cheese and housing and military conscription. I’m in a boat with a few others (too few of course), all trying to mend the sail and search the night lights for a new direction. We will find it. I’m not sure we’ll like it.
Having re-read the above, perhaps eventually I’ll send this letter to others as well.
Meanwhile I send it to you, Lilly, as a postscript to Gershon’s article.