It Was Zionism Itself That Israel Buried This Week. Let It Go.

It was not only Shamir that we buried this week. When he went, he took Zionism with him. When the Ariel university is declared, Israel will have nothing more to conquer, and no need to formally annex.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

It's time to take a lesson from the successful. It's time to begin thinking like Yitzhak Shamir.

When he died this week, the first several people I spoke with, knowledgeable people who closely follow politics and the news, all had the same reaction. "I wasn't sure that he was still alive."

He was alive, all right. His legacy was alive in decision-making at the highest levels, in faking to center and driving right. His spirit lived in the process of quietly and completely redefining the business of Zionism. Turning its mission into protecting and fostering settlement and thus Jewish rule in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At whatever cost.

He wasn't about to go until he was sure the revolution, his revolution, was over. And that his side won. That the Green Line, the pre-1967 war border, was obliterated. That there was no chance of going back.

He wasn't about to go until a former Netanyahu aide could say out loud, as Michael Freund did last month, "the Green Line is dead and buried, and the Left can kiss it goodbye."

"Jewish life in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem is growing and flourishing, and there is no human power on earth that is going to uproot or move hundreds of thousands of Jews from places such as Ariel, Tekoa or Hebron."

Shamir waited until Yesha Settlement Council Chair Danny Dayan declared that there was no longer any point to resisting sporadic government evictions of settlers, because the movement had already achieved its objectives: No Green Line, no Palestine. Now or ever.

Now, at long last, Yitzhak Shamir can rest. Having adopted his brand of stealth and wile and relentlessness, the government is about to effectively annex the West Bank, by turning a college in the settlement city of Ariel into a full-fledged Israeli university, thereby turning it into a full-fledged part of Israel. No referendum. No questions asked.

This is the ultimate triumph of Yitzhak Shamir. This, from the standpoint of democracy, is how Zionism ends. Not with a bang, but with a university.

It was not only Shamir that we buried this week. When he went, he took Zionism with him. When that university is declared, Zionism in all of its meanings will have run its course. Israel will have cemented its rule over the West Bank. There is nothing more to conquer, and no need to formally annex.

Until this week, I wasn't sure that Zionism was still alive. But when that university is declared, we will all know that it is dead.

It's time to let it go. Perhaps it's time that moderates and liberals for whom democracy in Israel is a paramount value, stopped calling themselves Zionists. Starting with me. Not because the idea of creating a Jewish state was wrong. But because revolutions, especially if they succeed, go wrong, and when they do, it's time to get off the bus, and board a new one.

Zionism got what it aimed for, a state for the Jews. Ironically, perhaps inevitably, the state has become so all-powerful that it is no longer what, in a post-Holocaust world, it most crucially needed to be - a refuge based on democracy. Not even for Jews.

The majority of the world's Jews are non-Orthodox. Still - at the whim of a disproportionately powerful and maddeningly competitive Orthodox minority of rabbis, bureaucrats and politicians – they can be declared non-Jews and therefore non-refugees at the stroke of a pen.

The majority of Israel's citizens, whether non-Orthodox or non-Jewish, are at their mercy as well. And the great majority of Palestinians, born and bred of this land, millions in number, are disenfranchised altogether.

It's time to let Zionism rest in peace. Zionism, in the person of this government, is unwilling to give the Palestinians a fair shot at a state. Not because the Palestinians' current leadership is inappropriate, nor because rockets may follow. But because Zionism, in the mold of Yitzhak Shamir, never, ever believed in anything other than Eretz Yisrael Hashlemah. We translate it as Greater Israel, but Shamir's faith was more literal, exacting, closer to the Hebrew – the Whole, the Complete - the Completed Israel.

So now we're done.

There was never room for a Palestine in the Zionism of Greater Israel, nor in the Zionism of this government. There was room for one absolute value, and it was not democracy.

“It is permitted to liberate a people even against its will, or against the will of the majority,” Shamir once said, referring to the decision of his pre-state Lehi underground to fight and use terrorism against British authorities even if Ben-Gurion and the majority of the Jewish leadership were opposed.

“When we fought for freedom, for the establishment of a Jewish state, we didn’t send a questionnaire to the Jewish nation asking if it wanted a Jewish state.”

It's time we began thinking like Shamir. When you believe in democracy, you should continue to believe in, and work toward and fight for democracy, whether the majority does or not. Even if in this Israel, proponents of democracy have become something of an underground.

“Zionism is a revolutionary process," Shamir said. "And in a revolution you must be ready not to think too much about sentiments or human weaknesses....”

Speaking solely for myself, a person who has long embraced the label of Zionist, the revolution's over. Time to try a new direction, maybe a new label as well. Something like a Democratic Israelist. Accent on the democratic.

Time, in the current reality, to think in the mode of quiet revolution. Time to think seriously about what democracy really means. Time to think seriously, for example, about what it would mean to give the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem the vote.

With Shamir as its spiritual guide, this Israel cannot allow the Palestinians independence, cannot allow them building permits, cannot allow them freedom of movement, appeal, due process.

We should call our own bluff. We should give them the vote. Right after we declare the university in Ariel. Then we'll finally see if we can afford our own brand of independence.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, a key Council for Higher Education committee rejected the recommendation by the Council for Higher Education-Judea and Samaria to recognize the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university.

How much money the WZO allocates for settlement construction in the West Bank remains a mystery.Credit: Nir Kafri



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