Independence Day is not a holiday for Israeli Arabs. Sixtyfour
years ago, they lost their land and their national honor... [their
aversion to] the national anthem “Hatikva” – which talks of “a Jewish
soul yearning” – should serve as an incentive for devising symbols
and events with which all Israeli citizens can identify without being
false to themselves.
– Haaretz editorial, April 27
And the two words that are the most important are “Nefesh Yehudi”
[A Jewish soul]”. When I hear those two words I know why I am here. I
know what I am doing here. – An oleh in an Independence Day interview
on the significance of “Hatikva”
– April 26
It is not often that I find myself disagreeing with The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline B. Glick. Indeed, for many years I have had nothing but the highest regard for her intrepid and articulate defense of Israel and Zionist ideals.
However, I am compelled to dispute the views articulated in her last column, “Post-Zionism is so 1990s,” in which she appears to convey the view that the threat of post-Zionism has waned into insignificance, or at least receded into obsolescence.
Regrettably, this claim is misplaced and misleading, and although I sincerely wish she were right, I fear that her analysis is unrealistically optimistic and gravely underestimates the true danger.
The advance of post-Zionism is arguably the greatest menace confronting the Zionist endeavor today, everything it stands for, everything it has accomplished and everything it strives to accomplish. It is imperative not to be lulled into a false sense of security.
I would, therefore, counsel caution before assigning any real significance to the fact that public events in Israel are conducted with greater decorum today relative to the 1990s when, as Glick points out, they tended to be more frivolous, irreligious and disrespectful of Jewish history, culture and heritage.
Despite deceptive appearances, post-Zionism is more pervasive and pernicious than ever.
Seemingly impervious to reality that has repeatedly refuted its doctrine, post-Zionism is hammering on the doors of the mainstream Israeli establishment – and gaining increasingly frequent access. What was unthinkably seditious – indeed legally punishable – barely a generation ago is now fashionably avant garde.
Glick writes: “Despite their best efforts, Netanyahu remains in power and the Left can’t get any traction with the public....”
While this is accurate, the crucial question is how has this affected the party platforms and the conduct of policy?
Two things are worth noting. First, Glick appears to equate the Left and “those who are interested in forcing Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians” with the phenomenon of post-Zionism.
Clearly, such a “one-size-fits-all” categorization would raise howls of protest from many who would object to branding as “post-Zionists” an array of prominent figures who played central roles in forging the history of Zionism, yet advocated territorial compromise.
However, while lumping all “left-wing” elements into a monolithic ideo-political post-Zionist grouping may be going a little too far, it must be recognized that there is a seamless symbiosis between the self-professed Zionist- Left and the self-confessed post-Zionist radicals.
This facilitates an almost “frictionless” migration and cross-fertilization of political philosophies and policy proposals between these groups.
In turn, this has generated a deceptive ambivalence that often blurs the ideological distinction between the two, making the transition from the one to the other almost imperceptible.
The repercussions of this “quasi-equivalence” have been profound and pernicious, resulting in an overwhelming leftward deformation of the Israeli polity and the ideological obliteration of the “Right” – which leads me to the second thing I wish to note.
Glick’s observation regarding Binyamin Netanyahu’s ability to stay prime minister, and the Left’s inability to gain electoral traction – while seemingly true – obscures a far more ominous reality.
For although Netanyahu has indeed managed to retain power, he has adopted policies that are far more concessionary (i.e. leftish) than even Oslo peace laureate Yitzhak Rabin, who was excoriated by the Right for betraying the Zionist ethos, ever dreamed of offering the Palestinians.
Moreover, while it is correct that in terms of parliamentary representation, parties labeled “left-wing” may have been diminished, the parties labeled “right-wing” have largely adopted their “left-wing” agenda.
An astonishing spectacle is unfolding before us, with the ostensibly “right-wing” Likud exhorting the Palestinians to enter into negotiations over a proposed settlement which it itself vehemently rejected not long ago as excessively concessionary – this at a time when all the Likud’s previous reservations are being proved correct.
If that were not enough, the head of Kadima, the main opposition party (established by once super-hawk Arik Sharon, together with once super-hawk Tzachi Hanegbi), ex-Likud defense minister Shaul Mofaz, has declared, a priori, that he would accede to 100% of the Palestinian territorial demands – all this before engaging in negotiations with them.
So while the formal party-affiliated representation of the Left in the Knesset has been reduced, the substantive ideological representation of its dovish political doctrine has acquired overwhelming dominance.
Apart from the marginal fringes of the Right, almost all the parliamentary factions have platforms not only far more dovish than the anti-Oslo Likud platform of the 1990s, but even more dovish than the pro-Oslo Labor vision as laid out by Rabin in his last Knesset address in 1995.
Since the 1990s, the political system has, for all intents and purposes, been gutted of any assertive Zionist party platforms that reject the bogus Palestinian narrative – which is, in large measure, the sine non qua of the post- Zionist credo.
A deeply disturbing trend is emerging before our eyes: Almost the entire gamut of mainstream political parties has – with varying degrees of reluctance/enthusiasm – accepted the basic tenets of the Palestinian narrative, which negate the Zionist narrative. In doing so, they have opened the door of respectability to post-Zionism, and laid down a red carpet for its access to all the vestiges of the Israeli establishment.
