Opinion |

The Zionist Left Has Paved the Way to the Rise of the Extreme Right

Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman
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An Israeli settler walks past a Star of David graffiti on the door of a closed Palestinian shop in the Jewish settlement area of the divided West Bank city of Hebron on January 8, 2010
An Israeli settler walks past a Star of David graffiti on the door of a closed Palestinian shop in the Jewish settlement area of the divided West Bank city of Hebron on January 8, 2010Credit: HAZEM BADER/ AFP
Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman

I was born in Haifa in 1944. I was four when my father returned home one day with a soft cloth doll in his hand and deep shame in his heart. He took it from an Arab house, he told my mother. His Hebrew wouldn’t have been good enough yet to have used the more accurate term and say he “plundered” it. A while later I heard him mention the doll again and say that others stole much more: decorative objects, appliances, carpets. And he took only a small doll, and still he felt ashamed. Really? I didn’t care. The shooting and explosions and later the bombardments we heard from the lower city instilled in me a huge fear of the Arabs. I just wanted them to leave and to have quiet.

This fear stayed with me for many years. During the 1956 war, I fled in terror from our apartment balcony on the top floor, because I saw a face in a red kaffiyeh looking back at me from the roof. I can still remember it. Maybe it was just an Arab worker fixing the elevator motor, or maybe it was the face from my nightmares that suddenly appeared to me. At any rate, as a child and a teen, in the mixed city where I was born I never met an Arab in regular social circumstances, not as a classmate or in the youth movement. In middle school, when it was time for me to choose a second language to study, I chose French and not Arabic. Our “French” group stood out in the schoolyard and taunted the smaller group that chose Arabic. Most of them probably went on to serve in intelligence.

Even though my parents were left-wingers and sent me to Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, like the vast majority of my generation, I was a victim of such thorough and profound emotional and ideological deception that when my eyes were finally opened, it was too late. New and fateful facts in the field had already been established.

Our Israeli world was built on three foundations: the cult of the Holocaust, a false narrative and ignorance. And it was the Zionist left that ruled in Israel then, without Herut and without Maki (the Israeli Communist Party).

The cult of the Holocaust: From preschool on, I learned to sanctify the Shoah, to nurture it as a national asset and to worship it in annual ceremonies. The very use of the biblical-mythological term “Shoah” and the attaching of a saintly aura to the victims – all this banished to another planet the things that occurred in the heart of Europe. I didn’t learn to recognize the growth of fascism and national-socialism that developed in its wake as a political-ideological chapter in European history. I didn’t learn about the murder of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies and millions of Poles and Russians who were also considered members of inferior races. I didn’t learn to despise racism in all its forms. Unknowingly, I was trained from the time I was small to be an Israeli-Jewish racist: I learned that there was never another genocide like the murder of European Jewry; that there was never any hatred like Jew hatred; and that the only answer to our haters, who rise up to destroy us everywhere and in every generation, is the State of Israel and its military strength.

False narrative: I learned about the one and only narrative about our political-national existence in this area – We Jews returned to our historic homeland after 2,000 years of exile. The Arabs did not recognize our right to establish a national home here, they wanted and still want to destroy us. In 1948 they were defeated in a war that they declared, and in wake of their defeat they fled from their communities of their own and their leaders’ volition, and so became refugees, and these refugees became a political pawn in the hands of the Arab states. This is what we were taught.

I only learned for the first time, with genuine shock, about acts of expulsion and massacres and the Jewish leadership’s expansion plans from Benny Morris’ 1988 book “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem.” I was 44 then. The fact that I came from a political leftist family had not shielded me from the brainwashing of the Israeli education system when the Zionist left was in power.

Today I know that many archives are still closed and that even those that were opened are being closed again to cover up plans and acts of expulsion and expansion that most of us know nothing about. When people talk about the “stage plan,” they’re referring to an Arab plan to wipe out Israel and not to what David Ben-Gurion wrote to his son Amos in 1937: “My assumption is – and for this reason I am a keen adherent of the state even if it entails partition now – because a partial Jewish state is not the end, but the beginning… The founding of the state – even partially – is a maximal boost of strength at this time. And it will serve as a very powerful lever in our historic efforts to redeem the entire land” (Benny Morris, “Correcting a Mistake,” 2000). Ignorance: Due to the circumstances in Europe, I came into the world in an Arab Muslim area that was completely foreign to my parents and most of their contemporaries. One would think that the founding generation of the Jewish state should have worked to get to know this area and develop a closeness with it. But just the opposite happened. Those of my generation were brought up to look toward Western civilization and turn our backs on Arab civilization, on its language – a sister language of Hebrew – and on its cultural heritage. We were brought up to feel alienated from the Arabs who live in this same land with us and to feel hostility towards them and their lives. The founders’ generation also systematically suppressed this heritage among the hundreds of thousands of Jews who came here from Arab lands. They, too, were not my classmates or my companions outside of school, but for me, Israeli Arabs might as well have lived on a distant planet. Their villages were subject to martial law under a military authority and I never set foot in one. And it was the Zionist left that was in power then.

As an adult, after the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, again I was a citizen of a country that keeps Arabs trapped – millions of Arabs – with regulations and military injunctions, in closed-off enclaves, behind fences and closures, with curfews and arrests. But now my eyes were opened to see the Zionist “stages plan” rapidly coming to pass throughout the occupied territories.

It was patently clear: A fateful decision had been made to annex to Jerusalem areas several times larger than it, with their villages and Palestinian inhabitants, and to build upon them ever-widening circles of huge Jewish neighborhoods. To the south they practically touch on Bethlehem now, and to the north, almost as far as Ramallah – a situation that thwarts any possibility of a peaceful solution. The seal of approval was given to the thuggish settlement in the Old City of Hebron, which under the protection of the army has become a fascist Jewish fortified community in the heart of an Arab city; Kiryat Arba, Beit El, Ofra, Elon Moreh and Ariel were established; Jewish communities were built in the Gaza Strip, and the list goes on and on. And all this, while the Zionist left was in power.

“The disappearance of Labor and Meretz would mean the elimination of the only alternative on the left side of the political map,” writes my contemporary Uzi Baram (“Don’t be so quick to toss out the Zionist left,” Haaretz, January 20). And I ask him: Where were you and your friends during all those years when your camp held power in the country and paved the way for the extreme right that holds power today? They are only continuing the path you began, and doing so openly and also openly saying: “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands; and moreover all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of us.” But you did and you lied, you did and you deceived.



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