Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Zeev Sternhell: Netanyahu’s tidings of destruction

10 June 2011

The right wing considers recognition of the reality created in 1949 to be the chief enemy of Zionism. The dynamic of a conquering nationalism can never recognize that any situation created at any given time is final.

IOA Editor: Written from an Israeli-centered perspective, Sternhell focuses on the extreme “right” Zionism (Netanyahu, Yaalon, et al), correctly pointing out its dangerous and unstoppable nature. Unfortunately, he lets “mainstream” Zionism (not the subject of this article) go scot-free. In fact, much of what he says about “right wing” Zionism applies equally to “mainstream” Zionism. Perhaps the grass is greener when one conjures up the dream-images of what Zionism-Lite could/should have been. However, for the Palestinians, the harsh reality of dispossession and ethnic-cleansing of the past 100+ years was managed and carried out mostly by “mainstream” Zionism: some 77 years (about 40 years pre-statehood, followed by 37 of the past 63 years of Israeli statehood, including the 1967 war and subsequent occupation and settlement). Therefore, this article is important for the understanding of Zionism, both “right” and “mainstream,” not for the implied, and very limited, differences between them.


By Zeev sternhell, Haaretz -10 June 2011

Indeed, the right wing considers recognition of the reality created in 1949 to be the chief enemy of Zionism. The dynamic of a conquering nationalism can never recognize that any situation created at any given time is final.

Of all the tasks that the Israeli right has set for itself, the most important is expunging the foundational status of the War of Independence. For if a war that killed 1 percent of the population and gave rise to the State of Israel was nothing but one more in a long line of wars through which the land has been conquered again and again, from Zionism’s early days until today, the two primary results of that war – the concept of citizenship and the new state’s borders – truly have no special status.

By contrast, if we see the establishment of the state as a watershed event in Jewish national history – both because it engendered a new political and legal concept in the history of Zionism, that of citizenship, and because geopolitical borders were assigned to the new entity for the first time – then the enterprise of conquering the land has ended. And that, in the eyes of the right wing, is the real existential danger.

Indeed, the right wing considers recognition of the reality created in 1949 to be the chief enemy of Zionism. According to its worldview, Zionism must be a movement in a constant state of formation and creation, one that relies on the Jews’ ability to impose their will on their surroundings. The dynamic of a conquering nationalism can never recognize that any situation created at any given time is final.

This, naturally, leads to the view that there’s nothing sacred about the Green Line and that settling the land conquered in 1967 is no less legitimate than settling the Galilee or the Negev. That’s the view Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently forgot to expound on in Washington. But it’s reasonable to assume that U.S. President Barack Obama is aware of what most members of the U.S. Congress either don’t know or don’t want to know, whether for electoral reasons or for reasons of convenience.

Members of Congress apparently haven’t heard that Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who wants to be the leader of the entire Israeli right, has already asserted that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved, and could therefore continue for another 100 years. Netanyahu’s national security adviser, for his part, has asserted that the 1967 borders are unacceptable because they leave too many Jews outside Israel. But neither of them is perpetuating Netanyahu’s big lie: that these borders are indefensible.

Unfortunately for the ruling right, the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal were set many years ago, and they have been etched deeply into the Israeli and international consciousness. The current French initiative is just an expression of the European consensus, if not the global one. This means that Israel has only two options: willingly accept the finality of the situation as it was the day after the state’s establishment, or reach the same point only after being forcibly dragged to it, while becoming a pariah and an object of revulsion along the way.

But the question of borders is only one aspect of the failure to recognize the War of Independence as a fundamental turning point; it also has a civic angle. The anti-democratic legislation that the Knesset has enacted over the past year, which targets basic civic equality and which borders on racism even if it is not actually racist, is a way of declaring that the essence of the state is that it belongs to Jews alone. At bottom, this view stems from seeing Jews as the sole owners of the Land of Israel.

This means the state doesn’t exist to guarantee democracy, equality, human rights or even a decent life to all; it exists to guarantee Jewish rule over the Land of Israel and to make sure no additional political entity is established here. Everything is deemed permissible to reach that end, and no price is considered too high. That’s essentially what former Mossad chief Meir Dagan was warning us about as well. And for that reason, no previous government has ever posed as great a danger to the public as Netanyahu’s government does.


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Moshé Machover 11 June 2011

In support of the Editor’s Note, let me recall that the Israeli daily Ha’aretz of September 12, 1969, reports that the Alignment (a bloc of all Zionist workers’ parties led by the Labour Party—formerly called Mapai—and including Mapam) adopted a platform for the general elections, which were to be held in the following month. One of the points in this platform was support for Zionist colonization in the occupied territories. Ha’aretz goes on to say that Mapam was against this point and at first insisted that its objection be mentioned in the platform itself; but Moshe Dayan announced that he would not allow such a thing. Finally, there was found what Ha’aretz rather amusingly calls “an honourable way out”: The point in support of colonization would be included in the platform without any reservation and all partners in the Alignment—including Mapam—would be bound by it. However, Mapam, while being bound by the platform, was given permission (with the consent of Mr. Dayan) to speak in public against that particular point.

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