Zion Shall Be Redeemed With (In)justice

Here in Israel, everything threatens to drown in the violence of the majority, oiled by religious rhetoric and mixing mourning with messianic desire.

Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor
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An old map of 'Greater Israel,' other countries labeled 'Enemies.' Art by Sivan Hurwitz.
An old map of 'Greater Israel,' other countries labeled 'Enemies.' Art by Sivan Hurwitz.Credit: Sivan Hurwitz
Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor

In 1960, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Zerach Warhaftig (National Religious Party) explained the problem the government had solved by defining Jewish National Fund land, like the land expropriated using violence, as “national lands” in the Basic Law on Israel Lands.

“We want it to be clear that the lands of Israel belong to the Jewish people. The Jewish people is a broader concept than the people living in Zion, because the Jewish people are found all over the world. On the other hand, every law we accept is for the good of all the state’s residents, and all the state’s residents include people who do not belong to the global Jewish people ... ‘And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity (Leviticus 25:23)’ ... The land of Israel, Israel’s lands, will not be sold in perpetuity ... We are giving a legal wrapping to the regulations of the Jewish National Fund” (July 19, 1960.) The land is for Jews only, couched in the language of universal law.

In 1967 NRP leader Haim-Moshe Shapira predicted the moral fracture from the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He understood the place of religion within Zionist ideology, in contrast to nonreligious Israelis who were in denial about the messianic aspects of their Zionism and imagined it to be “completely secular.” Indeed, the crisis began when the occupation did. The preface to the Greater Land of Israel manifesto, which was signed by all the eminent cultural figures of the day, from Natan Alterman to Uri Zvi Greenberg, stated: “We are faithfully committed to the wholeness of our land,” and “no government in Israel is entitled to surrender this completeness” (September 22, 1967). The sovereignty crisis that peaked with Yitzhak Rabin’s murder and with the incitement against Arab voters on the last Election Day was born then.

The occupation added lands and millions of “people who do not belong to the global Jewish people,” in Warhaftig’s words. The territory became mythic. Maps of Greater Israel were hung in schools. The children who grew up on these maps (Ayelet Shaked in the “secular” school system, Naftali Bennett in “state religious” schools) learned not to apologize since the Bible says the land is ours and the Arabs are Amalekites or, to humanists, the “stranger among you.” The Religious Services Ministry has since sanctified more sheikhs’ graves, of, from “Joseph’s Tomb” in Nablus to “The Tomb of Otniel Ben Kenaz” in Hebron. The concrete territory has vanished, leaving only the religious image, essentially Christian, linking biblical texts to a “scientific” map.

Try to draw a map of our ballot boxes: Connect the dots of the places covered by Israeli democracy. Where is the concrete state of law, and where is the 48-year-old military dictatorship? The Ethiopian and Russian immigrations revitalized the Chief Rabbinate: It uses the old Law of Return to distinguish between new immigrants and foreign workers from Chisinau, between citizens from Ethiopia and Eritrean refugees. The national religion has become Israel’s backbone.

Netanyahu and Bennett personify the end of the era of vacillation. The leader gives the violent unconscious license to be uttered aloud, without apology. “He says what we think,” say the hypnotized masses. There are no curbs on governmental violence, hence the brakes in democracy: a constitution, separation of powers. Here everything threatens to drown in the violence of the majority, oiled by religious rhetoric and mixing mourning with messianic desire. (The High Court of Justice’s moments of power are rare, and as a result important, despite certain recent rulings).

Netanyahu proposes giving Israelis living abroad voting rights, to secure the “people of Israel’s” majority over the “people who do not belong to the global Jewish People” in Greater Israel. Neocapitalist Zionism: In the morning our businessmen fly to “normal” capitals, from Budapest to Washington, where law has civil meaning. Here, they plunder land and homes, muttering “Zion shall be redeemed with justice.” And Rashi explained, "By those in Zion who do justice there.” Shaked is the latest in the dynasty, after Isaiah and Rashi.

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