With yearning soul



Jewish fundamentalism, which seeks to restore the Jewish and nationalist crown to its former glory, had already planted its roots in the settlements and in Israeli society during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Salman Masalha | With yearning soul

When Yigal Amir shot Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the back on November 4, 1995, he was only the messenger. The sender resided in words set down long before, in May 1948.

It is true that in its Declaration of Independence, Israel promised to "ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex," but these words were intended only to satisfy foreign ears. The document places greatest emphasis on "the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael," on "the Jewish people," and on this people's "spiritual [and] religious identity" and its "ancient homeland."

Such expressions could not exist outside of a religious context: "Ancient homeland" is connected to Judaism, an ancient religion. Therefore, the link between Zionism and the Jewish religion has never been severed.

It is no accident that the name "Israel" does not appear in the national anthem. The words of "Hatikva" recall a Jewish prayer carried from a distance both geographic and chronological: "A Jewish soul yearns ... The hope of two thousand years ... The land of Zion and Jerusalem." By adopting such formulations, the Zionist leaders turned the State of Israel into a state of halakha, or Jewish religious law, from the very first day.

The Zionism that aspired to establish a "Jewish home" in the Jews' "ancient homeland" did not take into consideration the fact that the land was not empty. It thus adopted the principle of population transfer, based on the same ancient biblical tradition. We know this from what was on David Ben-Gurion's desk: "At the end of the conversation, I saw on his desk a passage from the Book of Exodus: 'I will not drive them out from before thee in one year ... By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.'" That is what the writer Haim Gouri said in a lecture at the National Security College (according to the journal "Ma'arachot," issue 359 ).

At the time, Ben-Gurion staunchly opposed conquering all of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel ), but for tactical and demographic reasons only: "In early spring of 1949, I asked Ben-Gurion why he hadn't conquered all of Eretz Yisrael," Gouri related. Ben-Gurion's reply: "Getting entangled in a hostile Arab expanse would have forced us to make a choice we could not bear - either expelling hundreds of thousands of Arabs or absorbing them. They would have destroyed the young state from within."

Ben-Gurion left the conquest of the remaining territory for later. "We have liberated a very large territory, much more than we expected," he said in 1949. "Now we shall have to work for two or three generations. As for the rest, we shall see later."

And indeed, history didn't end there: The Six-Day War broke out two decades later. It not only brought about the conquest of the mountain ridge running through the West Bank and the broadening of Israel's "narrow waist," but also nurtured the seeds of calamity: that "historic and traditional attachment" cited in the Declaration of Independence to the soil of "the ancient homeland," so rich with biblical myths.

Rabin, who was chief of staff during that war, awakened much too late to the implications of the choice "we could not bear." Jewish fundamentalism, which seeks to restore the Jewish and nationalist crown to its former glory, had already planted its roots in the settlements and throughout Israeli society.

The main complaint about the moves Rabin initiated was that he didn't have a Jewish majority, since he relied on the support of Knesset members from outside the Jewish tribe. Rabin tried to rescue "the Jewish state" from the above-mentioned choice by adopting an "Israeliness" that included Israel's Arab inhabitants. But his actions came much too late. The "Jewish genie" was already out of the bottle.

And so the fundamentalist Jewish golem, with yearning soul, turned on its Zionist creator. And so Rabin, too, was murdered, an "honor killing" to avenge the "dishonor" he caused his family, known in Israel as "the Jewish state."

Published: Opinion-Haaretz, November 9, 2011
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