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Don't Upset the Religious Zionists

I don’t mean the religious Zionists who build and fight and certainly aren't Hezbollah. I mean the people who stream money and approve West Bank outposts

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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Israeli police restrain a group of right-wing protesters in Jerusalem demonstrating against the arrest of Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, June 27, 2011.
Israeli police restrain a group of right-wing protesters in Jerusalem demonstrating against the arrest of Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, June 27, 2011. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

We can ignore a fact, or deny it, but not change it. It’s a fact that we’re an abnormal country. A normal country has borders and doesn’t have 2 million people it wants to get rid of. You can live in an abnormal country. You can buy a car there and fly abroad. And anyone who can’t buy or fly can be scared into thinking that in a normal country he’d have it a lot worse.

What makes us more abnormal than anything is the elephant in the room. The elephant is the occupation and the settlements. We don’t talk about this elephant. It seems to us that it’s a waste to talk about it because nothing will change.

It’s hard to live with such an elephant in the room but, thank God, you get used to it. Fifty years is enough time to adapt 50 years without a present and without a future, without swallowing or vomiting. We know that this is abnormal, but we don’t have the strength to change it by annexing land or dividing the land. We’re paralyzed by fear and comfort each other with the notion that there isn’t anyone to talk to. And we admit that even among ourselves there’s no one to talk to and nothing to talk about.

So we don’t talk about the elephant standing on the living room rug. We get angry at anyone who even reminds us that there’s an elephant there. The knowledge that we’re silent partners in a country that has no borders and has apartheid paralyzes us. We’re willing to talk about anything, just not about that. Let’s talk about spring and the flowers in bloom; let’s talk about how one should write in the newspaper without generalizations or accusations. Let’s talk about how “a small journalist seeking attention” (from the online comments about me) turns into an anti-Semite.

“Small?” Fine. Even “attention-seeking” is okay. But why “anti-Semitic”? I have no idea, but Yair Lapid does. The Yesh Atid leader made it on the right with “treacherous leftists” and now is trying out “anti-Semitic leftists.” Lapid gives grades in anti-Semitism to anyone who can’t keep up with all his flip-flopping. My last column caught him at a moment when he thought he represented Judaism. He thinks he represents it, but I don’t. I think he’s just an ordinary politician who only represents those who voted for him. This opinion earned me his award for top anti-Semite.

So I’m an anti-Semite, and Lapid wants to be in the government. It’s his right to criticize me and his right to call me an anti-Semite. That’s fine, that’s how it is in a democracy. But as an honorary anti-Semite, I have a few questions that don’t normally get asked in a democracy. Have I irritated people too much? Have I been too blunt? Do I have to apologize now? Hide? Keep a low profile? Check under my car in the morning?

The question is what gene in the government got jolted by my column on the Hebrew print edition’s next-to-last page. The question is what stung them all. (The prison service commissioner hasn’t denounced it. She’ll pay for that.) The question is how those geniuses who turned Dorit Rabinyan’s novel into a best-seller did it again jumping on the personal opinion of an unimportant writer and turning it into a major story.

Why did they descend on an opinion similar to what has been published a thousand times before? Foolishness? Fear? The answer is both. But especially fear. Fear of religious Zionism. Don’t dare disturb it. It’s strong, arrogant and a reliable partner in any government. You don’t take such a partner’s toy away, even if it’s an elephant making everybody in the house miserable.

But one second! I don’t, heaven forbid, mean the wonderful religious Zionism that builds and fights and certainly isn’t Hezbollah (that’s all I need). I was referring to the political arm of religious Zionism, the one that streams money and approves outposts. The political arm and the military arm – the one that uproots trees and throws stones at soldiers – has the country where it wants it, makes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sweat, makes opposition leader Isaac Herzog hide and makes Lapid beg one of his party’s MKs, Ofer Shelah, to tell him what to do already.

We have no idea what we’re doing in the territories. It’s not like they didn’t try to explain – they showed us the lovely vistas and spoke about the low prices. It didn’t help. We don’t live there and we don’t hike there. The residents of the most densely populated country in the West aren’t flocking to their forefathers’ inheritance, the cradle of their civilization, their crowning glory.

Religious Zionism believes in the divine promise to Abraham. We don’t. “Here is the entire land that God promised to Abraham / To him and his progeny who will be like the sand on the seashore,” wrote Hanoch Levin. “But I am not sand on the seashore / And I don’t fulfill promises that God made to Abraham.”

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