Awake, O Zion

“Israel does not need enemies,” writes Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic. “It has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government.”

That’s a mouthful right there. I wish Wieseltier had quit while he was ahead, but no — he tries to fob the problem off on one particular set of politicians: “The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment.”

Granted, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, bears a disproportionate share of the blame for Israel’s increasingly pariah-like status among nations. Likud traces its roots back to the 1935 split between David ben Gurion and Chaim Weizmann’s “practical Zionism” (which called for independent Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael) and Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s “revisionist Zionism” (which insisted on the creation of a Jewish state as the overriding priority of the Zionist movement).

Before spawning Likud, the “revisionist” Zionists, after flirtations with Mussolini-style fascism, gave birth to the Irgun and Lehi (“Stern Gang”) terrorist organizations; the former is best remembered for its massacre at Deir Yassin on the eve of Israel’s War of Independence, an atrocity which made reconciliation between Palestine’s Arabs and Jews seem untenable. The latter actually proposed to ally with Hitler’s Third Reich in 1940 to push the British out of Palestine.

Likud, like its forebears, is a proto-fascist cult, built around worship of the state and holding up the most brutal possible exercises of state power as its highest sacrament.

But Likud is merely a symptom, or at most a vector/carrier, of the real virus. The disease is the state itself. The foundation of the state of Israel, and the subsequent measures required to maintain it and make its grip on power certain, killed most of what was good in Zionism and relegated what little was left to the status of tourist attraction.

Take, for example, the kibbutz (farm) and moshav (village) movements.

In the early 20th century, the kibbutzim were the vital heart of the Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael, reclaiming land from the deserts and swamps of Palestine, making it bloom, living peacefully in cooperative society and taking responsibility for their own security and defense.

By 1948, the kibbutzim had been drafted into the project of creating a new state. New kibbutzes were built not necessarily on the best land for their own purposes, but in spots most likely to influence the drawing of future state borders. As it became increasingly clear that a state would be declared, they paid a heavy price fending off attacks, then bore the brunt of much of the fighting in the War of Independence.

The moshavim were more a post-Independence phenomenon, but like the kibbutzim their mode of living, characterized by mutual aid and cooperative agricultural society, declined in the 70s and 80s as the cult of the Israeli state grew more and more internally burdensome and externally bellicose.

The establishment of the state of Israel was Zionism’s downfall. For more than 60 years, that state has drawn on a balance of credit built up by others. It has claimed the accomplishments of the “practical” Zionists and accepted reparations for the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust by a state the pre-Likud Stern Gang attempted to make common cause with, a state based on tenets the “revisionists” openly admired! It has long since exhausted those accounts. Anything good and righteous remaining in Zionism exists outside the context of the state of Israel, and suffers that state at its existential peril.

The IDF attack on the Mavi Marmara is only the latest incident in a long chain of atrocities for which the Israeli state must eventually answer. As for the people of Israel, here’s hoping that they will eventually take notice of the deity’s admonition to those who petitioned Samuel for a king. It’s time for Zion to rise up and cancel the state’s claim on its heritage and homeland.

Citations to this article:

  • Thomas L. Knapp, Awake, O Zion, St. Joseph Telegraph, 24 Jun 2010
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