Minister Naftali Bennett, You Are Killing Zionism

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Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Naftali Bennett.Credit: Avishag Sh'ar-Yeshuv

Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett accuses me of undermining “the foundations of the Zionist enterprise,” and of “blatant subversion of the foundations of our existence here and the future of the Jewish people” (Haaretz July 12). From here it is a very short road to marking me as an enemy of the people. The phrase “blatant subversion of the foundations of our existence here and the future of the Jewish people” smacks of treason. Bennett is one of the government’s senior ministers and also a member of the security cabinet. If he saw fit to publish an article under his name accusing a journalist of treason, one might be permitted to fear that it would follow naturally for Bennett to try to shut that journalist up by restricting his freedom of expression. That would obviously follow, even necessarily follow, in order to protect “the foundations of our existence here” and “the future of the Jewish people.”

Naftali, you are killing Zionism. You killed the Jewish state. You and your settlements. You and your occupation. You and your apartheid. I am choking on the broth you cooked. You established a violent binational state in Israel, awash in terror, radical nationalism and fundamentalist religion. You are blatantly subverting the foundations of all of our existence here, Jews and Palestinians. You have left me no choice but to declare that I feel a sense of shared fate with the Palestinians in Israel and the territories. Because I am a democrat. And I believe in universal morality. I am not a fascist like you.

You claim that “The State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people…the nation is the starting point and securing its future is the goal and the means.” The continued control over millions of Palestinians without basic human rights in Judea and Samaria is not Zionism, Naftali. You are dispossessing them and excluding them, but they exist. They live there. That is their state too. And they are not Jews. And they are not Zionists. And your insistence on continuing to rule them has turned Israel into a state that is not Jewish and not democratic.

Naftali, because of you we are living in a binational state. That is the reality. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s declaration that “a Jewish state has been established in the Land of Israel, which is the State of Israel,” is no longer relevant, I’m sorry to say. And therefore it is unacceptable to claim that Israel is the home of a Jewish baby born as an American citizen in Minneapolis as these lines are being written any more than it is the home of a Palestinian baby born at that same moment as a citizen of Israel in the town of Sakhnin. That is racism.

Does that mean that Zionism is racism? Under the complex circumstances of the establishment of Israel as a refuge for Jews after the Holocaust (which was cited rightly in the Declaration of Independence as clearly proving the need for a Jewish state), and in light of the willingness of the Zionist movement at the time for compromise and readiness to share the land with the Palestinians born here – no. But today – yes.

From the perspective of 2016, Israel is the birthplace of the Israeli people. The Israeli people is made up of Jews, Muslims and Christians, Druze and Circassians, Sudanese and Eritreans. It is made up of the people living in this country under Israeli rule, without reference to religion, race or gender. That is the only formula to preserve Israeli democracy.

The buses with Birthright groups should be sent back to where they came from. The young people, touring the ancestral land promised them by God like effendis, have lost their rights here. And yes, the Law of Return, the apple of Ben-Gurion’s eye, should be abolished. It was good in 1948, but in 2016 it is one of the foundations of creeping fascism that is taking over the country. This folly should end.