Opinion |

The Problem With Zionism: Israel Was Born in the Holy Land, Not Uganda

The adoption of Judaism by secular politicians is neither cheap election pandering nor spiritual embrace of religion. It's the result of Zionism's inherent flaw

Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv
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David Ben-Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
David Ben-Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Credit: Sharshel Frank/ GPO
Kobi Niv
Kobi Niv

The growing crowding of God’s neighborhood, including by supposedly secular individuals — such as Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, who in addition to spewing forth nonsense is also taking part in religious rituals, and Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay, who suddenly realized that while God doesn’t have a phone he has other forms of connection — is neither cheap election pandering nor a deeply spiritual embrace of Judaism. It is simply the result of an inherent flaw of Zionism.

Zionism was, at heart, a national movement that was not only entirely secular but also expressly rebelled against religion, which to the Zionists symbolized everything that was wrong with life in the Diaspora. The founders of Zionism spurned religion. They sought to be like all other nations and to establish a nation-state in the new mold of the time, based on shared territory and language rather than only religion.

But these nationalist Jews, in contrast to other European nationalists they sought to emulate, had a problem. They lacked a shared language and, most important, they lacked a shared territory.

From the beginning the Zionists argued about where to create their nation-state — in Bavaria, in Uganda or in the Land of Israel? In the end, the lot fell to Palestine, and that is the root of the failure that has haunted us ever since. The answer to the question, “why the Land of Israel?” is entirely religious, to be found in God’s promise to the People of Israel. But the Zionists rejected religion and rebelled against its sway, so why the Land of Israel?

At first the Zionists tried to bridge this conceptual gap with a contorted time-leap over 2,000 years of exile. They considered themselves the historical, but not the religious, successors of the Jews who once lived here — as if Theodor Herzl were Samson’s right-hand man, David Ben-Gurion the nephew of Judah Maccabee and Moshe Dayan the deputy of Shimon Bar Kochba.

The bluff did not take, particularly after the “miracle” of the Six-Day War. That war brought God back into Jewish fashion — in liberating Jerusalem, he erased the minor mishap of the Holocaust — together with his promise of giving the Land of Israel to the People of Israel. This enlarged the defect in the Zionist genome, turning it into a great fissure.

This chasm has only widened since then, into a veritable abyss. This blood-soaked false equation, according to which if you don’t believe in God and his promise then there is no reason for you to be here, rules. You either believe we are here on account of that divine promise or you can leave and go to hell.

The simple, normal reply of any French, Norwegian, Indonesian or Brazilian person to the question “why do you live here?” — that is, “because I was born here” — is neither common nor acceptable here. It is unacceptable to Zionists; what about the Palestinians who were born here? Do they also have a right to live here? Leave, you traitor, go back to Russia or, even better, to Syria.

There’s just one tiny problem with this false equation — it will end in a bloodbath, on all sides. The real equation, and the only one that guarantees life, is one of coexistence in peace and equality, with no additional privileges for any nation, lest we continue to advance, with determination and folly, toward the final bloodbath.

Anyone who thinks that God did or will tell him what to do should look back 70-some years, to those green pastures of Poland that our children visit as part of preparing to volunteer for the Paratroopers Brigade.


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