Avraham Burg was speaker of Israel's Knesset from 1999
to 2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is
currently a Labor Party Knesset member.
A Failed Israeli Society Collapses:
The End of Zionism?
Forward, 29 August
Notwendigkeit einer internationalen Intervention]
The Zionist revolution has always rested on two
pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is
operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a
scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and
injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on
our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last
Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it
will be a different sort, strange and ugly.
There is time to change course, but not much. What
is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will
to implement it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair.
Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity
must pay heed and speak out. If the pillar collapses, the upper
floors will come crashing down.
The opposition does not exist, and the coalition,
with Arik Sharon at its head, claims the right to remain silent. In
a nation of chatterboxes, everyone has suddenly fallen dumb, because
there's nothing left to say. We live in a thunderously failed
reality. Yes, we have revived the Hebrew language, created a
marvelous theater and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds
are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why
we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two
millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security
programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light
unto the nations. In this we have failed.
It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish
survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral
clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens
and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive. More
and more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their
children where they expect to live in 25 years. Children who are
honest admit, to their parents' shock, that they do not know. The
countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun.
It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank
settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is
charming. From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and
bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Traveling on the fast
highway takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem's northern edge to Gilo on
the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a half-mile
west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it's hard to comprehend the
humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours
along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the
occupier, one road for the occupied.
This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their
heads and swallow their shame and anger forever, it won't work. A
structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on
itself. Note this moment well: Zionism's superstructure is already
collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue
dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.
We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering
of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder we don't hear the cries of
the abused woman living next door or the single mother struggling to
support her children in dignity. We don't even bother to count the
women murdered by their husbands.
Israel, having ceased to care about the children of
the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in
hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.
They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation,
because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in
our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have
children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.
We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a
day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from
below from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures"
of injustice and moral corruption.
If all this were inevitable, divinely ordained and
immutable, I would be silent. But things could be different, and so
crying out is a moral imperative.
Here is what the prime minister should say to the
The time for illusions is over. The time for
decisions has arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers
and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But
that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.
Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no
longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not
possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We cannot
keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same
time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There
cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab
as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories and preserve a Jewish
majority in the world's only Jewish state-not by means that are
humane and moral and Jewish.
Do you want the greater Land of Israel? No problem.
Abandon democracy. Let's institute an efficient system of racial
separation here, with prison camps and detention villages. Qalqilya
Ghetto and Gulag Jenin.
Do you want a Jewish majority? No problem. Either
put the Arabs on railway cars, buses, camels and donkeys and expel
them en masse-separate ourselves from them absolutely, without
tricks and gimmicks. There is no middle path. We must remove all the
settlements-all of them-and draw an internationally recognized
border between the Jewish national home and the Palestinian national
home. The Jewish Law of Return will apply only within our national
home, and their right of return will apply only within the borders
of the Palestinian state.
Do you want democracy? No problem. Either abandon
the greater Land of Israel, to the last settlement and outpost, or
give full citizenship and voting rights to everyone, including
Arabs. The result, of course, will be that those who did not want a
Palestinian state alongside us will have one in our midst, via the
That's what the prime minister should say to the
people. He should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racialism
or democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of
barbed wire, roadblocks and suicide bombers, or a recognized
international border between two states and a shared capital in
But there is no prime minister in Jerusalem. The
disease eating away at the body of Zionism has already attacked the
head. David Ben-Gurion sometimes erred, but he remained straight as
an arrow. When Menachem Begin was wrong, nobody impugned his
motives. No longer. Polls published last weekend showed that a
majority of Israelis do not believe in the personal integrity of the
prime minister-yet they trust his political leadership. In other
words, Israel's current prime minister personally embodies both
halves of the curse: suspect personal morals and open disregard for
the law-combined with the brutality of occupation and the trampling
of any chance for peace. This is our nation, these its leaders. The
inescapable conclusion is that the Zionist revolution is dead.
Why, then, is the opposition so quiet? Perhaps
because it's summer, or because they are tired, or because some
would like to join the government at any price, even the price of
participating in the sickness. But while they dither, the forces of
good lose hope.
This is the time for clear alternatives. Anyone who
declines to present a clear-cut position-black or white in effect-is
collaborating in the decline. It is not a matter of Labor versus
Likud or right versus left, but of right versus wrong, acceptable
versus unacceptable. The law-abiding versus the lawbreakers. What's
needed is not a political replacement for the Sharon government but
a vision of hope, an alternative to the destruction of Zionism and
its values by the deaf, dumb and callous.
Israel's friends abroad-Jewish and non-Jewish alike,
presidents and prime ministers, rabbis and lay people-should choose
as well. They must reach out and help Israel to navigate the road
map toward our national destiny as a light unto the nations and a
society of peace, justice and equality.
From the Common Ground News Service