Religious Zionism Reveals Zionism’s True Nature: A Historic Opportunity for One Democratic State?

Fer-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben Gvir storms Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Photo: Ben-Gvir Twitter page)

By Naji El Khatib

75 years after the Nakba, Israeli society has shifted farther and farther to the far right. The fine line between the Zionist state as an apparatus and its settler society is growing even thinner, and its reality as a colonizing entity from the river to the sea, rather than merely in the West Bank, is growing more apparent. The results of last year’s election, and the political decisions that have ensued, have revealed the true nature of the “only democracy in the Middle East”: Overtly fascist officials, bills that threaten to jail Christians for talking about Jesus, and, of course, ongoing pogroms.

How is this shift even further to the right opportunity, and how can we make the best of it?

Israel’s fascist new government: An opportunity

By claiming that all Jews of the world form a single nation with “collective rights”, including the right to a state exclusive to them in Palestine, Zionism is in its essence a racist settler-colonial ideology. However, it has long tried to beautify it with all kinds of masks and claims, by its religious and its so-called liberal seculars, its rightists, and particularly its leftists.

One of Zionism’s lies consisted in ascribing a secular dimension to itself. In reality, however, the whole of Zionism is based on mythical religious claims: Theodor Herzl, the “atheist”, declared in 1904 that “the area of the Jewish state stretches from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates” (The Complete Diaries, vol.II, p.712). Rabbi Fischmann, a member of the “Jewish Agency for Palestine” declared that “the promised land extends from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates and includes parts of Syria, and Lebanon” (Testimony to the UN Special Committee on July 9, 1947).

The alleged secular, liberal atheist speaks the same language as the Rabbi. Another lie was that it was a democratic movement, concerned only with “the right to self-determination of the Jewish people”, and a socialist one concerned with the creation of a Labor Jewish society.

Today, however, the current government coalition of the right, the extreme right, and the fascists has done away with these lies and the myth of “several Zionisms”, and brazenly announces its programs aimed at completing Zionism’s actual mission that began in 1948 and prior to it: The colonization of Palestine by means of a renewed campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from it. Thus, if there is a positive aspect of these elections, it is their laying bare the true nature of Zionism, and the incompatibility between the existence of a “Jewish state” and a “democratic state”.

This must raise crucial questions regarding Israeli society’s towards more racism and rejection of “the other”: the Palestinian.

How to make use of this opportunity?

Zionism must be understood for what it is: A settler-colonial movement by which Jewish colonizers, mainly European, replace the native Palestinians, i.e. the destruction of Palestinian society and its supplanting by an artificially-created Israeli society. The fundamental antithesis to it is thus an ideology and movement that challenges its essence as a sectarian ideology: The call for the establishment of One Democratic State in all of Historical Palestine.

Such a state would make a distinction between individuals and movements who pose a threat to its society —such as Zionism— and those who don’t, but would depoliticize identity and refuse to segregate on the basis of one’s religion or ethnicity. Such a political proposal represents the only possible, fair and ethical solution to the occupation of Palestine.

The obvious barrier to such a democratic solution is, obviously, Zionism, of which it is the antithesis. Paradoxically, the recent shift toward brazenly destructive Zionism represents an opportunity in terms of pushing the One Democratic State narrative forward—And this for at least two reasons.

The first is internal to Israeli society. Much like many early supporters of Nazism ended up seeing the horrors it brought upon Germany and Europe, many current supporters of Zionism will have to see the horrors it brings upon themselves and others. Here are some examples:

● By politicizing Jewish identity and claiming that Jews throughout the world form one distinct people, Zionism is also estranging, or further estranging, citizens of the Jewish faith from their own states and societies.
● Zionism has also been the source of infighting and disillusionment within the diasporic community itself, for instance by devaluating non-Israeli Jewish culture (e.g. the abandonment of Yiddish in favor of just Hebrew) or diverting funds away from the communities that raised them, to Israel.
● The Zionist colonial endeavor is also guilty of having put Jews in the line of the Palestinian resistance’s fire, whether by indoctrination, coercion or other means. This lays bare its basic lie of offering Jews a safe haven in Palestine.
● The above is effectively reducing Jewish identity to colonialism in the eyes of Jews and non-Jews alike, and unwittingly causing a rise in antisemitism.

The second is external to Israeli society. International support of Israel is waning as its fascist nature is revealing itself. This is evident in the growing number of media, NGOs, political parties, political movements and international bodies that are rallying around its condemnation of it as an apartheid state; as well as in recent shifts in popular opinions of Israel, dubbed a “strategic threat” by the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies. These developments are potential milestones in the decolonization of Jewish communities from Zionism. They also pave the way for international condemnation and isolation of Israel’s apartheid régime, which may prove to be crucial to its dismantling as it was in the dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid régime.

A “One Democratic State” instrument: The ODS Initiative

The opportunities presented to us must not be taken for granted. Making use of them requires that anti-Zionist activists be organized around an alternative political solution. The recently launched One Democratic State Initiative aims to be such a network. As mentioned on its website, “Current narratives tend to be misleading or racist, or to divert the attention from the primary issues at stake. The Initiative aims at reaching a stage where the main issue, “A democratic state or a Jewish state?”, takes the front stage in the political discourse regarding the occupation and liberation of Palestine.”

The Initiative further states that its purpose is “to mobilize individuals, entities and political parties, in Palestine and abroad, behind such an endeavor” and that it is “reaching out both online and on the ground to individuals and groups who support the one democratic state solution, individuals and groups who see Zionism for the danger it is but do not support the one democratic state solution, and any who are willing to listen.”

This call for organized political action rallied around a political vision that forms the antithesis to Zionism’s sectarian narrative, is the proper response to Israel’s shift further to the right: A historic opportunity for the struggle toward One Democratic State in Palestine.

– Naji El Khatib is a Palestinian political activist and writer and a supporter of the One Democratic State Initiative. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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1 Comment

  1. Interesting article. I disagree with many points but I would like to correct one fallacy. When you say ‘Mostly European’. The fact is that until today the majority of the Jewish population in Israel is ‘eastern’ or Sephardi. They originate from Arab countries that will not take them back. Even if you want to tell me that the Sephardi people come from Spain, that hundreds of years ago and not for most of there known history.

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