Tis a Pity They Didn't Speak to Gandhi

In fact, Ze'evi was right: The roots of the perversion that allowed his shocking ideas about "voluntary transfer" to seep into the public consciousness and win legitimacy are indeed planted deeply in the Zionism of the Labor movement.

Conversations with a number of school principals in the center and the north of the country yesterday showed that nearly all of them elegantly evaded the memo from the director-general of the Education Ministry that required them to discuss the heritage of Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi on the anniversary of his murder on Sunday.

A pity, really. Presumably quite a few educators, among them intelligent history teachers, could have opened their students' eyes, or at least could have answered for them a number of burning questions having to do with Ze'evi and his philosophy. A look at youth forums on the Internet proves that the young people who claim to miss Ze'evi saw him as an unblemished leader, and mainly as the definitive heir to the great Zionists, people of the Labor Movement and Ahdut Ha'avoda (another precursor of the Labor Party), David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Tabenkin (respectively).

In a post-modern world that allows everyone to define himself and his ideology according to his own taste, it is possible to understand the source of these young people's confusion. The concept "Zionism" has also gone awry in recent years, so much so that the Jewish settlers in the territories can define themselves as the last of the pioneers, heirs to the "stockade and tower," ethos, while members of Moledet claim exclusive rights to the love of the country. No wonder the Education Ministry has marketed Ze'evi as the holder of the deed to the values of "knowledge and love of the land and loyalty to it," and the students and their teachers have not rebelled.

But in this matter, in fact, Ze'evi was right: The roots of the perversion that allowed his shocking ideas about "voluntary transfer" to seep into the public consciousness and win legitimacy are indeed planted deeply in the Zionism of the Labor movement. Unlike the right wing that used grand rhetoric but never paved roads or planted trees, the Labor movement acted, and, in the nature of things, made the worst mistakes, including uprooting and exiling Arabs during the War of Independence.

Ze'evi knew very well how to exploit the one-dimensional presentations of this history. In a series of discussions called "Lost Zionism" (itself a Hebrew pun on "Labor Zionism") that he conducted with the editors of the journal Svivot in December 1993, he spread the lying and deceptive net he had woven, to prove that his ideas alone are the natural continuation of the Zionism of the Labor Movement. Even his interviewers, who were knowledgeable about the history of the state and of Zionism, found it difficult to refute the false connections. Indeed, how can a student who was born almost 40 years after the War of Independence, and into a society in which the occupation is the most significant element of its way of life, refute those connections?

Among other things, Ze'evi argued that he had learned the idea of transfer in the Labor-affiliated Mahanot Ha'olim youth movement, and that just as all the Shomer Hatza'ir kibbutzim are on land abandoned by Arabs, there is nothing wrong with transferring millions of Arabs from Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (including Jordan as far as Iraq, the Golan Heights and the Gilead). "I am not proposing sit around and wait until we reach transfer agreements in the framework of peace agreements," he stated, explaining that meanwhile he recommended "creating conditions of a negative magnet, that will bring the Arab population to prefer to emigrate." He proposed imposing conditions on the Arabs of Israel - if they fulfill obligations they will receive rights. If not - no rights.

It would be a good idea if history teachers read these conversations and quoted them to their students. It would be a good idea if they explained to them the logical and moral flaw whereby Ze'evi polluted the war for existence of a nation of oppressed refugees - which sought a homeland and had to achieve it contrary to all expectations. It would be a good idea for them to show how he cooked up an ugly, violent, immoral, and megalomaniac porridge in which Joshua Bin-Nun, the Amalekites and the Palmach campfire are all mixed up together. Indeed, the Education Ministry afforded perspicacious teachers an opportunity to conduct a critical debate about Zionist ideology. But the smart teachers were apparently afraid to deal with Ze'evi's philosophy.

Committed right-wingers, like Benny Begin and Dan Meridor, have always disassociated themselves from Ze'evi, and it was the veterans of the Palmach and Mapai who wept over the grave of the man they called "a dear comrade and a lover of the land of Israel." Thus the left added another seal of approval to what is now called "Ze'evi's heritage" and with enormous feebleness has missed out on another lesson with the homeroom teacher.