Who Is a Zionist?

Despite the challenge to its Zionist bona fides, Meretz is the only Israeli party that protects the Zionist project — by fighting for a two-state solution

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FILE PHOTO: Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (L) shakes hands with a party member as lawmaker Ilan Gilon (seated, R) calls back at her
FILE PHOTO: Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (L) shakes hands with a party member as lawmaker Ilan Gilon (seated, R) calls back at herCredit: David Bachar
Haaretz Editorial

The right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon reported on Friday that in 2009, Meretz removed from its platform its mention of Zionism and ceased defining itself as Zionist. The report sparked a media storm over the party’s Zionist identity. Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon denied the report, saying: “Meretz is a left-wing Zionist party ... an Israeli party with Jewish and Arab members” and whose founders in 1992 decided that everyone was free to define themselves as each saw fit.

A party brings together people with similar worldviews and shared political goals – social, economic and foreign-policy. A party represents its voters and its principal duty is to them. The dramatic “change” that supposedly happened to the ideology of Meretz eight years ago, and was depicted as breaking news, was not perceived as such by its voters, who seem not even to have noticed. Thus, the mere fact of Makor Rishon’s examination smacks of a political witch hunt, an attempt to brand the party and its voters as traitors, in the spirit of incitement so typical of the regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In light of this, the very fact that the leaders of Meretz are being asked for a declaration of loyalty, and that various previous versions of its party platforms that refer to Zionism are being pulled out, plays into the hands of the extreme right. Galon was correct to say that she “is unwilling to be graded on her Zionism by the right wing cheering in the bleachers, whose voters are trying to pass a nation-state law from which the values of the Declaration of Independence are intentionally absent.”

In fact, Meretz is the only party on the Israeli political map today that defends the Zionist project. That is because it is the only party fighting proudly, loudly, without a wink to the right, for a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only a two-state solution can satisfy the national aspirations of both peoples, in separate, independent states — including the aspirations of the Jewish people in its historical homeland. Any other solution will force Israel to maintain its Jewish majority by nondemocratic means, which in any case are not sustainable in the long term.

Like Israel, Meretz has both Jews and Arabs, and it addresses this challenge exactly as the state chose to deal with it when the Declaration of Independence was written. Galon explained that for Meretz, “the promise of the Declaration of Independence for equality and justice are not lip service, but a command.” Is there is any another party on the Israeli political map – left, right, or center – that heeds this command?

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel

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