Levy Responds to Herzog: Proud to Be Outside of Your Camp

The nationalism and near-racism expressed by Issac Herzog, the loyal spokesman for the center-left, is obvious.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Zionist Chairman Isaac Herzog.
Zionist Chairman Isaac Herzog.Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

I thank Isaac Herzog for his businesslike reply Tuesday (“Levy’s one state is no vision of hope”) and for the opportunity to respond to the heart of the matter.

I may be outside the camp, but I’m certainly not with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. We have nothing in common except the vast void between us; but to be honest, I don’t have much in common with Herzog, either. Ariel may want a single state between the river and the sea, but that state will never be democratic and egalitarian. The right wants the entire land, and at best is willing to let a nation with inferior rights live in it. The world calls that apartheid. Here in Israel we must fight this.

Herzog isn’t so far from there. If you scrape off the layers of makeup, you’ll find within him the same nationalist foundation; the belief that in this land there is one nation with inborn privileges that exceed those of the other nation living here. It’s a refined nationalism, but no democrat can accept it, and the Palestinians will certainly not accept it.

It starts with the Law of Return, which is for Jews alone; and winds through “security needs,” which are always only the security needs of the Jews, and ends with the demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized; it all screams of privilege. Why should the Palestinian state be demilitarized? Is there such a state anywhere on Earth? It has no right to defend its citizens? Aren’t Palestinians’ lives put at risk every day by Israel? And what’s with the “Jordan Valley is the security border?”

But the nationalism and near-racism expressed by Herzog, the loyal spokesman for the center-left, is far more obvious. What is this fear-mongering about the “danger of an Arab majority” if not racism? Where else do they issue such warnings against people who have been living in a place for generations?

“One vote for Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh and one for Gideon Levy,” Herzog cautions us. “And if the Islamic State decided to run for the parliament of Isra-stan, then what? One man, one vote?” And if the Nazis decide to contend in Europe, then what?

So the answer is yes – one man, one vote, for everyone except the violent racists from both peoples, who will be outlawed. There is no other kind of democracy. Every Jewish nationalist can vote, and every Palestinian nationalist can vote, with the hope that both will gradually become fewer in number.

I have no idea what Herzog and his ilk mean when they talk about a “Jewish state,” other than its Jewish majority; it doesn’t matter what kind of Jews or how they act, so long as they are Jews. Any way you slice it, you get a nationalist state. Democratic? Of course it isn’t, by definition, nor is it just. If I had to choose between a “Jewish state” on a slippery slope toward becoming an apartheid state and a just state, I prefer the latter. I seek neither a Jewish majority nor an Arab majority, but a democratic majority. It’s doubtful whether today’s Jewish state still has such a majority.

Herzog calls this “turning out the lights on the Zionist project.” But these lights were dimmed long ago, even with a Jewish majority. They were turned off when inspectors hunted down refugees in the cities of the Jewish state; they were turned off when the occupiers demolished flimsy homes leaving hundreds of people with nothing over their heads in the heat of August in the occupied Jordan Valley. What lights are left, exactly, if these are the policies – about which, incidentally, we’ve heard nary a protest from Herzog the Zionist.

“What sane Israeli would choose to live in a state with an Arab majority?” asks Herzog, ripping off the mask once and for all. Well, a fifth of Israel’s population would prefer an Arab majority; they’re sane, but Herzog forgot about them. Even as a Jew, however, if I had to choose between a Jewish majority and a democratic majority, between a majority that supports racism and a majority that supports equality, it doesn’t matter what nationality they’re from, I would not hesitate to choose. Nor would Herzog hesitate; he will always prefer the Jews, and then he’ll call that democracy.

This puts Herzog inside the camp and me outside it. I’m proud of that.

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