Cracked Reflection or Zionist Myopia?

“It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. You can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Travelling on the fast highway 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………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….”

These words first appeared in the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot during 2003, attributed to one of the most powerful Jewish voices and a long standing senior Israeli Labour politician: Avraham Burg.

Burg, who served as Speaker of Israel’s Knesset from 1999 to 2003, is one of a growing number of Israeli Jews who have broken ranks with a narrative of Zionism which is crippled by an inability to recognize the devastation associated with its implementation.

At about the same time, Menon Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, described his rejection of the Zionist narrative:

“Just as the South African rulers understood, at a certain point, that there was no choice but to dismantle their regime, so the Israeli establishment has to understand that it is not capable of imposing its hegemonic conceptions on 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.2 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel. What we have to do is try to reach a situation of personal and collective equality within the framework of one overall regime throughout the country.”

These views, as startling as they may sound for Jews outside Israel, reflect a new reality on the ground, which is fast beginning to manifest in robust debates, creating enormous pressure on the Israeli regime.

For groups such as the South African Zionist Federation and the Jewish Board of Deputies, this may erroneously be perceived to be nothing more than a minor irritation. Or they may, in concert with many die-hard pro-Israeli pressure groups in Europe and America, dismiss this as an exaggerated view, being exploited by pro-Palestinian propagandists.

The reality though, is that Israel is floundering on many levels. The failure of its military objective to destroy Hizbullah accompanied with the international outrage caused by its senseless pummeling of Lebanon provides the latest grounds for doubts about the future of this colonial project. Jewish media reports confirm the existence of a “dark public mood” and mounting public anger in Israel over its failure.

The military-political leadership is under intense public pressure to come clean on their collective inability to advance Israel’s diverse concerns. Chief amongst these is to provide an irrefutable moral argument for its continued existence as an exclusive Jewish state, while unwilling to offer masses of Palestinians under its occupation as well the millions in exile, a place in the sun.

These violations of fundamental human rights and the continued defiance of countless UN Resolutions which demand Israeli performance, are symptomatic of huge moral inconsistencies which in turn have spurred many Jewish activists across the world to not only distance themselves from Israeli barbarism; but also to demand that Israel conforms to the dictates of International Laws. It is not surprising therefore that internal divisions are apart from becoming blatantly harsh, also being viewed as fresh efforts at “soul-searching”. Unlike the extremist positions held onto by Zionist lobby groups in South Africa and elsewhere, senior Israeli politicians are reviewing many fundamentals of Zionist tenets in order to secure some sort of “comprehensive peace”.

A few days ago, former military chief and current Interior Minister Avi Dichter declared his readiness to return the Golan Heights to Syria. Though dismissed by Olmert, it reflects a growing debate on core issues which, following the bloody nose it received from Hizbullah, Israel is now forced to introspect.