Back to Liberal Zionism

Israel's silent majority needs to rise up against the extremists from both right and left and free itself of their stranglehold.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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A demonstration against the Gaza operation in Tel Aviv, July 17, 2014.
A demonstration against the Gaza operation in Tel Aviv, July 17, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

You want the truth? We’ve had it. We’ve had it with the delusional nationalists who are leading Israel to destruction, and we’ve had it with the visionary leftists who are stoning Israel. We’ve had it with the skullcap-wearing post-Zionists who are burying Zionism in the hills, and we’ve had it with the bespectacled post-Zionists who are depicting Zionism as a series of crimes. We’ve had it with the messianic believers in the entire Land of Israel, who don’t understand that without dividing the land, there will be no state, and we’ve had it with the messianic believers in a perfect peace, who don’t understand Hamas and the Islamic State and don’t know where they are living.

We’ve had it with the racist right, which destroys the image of the democratic Jewish state, and we’ve had it with the lamentations of the foolish left, which has lost any feeling of blue-and-white pride. We’ve had it with those who live in an immoral world of being only for ourselves, and we’ve had it with those who live in a warped world of being only against ourselves. They’re all so childish, the extremists of both right and left; they’re so pathetic. They resemble each other and deserve each other, and together, they are bringing disaster upon us.

You want the truth? We’ve been broken. We’ve been broken by the crude discourse of power and pillars of smoke, and also by the empty discourse of the Arab peace initiative, the Mahmoud Abbas hope and peace in our time. We’ve been broken by the moldy slogans of “if we just stand firm,” and also by the hollow promises of “if we just extend our hand.” We’ve been broken by the stubborn refusal to understand that the occupation is killing us, diplomatically, morally and demographically, and also by the refusal to recognize that Palestine isn’t California and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal isn’t Martin Luther King. We’ve been broken by those who see bloodthirsty Arabs and anti-Semitic heirs of the Nazis everywhere, and also by those who refuse to admit that Arab fascism and Palestinian fundamentalism and anti-Semitic European Israel-haters exist.

We’ve been broken by those who think we are the only victims, and also by those who are convinced the Palestinians are nothing but victims. We’ve been broken by those who haven’t yet learned that if you grab too much, you’ll end up with nothing, and also by those who have forgotten that in the Middle East, anyone who doesn’t have power or who doesn’t exercise power won’t survive. They are so disconnected from reality, the extremists of both right and left. They resemble each other and deserve each other and, together, they are bringing disaster upon us.

You want the truth? It has to be stopped. The nationalist right has been acting for years in an anti-national fashion, weakening the Jewish nation-state and endangering the Zionist enterprise. The universalist left has been acting for years in a non-universal fashion, adopting a particularistic approach that blames Israel (for everything) and forgives the Palestinians (for everything.) The impassioned stupidity of both poles blinds us from seeing the fate of our generation, half of which was described by Moshe Dayan at Nahal Oz almost 60 years ago: to be prepared and armed and strong and hard, but also to be wise and moderate and just. The stupid spat between the blind zealots is preventing us from seeing a complicated but clear reality: There is no Zionist future in this place that isn’t liberal, and there is no liberal future in this place that isn’t Zionist.

The delusional right currently has the support of less than 30 percent of Israelis, and the delusional left has the support of less than three percent. The former control the political system and the latter control significant portions of the media, academia and reports submitted to The Hague, but neither of them understand Israeliness or reflect Israeliness. They haven’t internalized the miracle of our existence, the uniqueness of our existence or the challenge of our existence.

The time has come for the silent 70 percent of Israelis in the center to rise up against the extremists from both right and left and free themselves of their stranglehold. The time has come for a broad-based, angry Israeli rebellion that will return Israel to reality, morality and sanity. We mustn’t give up this one country of ours without a fight. Our duty now is to repossess it, redefine it and put it back on track.

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