Is it Time For Neo-Zionism?

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There is good news and bad news for Palestinians. The good news is that their struggle for freedom will end with the creation of an independent Palestinian state. The bad news is that this will likely not happen for a very long time.

However, this good and bad news for Palestinians is the same for Israelis — in that death, destruction and misery will continue to plague both peoples for the foreseeable future.

The fact that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza must end sooner or later is based on reading and understanding human history. Every occupation of one nation by another is destined to end — some after only a few years, others after centuries of oppression. But end it must.

During every occupation, one group of people is overpowered by the military might of another. Oppression of the conquered by the conquerors follows, often causing prolonged loss of life, cultural destruction and pervasive misery. But history was, and still is, on the side of those who struggle against great odds to end unjust occupations. Among others, we have the examples of the Irish versus the British, Greeks versus the Turks, Algerians versus the French, French versus the Germans, and so on.

But the Palestinian struggle for independence is being obstructed because neither of the two powers that hold the keys to its resolution — Israel and the United States — are ready to end the occupation. Yet both governments have demonstrated in the past that they have the power to change things and could use it. For example, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon after some 20 years of occupation. And in 1956 America demanded that Israeli forces withdraw from the Sinai soon after Israel, Britain and France invaded Egypt.

Today, however, the American and the Israeli governments are not ready to end the occupation of Palestinian land. And this is really bad news for both Palestinians and Israelis.

President Bush’s plan is that the Palestinian National Authority must enact a sweeping process of internal reform — including the elimination of corruption, the establishment of a democratic free-market economy, a separate judiciary, and an autonomous legislature — before even thinking of reopening serious negotiations. But for what? To gain only a provisional, second-class statehood?

If a Political Science 101 student were to submit the latest Bush plan as an assignment on how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he or she would deserve a failing grade. Even a superficial analysis reveals that this plan is built on little more than chopped logic and an appalling ignorance of history. A failing grade would certainly be in order for asking Palestinians to create the ideal institutions of a highly developed country before they even have a state — an achievement Bush’s America cannot begin to claim.

Worse still, the U.S. president insists — without naming him — that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must go. “It may be refreshing to hear a U.S. president come clean in his conviction that he has the right to pick other nations’ leaders, but this demand exposes fully the vacuousness of Bush’s thinking,” said a recent British commentator.

More diligent research and attentive reading of history would suggest a totally different plan to achieve peace with justice, not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for all people of the Middle East and beyond.

A crucial beginning would be Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza back to its June 4, 1967 borders.

But that’s not all: this should be achieved within the context of a Neo-Zionism — a new political ideology fit for the 21st century, not the 19th. This new ideology would replace “let us work for what is right for the Jews” with “let us work for what is right.”

Today, Judaism is the only major world religion totally programmed by a political ideology, Zionism. In fact, Zionism itself has become the religion of many Jews. Only a century ago, Zionists made up just three percent of the Jewish population. Now, it is non-Zionist Jews who make up the minority three percent among Jews.

The history of Zionism goes back to 1882 and developed as a result of anti-Jewish violence in Russia. An organization called “The Lovers of Zion” came into being then, with its first headquarters in Odessa. It raised little interest at first among European and British Jews, who were content and well-integrated into society.

The first Zionist congress was held at Basle, in Switzerland, on August 29, 1897 and resulted in the declaration of two key objectives. Firstly, Zionists would promote Jewish “colonization” in Palestine. Secondly, they would work to unite Jews worldwide so as to foster Jewish national sentiment and consciousness. The first objective received far more publicity than the second.

It is essential to remember that Zionism was conceived during an age of imperialism, when all of Europe thought along these lines. Ethnically, Jews were largely European, and Zionists made their plans in complete disregard of the “natives” then living in Palestine. Unfortunately, Zionism still retains its colonialist mentality today.

Zionists consider every Jew in the world to be automatically a citizen of Israel. But if most of the world’s Jews suddenly decided to live there, they would also have to overrun all of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, liquidating their current inhabitants, just to provide enough room for the exploding population.

In Israel, it may be argued, Zionism has simply planned a larger and better European ghetto, where Jews can remain isolated, segregated from the rest of Palestine, Asia and the Middle East. This is reflected in a study earlier this year by the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, which found that some 46 percent of Israel’s Jewish citizens favor transferring Palestinians out of the occupied territories, while 31 percent favor transferring Israeli Arabs right out of the country.

Drawn as they are from all over the world, Israelis — particularly the majority Zionists — do not see themselves as Asian, Oriental, or even Middle Eastern, so full ethnic integration is not a high priority. But the Zionists do not want this either.

Prof. Mohamed Elmasry is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Waterloo and national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

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