Who Is a Zionist?

There is no national solution other than the geographic and national division of the land, with everything that implies: A Hebrew state on one side and an Arab one on the other.

Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Joint List
Joint List candidates before the last Knesset election. Credit: Rami Shlush
Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha

Every field of endeavor that determines quality of life in this country, for better or for worse, is a derivative of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But in this election campaign, nobody is talking about this essential question. All we hear about is the “Zionist Union” on one side and the “national camp” on the other. Each side accuses the other of being anti-Zionist. The question, if so, is not “who is a Jew” but “Who is a Zionist?”

The Basic Law on the Knesset states that “A candidate’s list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following: negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; incitement to racism; support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.” Moreover, in order to become a member of Knesset, the elected candidate must swear allegiance to the State of Israel.

Given this, it’s not even possible for a non-Zionist party to sit in Israel’s Knesset, much less an anti-Zionist one. The only non-Zionist movements – the northern branch of the Islamic Movement on one hand and Neturei Karta on the other – don’t participate in the Zionists’ election games.

This “Jewish-democratic” State of Israel to which MKs pledge allegiance is the apex of the national expression that Zionism sought to achieve for the Jews in the land of Israel/Palestine. Consequently, it’s even possible to say that the Arab parties which are running on a joint ticket in this election, a ticket whose members will later swear allegiance to the state, are super-Zionist parties.

Additional proof that they are Zionist parties loyal to Israel, not Palestine, can be found in their vehement opposition to drawing a new border that would sever some of their voters from that same Israel, as well as their opposition to being part of the Palestinian nationalism of the future Palestinian state. They have thereby declared that they, too, are Zionist parties par excellence whose loyalty has been given to the State of Israel, not the Palestinian nation-state.

This complexity is very serious. Let’s call it by its name: This is the national question – the Jewish one on one hand and the Palestinian on the other. Anyone who thinks the conflict here is a national conflict must seek a national solution in the full sense of the term. There is no national solution other than the geographic and national division of the land, with everything that implies: A Hebrew state on one side and an Arab one on the other. The one-state vision is inapplicable when religion and tribalism reign, whether by kippa or kaffiyeh.

The ongoing Israeli occupation, which has woken sleeping religious demons, is pouring fuel on the fire and upsetting the nationalist applecart. National Zionism has given way to tribal, messianic Judaism that has turned back the clock. On the other side, Hamas’ messianism has blown up the Palestinian nationalism that the Palestine Liberation Organization worked so hard to establish.

And thus we’ve gone back to square one of our intercommunal conflict: Zionists abusing the Palestinians on one hand, and Palestinians trying to shake them off on the other.

There’s nothing new under the sun. The answer to the question of “who is a Zionist” was already given back in the 19th century by Ahad Ha’am: “We can surely learn from our history ... how careful we must be not to rouse the wrath of the people of the land against us by despicable acts ... Yet what do our brothers in the Land of Israel do? The exact opposite! They were slaves in the land of their exile, and suddenly they find themselves amid unbridled ... as will always happen to the ‘slave who becomes king,’ and they treat the Arabs hostilely and cruelly, trespass on their lands unjustly, beat them shamefully for no good reason, and moreover, boast that this is what they will do, and there is no one to stand in the breach and stop this contemptible and dangerous tendency ...” (“Truth from the Land of Israel,” 1891). And thus we’ve reached the point where we’re all standing on the brink of the abyss.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Election ad featuring Yair Lapid in Rahat, the largest Arab city in Israel's Negev region.

This Bedouin City Could Decide Who Is Israel's Next Prime Minister

Dr. Claris Harbon in the neighborhood where she grew up in Ashdod.

A Women's Rights Lawyer Felt She Didn't Belong in Israel. So She Moved to Morocco

Mohammed 'Moha' Alshawamreh.

'It Was Real Shock to Move From a Little Muslim Village, to a Big Open World'

From the cover of 'Shmutz.'

'There Are Similarities Between the Hasidic Community and Pornography’

A scene from Netflix's "RRR."

‘RRR’: If Cocaine Were a Movie, It Would Look Like This

Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid's Journey: From Late-night Host to Israel's Prime Minister