Text size

"Defending Israel's right to exist will continue to stand at the center of German foreign policy," declared German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the opening of the "Europe-Israel Dialogue" conference held during the weekend in Berlin, adding that she was sorry she had to repeat this over and over. Former foreign minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer, expressed his revulsion at the comments made by German bishops, who compared the Warsaw Ghetto to what is taking place in the occupied territories.

The erosion of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state is particularly difficult for supporters of peace and democracy in Israel, who recognize its own dubious contribution to the attitude toward Israel.

All Israeli governments have missed - and continue to miss - opportunities to reconcile with neighboring states, have broadened settlement in the territories and have entrenched a destructive rule of occupation, oppressive and corrupting. Since 1967, under government auspices, a small and unruly group has assumed a belligerent monopoly on the Land of Israel and on Jewish identity. The liberal Zionism of Herzl was booted outside the fence and replaced by the messianic, separatist, anti-humanistic Judaism of muscle.

Through this dialogue the real reason for the establishment of the State of Israel, whose powerful expression echoes in the Declaration of Independence, was forgotten: the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people and its shaping into a member of equal rights and obligations in the family of modern nations. Instead, Israel has opted to make use of the Holocaust as the sole justification for its existence and has bequeathed generations of youth born in Israel a mix of blaming the entire world and hating the "gentiles." Israel is of course not to blame for everything. Its neighbors contributed more than once to the deepening of the conflict, and even now its leaders are dragging them toward an impasse.

The statements heard in Europe, stemming from the academia and extreme left there, are not legitimate criticisms of Israel's policies, but efforts to undermine, on principle, its right to exist as a Jewish state. Behind the simple question, "Does Israel have a right to exist" (as a Guardian editorial read three years ago), hides a definitive stance, which regards Israel as a passing colonial phenomenon and the Jewish people as an ethnic-religious group different from any other people and all other nation-states. However peripheral and radical this tendency may be, it has successfully influenced many people. A familiar stench, hundreds of years old, rises from it, even when it is framed in contemporary terminology.

It is good to witness enlightened liberals like Merkel and Fischer, and many others, rejecting this tendency completely. Israel's policies are worthy of severe condemnation; but its right to exist is absolute.