So while Glick is correct in asserting that “the Left” and its post-Zionist affiliates have garnered only marginal public support, this is one instance in which “size doesn’t matter.” For they do not need to win elections to effectively impose their rule on the country – or at least to prevent their ideological rivals from implementing theirs.
No matter what the results at the polls, the Left and its more radical ideological co-travelers can promote their agenda and impede that of their pro-Zionist adversaries through their dominance of the legal establishment, the media and much of academia.
Recent decades are replete with infuriating examples of how an insignificant minority view has been imposed on the nation by means of an ideologically biased judiciary, ruling in favor of PC (Palestinian-compliant) petitions, brought before it by radical left-wing NGOs, generously funded by foreign sovereign sources, and accompanied by massive media hype.
Attempts by the parliamentary majority to redress this deformation of the democratic process have been met with furious – and largely successful – resistance.
Legislative initiatives designed to enhance financial transparency of tax-exempt NGOs, and to address accelerating erosion of the credibility of the judiciary were foiled – almost incredibly with Likud-led government complicity – because they would – wait for it... undermine democratic governance.
Having eviscerated the Zionist political parties of any resolve and self-confidence, and emboldened by the reticent response of their adversaries, the post-Zionists have set their sights on the symbols of Jewish sovereignty. They have turned the focus of their assault away from the political front lines to the conceptual hinterland and to the spiritual roots of the Zionist movement.
In this sinister enterprise, their lack of electoral support should not be taken as a measure of their reach. They have other means to amplify the volume of their voice and the efficacy of their message.
A major element of this assault is being conducted via Haaretz. In a string of recent editorials and a barrage of opinion columns, it has sallied forth with an overt drive to eradicate references to the Jewish character of the foundational ethos of Israel.
Consider the following editorial headlines:
Ostensibly, the objective is to redraft the trappings of public life to allow the Arab minority to identify with, and participate in, state-related activities, ceremonies and celebrations. However, it takes little analytical effort to discover that this is but a flimsy veneer concealing a unambiguous campaign for the conversion of Israel from the “nation-state of the Jews” to “a-state-of-all-its-citizens.”
The current focus of attack is the wording of the national anthem, “Hatikva,” which Haaretz tells us, “ignore[s] the existence of an Arab minority in the State of Israel – a minority for whom this land is also their land.”
According to the paper, “No Arab citizen who had any self-respect, political awareness or national consciousness could sing these words without committing the sins of hypocrisy and falsehood.”
Elsewhere, we are told why this is so: “Independence Day is not a holiday for Israeli Arabs. Sixty-four years ago, they lost their land and their national honor.”
I am trying to get my head around this. Is one of the nation’s major newspapers really calling on the public not only to understand the sorrow the Arab minority feels that the genocidal attempt of its ethnic-kinfolk to obliterate the Jewish population failed, but to take far-reaching steps to accommodate this sadness?
How are we to assuage their melancholy at having “lost their land and national honor” in their failed Judeocidal effort? Are Jews really expected to forgo the victory and to suppress the expression of their national identity to alleviate the discomfort of the defeated? One cannot but wonder what the consequences would have been had the fortunes of war been reversed? And how are we to restore their “national honor” (much less their ‘land”) – or to compensate them for their loss – without de-Judaizing Israel and deconstructing the Zionist ethos.
But that is what the post-Zionists are really aiming at. However, to achieve this goal of dismantling the status of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, they first have to achieve an intermediate goal: to decouple Israel from its Jewishness, to denude, and then break, the bond of kinship between the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Hence the assault on the Jewish emblems – first the anthem, next the flag, then the Law of Return. After all, why should the Jewish Diaspora have unfettered access to the country and not the Palestinian diaspora?
This is a question the post-Zionists – and Haaretz – will doubtless be raising soon in editorials.
Nations are not a mere amalgam of people who happen to inhabit a piece of real estate. As the liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill observes, to function as a nation populations need to feel “united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others.... The strongest of all [these common sympathies] is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past.”
So how do post-Zionists propose to generate a new sense of "pan-Israeli" nationality when one segment of the population sees in the 1948 Jewish victory a reason for pride and pleasure while another segment sees it as a source of regret and humiliation?
The members of the Arab community in Israel made a call in 1948. They elected to throw their lot in with a Jewish – repeat Jewish – state. They could have left, as did many of their kin. They can leave today if they feel they cannot identify with the fabric of national life here.
They can follow the example of many Israeli citizens who came here from economically developed nations, precisely because they felt their national affiliation was not with their country of birth, but with the Jewish homeland.
Arabs in Israel who feel their national identity is incompatible with political realities and the conduct of public life have many options. Demanding that the victors relinquish their ethos to accommodate the defeated is not one.
This must be made clear – for any ambiguity will herald great tragedy.
Martin Sherman is the academic director of the Jerusalem Summit. He
lectures at Tel Aviv University, served in Israel's defense
establishment and was a ministerial adviser to the Yitzhak Shamir
government. He has undergraduate degrees in physics and geology and a
doctorate in Political Science and International Relations. He has
written extensively on water, including "The Politics of Water in the
Middle East," London: Macmillan, 1999.
Visit his website at http://www.martinsherman.net/. This article was published May 3, 2012 in the Jerusalem Post