Opinion |

Israel, an Independent State, but Always Afraid

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Palestinian women wait to cross the Qalandia checkpoint on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the fourth Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 29.
Palestinian women wait to cross the Qalandia checkpoint on their way to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the fourth Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 29. Credit: Oded Balilty /AP
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Israelis will be granted a sense of security on Wednesday. As on every Independence day, the fall holidays, Purim and Passover, this year too, the gates of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be closed to Palestinians, and they will not be allowed within the boundaries of the State of Israel. There is nothing like these closures for revealing what cannot be obscured: There is no Greater Land of Israel. The bright Green Line, adorned with a breached wall, is resurrected at these times and emphatically declares that there are in fact two states for two peoples.

The closures shove a middle finger in the faces of the settlers, make a mockery of their baseless claim to be the bulwark of the State of Israel and make it clear to Independence Day revelers that Israel is still a small country surrounded by enemies. The peace agreements that were signed with Egypt and with Jordan, and a few decades later with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, did not dispel our sense of suffocation or eliminate the terror of the knife, scissors, stolen or homemade rifle, the rocket and the bomb. They wait constantly, behind every corner. Israel is an independent state and an economic success story but remains so fearful that on holidays it imposes closures and during the rest of the year its citizens carry pistols at the ready, and has an army that is “prepared for every eventuality.”

Such a state can be independent, but not free. Nine million citizens live in an independent state, while another half-million live on the other side of the fence on land that does not belong to them, some of which was appended to the state the same way that Russia appended the Crimean Peninsula to itself. Yet when the term “West Bank” slipped out of the mouth of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a blood-curdling scream went up, as if the nation had awoken from its sweet slumber and was forced to look itself in the face. Neither “Judea and Samaria” nor the Promised Land, but rather the disgraceful occupation of a land that is not its own. The bubble was burst, and by the very person who is supposed to fiercely protect the bluff at all costs. A state that clings desperately to false semantics in order to justify the divine mission that is its raison d’etre is not a free state. It will always be dependent upon the interpretations of the representatives of God.

The concept of independence also demands a reassessment after 74 years of statehood, 55 of them in bondage to the territories. When a state’s values, identity, laws, state budget, army and educational system are dictated and shaped by messianic militants, rioters and criminals, who have inserted their malignant nationalism and racism deep into its bowels, that state cannot be truly independent. It’s a captive state that has not only fallen in love with its captors but has adopted them and their teachings and turned them into its pillars of fire and cloud.

When the Nation-State Law states in its opening clause that “the Land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established,” it creates an overlap between “the Land of Israel” and the State of Israel thereby marking out what are the proper borders of our homeland.

The law’s critics point to the issue of equality, which is absent in it, and the terrible harm it does to non-Jewish minorities. But the essence of the law is much worse because it states that so long as the State of Israel isn’t congruent with the Land of Israel, our independence isn’t complete, as if it were an enclave inside the space that belongs to the Israeli nation. We are not talking here only about a geographical territory but the definition of Jewish nationalism, which can’t be satisfied with anything less than the entire Land of Israel.

If at the start of our journey we were content with international recognition of our sovereignty and independence, with the understanding that the Jews were entitled to a state like everyone else, five and a half decades of occupation have spread through us like a cancer, taking over and destroying its host to the point that identify just what comprises this independent state.

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