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It's Leftism or Zionism - You Can't Have Both

The two-state solution is dead, and the Zionist left helped kill it

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Right-wing counter-protesters at a demonstration against Israeli policies in Gaza, Haifa, March 20, 2018.
Right-wing counter-protesters at a demonstration against Israeli policies in Gaza, Haifa, March 20, 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Here’s an oxymoron: Zionism and the left. These are two conflicting values that can no longer be upheld simultaneously, and the time has come to recognize this.

This is the most important reason for the Israeli left’s erosion to its current nadir: The left declined because it lost its way. This loss of its way was inbuilt and inevitable. If you remain a Zionist, you can no longer be of the left; if you’re of the left, you can no longer be a Zionist.

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There’s no longer any way to bridge the yawning chasm that has opened between these two values. Neither a different leadership nor a merger of parties can save the day. Now, it’s necessary to choose: Either leftism or Zionism. Either or.

The masked ball in which both were deemed possible has ended, and another masked ball must similarly end – that of Judaism and democracy. It’s either or, not both.

For decades, many Israelis – at times, even a majority – thought there was no contradiction between these two beliefs. It was possible to believe in the Jews’ right to a state in the Land of Israel and at the same time be part of the enlightened left, a striver for peace and equality.

We’ll ignore history and the question of to what extent it was ever really possible to believe in both these values without being a hypocrite. Today, the question has become moot. It’s no longer possible.

The breaking point is the point at which it becomes clear that the two-state solution is dead. One can argue over whether that moment has already arrived or whether it’s merely approaching rapidly, but there’s no doubt that this solution is in terminal condition, either dying or dead, and in any event it’s farther away than ever before. We can also ignore the questions of who is to blame for this and whether successive Israeli governments, including those headed by the Zionist left, ever intended to implement this solution. Today, it’s terminally ill.

The conclusion is unavoidable. If there’s no longer any chance for two nation-states, there’s no longer any room for the left to talk about Zionism. There are only two alternatives to two states – an apartheid state or a democratic state, which would be binational. Zionism bears no relation to either of them.

Zionism never declared that it planned to build an apartheid state in the Land of Israel, nor did it ever intend to build an egalitarian Jewish-Arab state – a state of all its citizens – like all other states. But over the past 52 years, Zionism has chosen the first option. And there’s no indication that it’s about to change its mind. Israel would rather be an apartheid state than a democratic one, and it’s doing everything in its power to consolidate and perpetuate this state.

If the United Nations were to vote today on whether Zionism is racism, no decent person would be able to oppose the resolution. The Zionism that allowed the occupation to become a permanent situation is an ultra-nationalist, racist movement. Only the far right could support it.

We’ve reached the Rubicon and crossed it. And as with all Rubicons, there’s no way back. Zionism, the scaffolding on which the state was built, must be dismantled. Not only is there no longer any need for it – the house exists and stands on firm foundations – but it’s no longer relevant.

Today, the scaffolding is only for cosmetic purposes, to further a deception. “We’re Zionists” means we’re the good guys, and therefore, anything is permitted to us.

It requires a great deal of courage and integrity to admit that Zionism has reached the end of the road. It’s no longer an ideology, but a fanatical religion, and religions permit no heretics. A non-Zionist is a traitor – soon to be enacted in legislation.

But there’s no longer any other choice – not even the self-deception of the Zionist left, which continues to claim that it can be both Zionist and leftist. The number of Israelis willing to continue upholding this lie is steadily shrinking. Just look at the polls.

Nevertheless, this cloud may have a silver lining. Israel may stop being a country of monolithic thinking, and new questions may enter the conversation, of a type it has never dealt with before.

Once the recognition sinks in that Zionism contradicts humanism and liberalism, that it’s nothing but extreme nationalism and racism in disguise, the question of what will replace it will arise in full force. For the left, there can only be one choice: equality and democracy in a single state, a state that has already existed for more than half a century and shows no sign of being about to disappear. If you so desire, you can call this Zionism.

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