Opinion |

Israel Has a New Religion: Zionism

Zionism is obviously the liberation movement for two peoples: The Jews are liberated from the Arabs and the Palestinians are liberated from their land

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas speaks prior to attend a EU foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels, January 22, 2018.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas speaks prior to attend a EU foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels, January 22, 2018. Credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

If a Jew told another Jew in the Israeli mainstream, even on the left, that he doesn’t believe in God, the two would certainly continue talking. But if one of them would tell the other that he isn’t a Zionist – not to mention if he were to say that he’s anti-Zionist – his interlocutor would probably faint. That’s why it’s worth expressing such opinions close to an emergency room, just in case.

Even so, there are those who are not Zionist – or even, heaven help us, anti-Zionist – and still support the rights of Jews. The world communist movement defined Zionism as a colonialist movement but supported Jewish self-determination and their right to establish their own state in the same breath.

The religious accuse the nonreligious of heresy and the Zionists accuse the non-Zionists of anti-Semitism, even if the latter are Jews. When did Zionism become a religion? Every toddler in day care will tell you that he’s a proud Zionist. Who’s the genius who turned the word Zionist into a synonym for Jew, so that if you oppose Zionism you are anti-Jewish? Only in totalitarian states are a people identified with an ideology.

Moreover, there are those who are anti-Zionists against their will, like this writer. All the Arabs in the State of Israel see Zionism as a movement that’s even worse than imperialism; as bad as the imperialist Turkish and British eras were, the Arabs weren’t uprooted from their land during those periods. And even so, they recognize the Jewish people’s right to their own state.

Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has learned a thing or two about Zionism, says outright that he wants a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. He even provoked criticism when he said he would visit Safed, his birthplace, from which Zionism expelled him, as a tourist. It’s not only that Abbas was expelled from his land. Most of his people are refugees and he keeps getting slapped in the face, yet despite all that, he is expected to praise Zionism. Here’s another idea for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: In addition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinians should also recognize Zionism as a national liberation movement.

Justice is with the Zionists. After all, Zionism is the liberation movement for two peoples: The Jews are liberated from the Arabs and the Palestinians are liberated from their land. Thus Abbas, who experienced liberation from Safed, is meant to internalize the liberating nature of Zionism.

The problem is that the Zionists don’t declare the limits of their line of liberation. Given the settlers’ healthy appetite, all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, won’t satisfy them. That gang maintains their colonial activity in the West Bank while shouting bitterly at Abbas because he linked Zionism to colonialism. They settle and they weep. There’s the story of a woman who, while having forbidden sex with a strange man, tells him that in the village there are rumors that she’s sleeping with him, and at the same rhythm of his blessed sexual activity, the insulted young man yells, “They’re lying, they’re lying!”

Afterward, the court journalists loyal to Zionism condemn Abbas for telling U.S. President Donald Trump, “May your house be destroyed.” As with any language, in Arabic there is also what’s known as reverse logic. In Arabic, the phrase “May your house be destroyed” is said to emphasize the exceptional, whether it be good or bad.

Arabs say, “May his house be destroyed, he’s such a miser” (we’re not talking about Netanyahu, of course). They say, “May his house be destroyed, he’s so arrogant” (we don’t mean Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, God forbid). And in the same breath, they say, “May his house be destroyed, he’s so funny.” As such, what Abbas meant was, “May your house be destroyed, ya Trump, for all the fake news you create.”

Seventy years later, for most people here Arabic is still a foreign language that generates fear. May your houses be destroyed, you’re so disconnected from the region.

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