Ha'aretz (Israeli Daily Newspaper)
Last update - 10:52 13/02/2009
Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?
By Gideon Levy (Israeli columnist)
The Israeli left died in 2000. Since then its corpse has been lying around unburied until finally its death certificate was issued, signed, sealed and delivered on Tuesday. The hangman of 2000 was also the gravedigger of 2009: Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The man who succeeded in spreading the lie about there being no partner has reaped the fruit of his deeds in this election. The funeral was held two days ago.
The Israeli left is dead. For the past nine years it took the name of the peace camp in vain. The Labor Party, Meretz and Kadima had pretensions of speaking in its name, but that was trickery and deceit. Labor and Kadima made two wars and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank; Meretz supported both wars. Peace has been left an orphan. The Israeli voters, who have been misled into thinking that there is no one to talk to and that the only answer to this is force - wars, targeted killings and settlements - have had their say clearly in the election: a closing sale for Labor and Meretz. It was only the force of inertia that gave these parties the few votes they won.
There was no reason for it to be otherwise. After many long years when hardly any protest came from the left, and the city square, the same square that raged after Sabra and Chatila, was silent, this lack of protest has been reflected at the ballot box as well. Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation - none of this drove the indifferent, cowardly left onto the street. Though ideas of the left have found a toehold in the center and sometimes even on the right, everyone from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken in a language that once was considered radical. But the voice was the voice of the left while the hands were the hands of the right.
On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left - determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are "not Zionist."
And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.
A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again - yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.
Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here. It is not possible to be both leftist and Zionist only in accordance with the right's definition. Who has decided that the settlements are Zionist and legitimate, and the struggle against them is neither?
This taboo must be broken. It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews' right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights - culturally, socially and nationally - as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas.
If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say "enough" to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control.
Posted February 10, 2009 | 09:34 AM (EST)
Why Did Obama Diss Helen Thomas?
Director of Policy for the Israel Policy Forum
I love Helen Thomas. During the past eight years she was the only reporter who stood up to Bush, took on this rotten war, and, in general, acted like a journalist. Last night, the great hall looked like it was populated by a president, a reporter, and 11th graders from local high school newspapers. I think I saw a cub reporter from the Dillon, Texas high school paper. (sadly, not Lilah Garrity).
Ms. Thomas' moment came when she asked the president about nuclear proliferation. Her question ended with the query: does he know of any Middle Eastern state with nukes?
Why did she ask that? She asked it to see if Obama would refuse to respond as previous presidents have. The answer is Israel, of course. And everyone knows it. In fact, the State Department has published reams of material about JFK's concern about the Israeli bomb. Israeli politicians talk about it. Every Arab in the world knows about it. And Israel's nukes are its number one deterrent against attack by Iran -- and everyone knows that too.
But Israel has a policy of not talking about its nukes in any official capacity because acknowledging them might lead to Israel having to sign the NPT and opening itself up to nuclear inspection.
So Israeli Prime Ministers try (not always successfully) not to acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal while ensuring that everyone knows it does.
That may be a sensible policy...for Israel.
But why is it our policy? Why is the American president forbidden from being honest on such a critical subject. Answer: there is no reason, unless we are to believe that Israeli policy guidelines, by definition, apply here as well.
So why did Obama refuse to answer? Simple. Because if he did, the media would have reported it as a gaffe. Reporters either know nothing about the Middle East or, for the most part, have adopted Israel's perspective.
Had Obama spoken the truth, the media would have made his "blunder" the story of the night. He cannot afford that because, frankly, we have more important things to worry about, like rescuing the economy.
So I don't fault Obama. But I salute Helen Thomas. Next time she should ask how he felt about those pictures that came out of Gaza. As the father of those two precious girls, we all know how he felt. But it would help America in the eyes of the world if he'd just say it.
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