Zionists Have a Responsibilty to Join the Upcoming Jewish-Arab March

All of us, Israel's Jewish citizens, bear some responsibility for the state's support for the settlers, especially if we are silent.

The planned Jewish-Arab march in support of the Palestinian declaration of independence has been causing quite a stir. In this newspaper, Ishay Rosen-Zvi ("Not masters and not culprits," July 6 ) sees it as an "unprecedented event in the history of Zionism." Yael Sternhell ("The right side of history," July 7 ) compares it to the protest marches of the U.S. civil rights movement in the struggle for equal rights for blacks in the 1960s. And Ruth Gavison responds with "I won't join the solidarity march" (July 10 ), fearing that the march will reinforce the Palestinians' feeling "that someone is else doing the work for them and that they are likely to see their just demands met without committing to the necessary painful concessions."

There are many reasons why Israel's Jewish citizens should prefer the historic significance that Rosen-Zvi and Sternhell attribute to Jewish-Israeli support of the Palestinian declaration of independence, over the scorekeeping significance that Gavison sees in it. At least one reason has to do with Jewish Israelis' responsibility for the interpretation of Zionism. Zionism's interpretation as the realization of the Jewish people's right to self-determination in the Land of Israel cannot justify the enterprise of settling the occupied territories or the attendant abuse of the Arab population. Jewish self-determination was achieved in Israel with the establishment of the state in 1948. The settlements, built after the occupation of the territories in the 1967 Six-Day War, are not vital to its existence.

Neither can the settlements be justified by the Jewish need for security. First, for security purposes, the territories could have been held by military means, without settling there. Second, the stunning victory in 1967 makes a mockery of the claim that Israel's borders at the time were indefensible - particularly in light of Greater Israel's weakness in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Based on what we, Israel's Jewish citizens, have been accomplices to since 1967, Zionism since then can have only one interpretation. According to this interpretation, the goal is not (only ) to achieve Jewish national self-determination, and not (only ) to serve the Jewish need for security and dignity as Jews, but also, and more importantly, to realize the Jewish biblical deed of ownership over the entire Land of Israel.

This interpretation sentences Zionism and Israel to a continuous carrying out of injustice and oppression since 1967, via the settlements. The Arabs' status, according to this interpretation of Zionism, is by necessity one of thieves. The settlers, honest people for the most part, would not abuse the Arabs if not for their adherence to this interpretation of Zionism and the status of thieves it necessarily attributes to the Arabs. Israel's governments would not back the settlers if not for the belief of most of their members in the Arabs' inferior status in this country.

All of us, Israel's Jewish citizens, bear some responsibility for the continuation of these acts, especially if we are silent. Anyone who believes that Zionism's task is not to put into practice the Jewish deed of ownership over the Land of Israel, but rather to achieve self-determination for a persecuted nation, must therefore interpret the solidarity march in Jerusalem this Friday in the historic spirit of the struggle for human rights. They must interpret it in the spirit as seen by Yael Sternhell or Rosen-Zvi, who believes that "this land and its peoples have no future without cooperation."

The march expresses the need to show solidarity with the Palestinians and shift Zionism away from the path of corruption on which it has been headed for more than 40 years. It expresses the need to shift Zionism away from the settlements, the abuse of Arabs, and other acts of injustice committed in its name.