In 1934 Avraham (aka Yair) Stern, later to become commander of the Lehi pre-state underground militia, wrote the song “With this I thee wed homeland,” describing the passionate love call of a man, in his own image obviously, to the Land of Israel, which is depicted as a submissive, pure and eternal woman.
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Stern wrote: “With this I thee wed, homeland/ By the Jewish law/ Prostrate maidservant, kneeling and lost/ I will be your husband and savior.” Thus he summed up with one short phrase, written in Tel Aviv, the core political-social doctrine of religious Zionism, as MK Bezalel Smotrich expressed it Wednesday morning in Amona, when he compared the outpost’s evacuation to a brutal rape because of the pain it causes.
As he said these words, it was reported, there were tears in Smotrich’s eyes. To the secular, or at least liberal, ear and eye, this was puzzling, almost annoying. The comparison between land and soil on the one hand and a woman and her right to her body on the other, is outrageous. We wonder how Smotrich permits himself to speak like that, what understanding and what experience (heaven forbid) he has when it comes to the world of victims of harassment, assault and other forms of sexual violence.
Smotrich belongs to the Tekuma faction, which is extreme even by comparison to Likud and the National Religious Party stream of Habayit Hayehudi. In this MK’s radical rightist circles, such a comparison is almost natural.
Smotrich’s ideological platform leans on a specific balance between the Land of Israel, the Israeli nation and the State of Israel. In fact, he turned this triangle into a square – bringing the Torah also into the equation. So the Land of Israel becomes a physical manifestation of holiness, a divine promise based in the Torah. “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” isn’t a conceptual or metaphoric expression, but a real promise which one must actively strive to implement.
Without the Torah, there is no Land of Israel, and without these two – there is no People of Israel. Regrettably, no leftist can accept this statement (even if he manages to understand it). For the far right, in the equation between “state” and “land,” the land will always prevail. Even if that land is not – legally and according to the High Court of Justice, international law and Israeli governments’ rulings from 1967 to this day – part of the state.
The rest of the right-wing leadership doesn’t disagree with this ideological perception and is in fact acting to update it. No wonder Naftali Bennett explained that “we must give our lives to annex Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].” Likud MKs have brought up several proposals to annex various parts of the West Bank.
Annexation, according to the Knesset’s religious members, is the ultimate manifestation not only of the ownership/sexual intercourse Stern spoke of in his poem, but the required move to erase the already blurred line dividing between the Land of Israel and the State of Israel.
In this sense, the settlement project and specifically the settlement in Amona is perhaps illegal according to the letter of the law, but the letter of the law is never moved, not even by a little girl’s tear. However, it may well be moved by a coalition MK’s tear.
As daunting as this is to some of us, if not legally then at least from the humane aspect of land-robbing and laundering such robbery in retrospect at the expense of the Palestinian land owner, for Smotrich it’s almost natural. Almost as natural as it was for Stern, who emphasized in another poem he wrote (“My heart is sick with love for the homeland”): “As fierce as death is my love for homeland / My hatred for the enemy fiercer still.”
This is the entire Torah, in a nutshell.
The writer is a lawyer and political activist, one of the founders of “Mahapach” (upheaval) in the Labor Party.