A Wake-up Call: Celebrating Half a Century of Israeli Occupation

At the end of 50 years, it will be clear what our revealed choice has been: We prefer the Land of Israel over the values of Israel.

Palestinian protesters wave a flag during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Duma near Nablus, April 5, 2016.
Reuters

The coming calendar year should be a year of celebrations. The end of August will mark the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress. The beginning of 2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The end of November will mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations' decision to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

However, Zionism will not be having a year of celebrations next year. On the contrary, the fact that early June 2017 will mark 50 years of the occupation will cast a dark shadow on the Herzl jubilee and the Balfour jubilee and the 29th of November jubilee. Half a century, the Palestinians will say. Half a century, the international community will say. And we too will have no alternative but to look at the calendar and look in the mirror and admit: half a century.

For the past half a century we have lived our lives from day to day and from week to week and from month to month. But at the end of 50 years it will be clear what our revealed choice has been: We prefer the Land of Israel over the State of Israel. We did not heed Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s accurate prophecy of doom. We did not listen to the profound warnings issued by Uri Avnery, Amos Oz and Aryeh "Lova" Eliav. Unwittingly, we let the modest young Israeli republic become an obese empire. Unthinkingly, we replaced the situation of a solid Jewish majority with a depleted Jewish majority. With our own hands we created a process that is ruining the quasi-biblical achievement we had in 1948. The addiction to the land caused us to melt away the sovereignty.

For the past half-century we have passed repeatedly from war to peace and back again from peace to war. But at the end of 50 years it will be clear what our revealed choice has been: We prefer the Land of Israel over the people of Israel. Most of the Jews in the world still live in the diaspora. The vast majority of them are committed to liberal democratic values. A significant part of the Jewish citizens of Israel is also still committed to those same values. This means that two-thirds of the Jews are not reconciled with a continuing situation of control over another people while denying their national, civil and human rights.

This silent and well-behaved Jewish majority is not shouting and it is not upending tables. Israel is dear to it and it does not want to turn its back to Israel. But very gradually, very quietly, the democratic majority of the Jewish people is being eroded, is becoming fatigued. The insistence on the land is tearing apart, weakening and distancing the nation.

For the past half-century we have known ups and downs in the moral dimension as well. There were decades when despite the occupation, awareness of human rights and the rights of the stranger who lives among us was ascendant. However the moral depravity and the brutalization of recent years prove the extent to which the control of others has corrupted us. At the end of 50 years it will be clear what our revealed choice has been: We prefer the Land of Israel over the values of Israel.

Clinging to the places where the prophets walked has caused us to lose touch with the prophets’ vision. The fanatical zeal for mountains, hills and land of Israel has caused us to abandon the precious breastplate of the Jewish heritage. The idolatry of the land cult and the idolatry of power and the idolatry of the tribe have worn away the commitment to universality, which was the foundation stone of our culture. The land has blinded us and has dulled our senses and has caused us to betray what we are.

Half a century is a milestone. Half a century is also a wake-up call. There are no more excuses and justifications and there is no more "tomorrow." The permanency of the occupation is becoming an integral part of our life and our identity. Thus it is endangering the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the Jewish heritage. Before the Palestinians embark on the 50th-year intifada and before the international community imposes the 50th-year sanctions on us, it is incumbent upon us to find the courage to end the 50-year curse by ourselves, for ourselves.