Militant right-wingers taking an anti-Zionist, anti-democratic stance

The probability of a withdrawal from Gaza and the possibility of negotiations with a new democratically elected Palestinian leadership have intensified the activities of Israeli rejectionists.

These militants — at odds with the majority of citizens, who overwhelmingly favor these measures — moved first from opposition to resistance, and now advocate outright rebellion. Besides being patently undemocratic, they are also anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish.

In their passion to protect the settlement enterprise, some opponents of disengagement threaten not only to irrevocably fracture Israeli society but to undermine the viability, legitimacy and hence durability of the state of Israel in its entirety. If they should be allowed to prevail, they will destroy us all.

Zionism is the affirmation of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. The state of Israel is its concrete expression. Yet the critics of the disengagement plan have mounted a series of relentless attacks on the authority of the state and the policies of its duly elected leaders.

The settler movement has covered itself for the past 30 years in a protective mantle of self-proclaimed Zionist fervor. But its leaders, most recently Pinchas Wallerstein and Noam Livnat, undermine its precepts on a daily basis.

They not only constantly cast doubts on the legality of present policies, but they have pledged themselves to defying official edicts, assailing security forces in the fulfillment of their duties and purposely provoking unrest.

Their rhetoric and activities demonstrate that, in contrast to true Zionists, they favor settlements over the defense of the country and the biblical land of Israel over the state of Israel.

By continuously flouting the rule of law and the legitimate decisions of the government, they contribute directly to weakening its institutions and betraying its integrity.

The extremist quest to maintain control over Gaza and the West Bank, should it succeed, would in fact sound the death knell to the two-state solution and, with it, to the Zionist dream. The only option that would remain would be a binational state. Ironically, through a distortion of the Zionist ethic, the settler leadership is orchestrating a policy that could bring about its dissolution.

Much of this rejectionist rationale is couched in religious terms, evoking Jewish history and biblical rights. In truth, however, this utilization of the Jewish past belittles its heritage. Protesters sporting orange Stars of David and calling Israeli soldiers Nazis would be considered, under other circumstances in other places, downright anti-Semitic.

A movement that systematically champions divinely ordained claims to the land over the lives of its people can hardly base itself on the Jewish birthright and its humanistic underpinnings. Indeed, those who insist on promulgating political positions in divine terms actually profane the beliefs they seek to uphold. Earthly possession merely undermines the sanctity of the land.

Aware of the limits of religious argumentation, the far right has attempted in recent weeks to broaden public receptivity by stepping up its use of democratic terminology. Proponents of resistance to the dismantlement of settlements have launched a campaign to sway soldiers to disobey evacuation orders, defending these ideas by appealing to freedom of speech.

They argue that the vigil near the Knesset is an exercise of their right of association. Democratic governments, to be sure, do protect these civil rights and more. But working democracies draw distinct lines between freedom of speech and incitement and between opposition and rebellion. The right-wing renegades do not.

Civil disobedience is a time-honored democratic practice. But Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi would recoil if they knew that their nonviolent legacy is being used by those who condone the use of force against Palestinians seeking to exercise their civil rights. They would surely not countenance any recourse to violence, including throwing stones at soldiers dismantling outposts. The extreme settler groups have the unmitigated gall to present ideas antithetical to the principles of equality, pluralism and human dignity in democratic language, thereby distorting the democratic ethos beyond recognition.

They glorify their defiance of the rule of law without recognizing that it whittles away at the foundations of the democratic order so crucial to Israeli survival to date.

The radical opponents of disengagement and Israeli-Palestinian accommodation have crossed all permissible boundaries. In the name of Zionism, they undercut the state of Israel. In the name of Judaism, they belie humanistic values. In the name of democracy, they flout the essence of democratic government.

Their way is not only destructive, it is suicidal.

Most Israelis refuse to succumb to these extremists and do not accept their underlying rationale. The militant fringes in Israel — like in any other open society — are a danger not simply because of the positions they hold but because of the values they promote.

Perhaps we owe these militants a debt of gratitude: They have reminded us of who we are and what we stand for. It is not too late for Israeli society to reject the efforts of this small minority to harness its future to its destructive whims by reclaiming, in action as well as in thought, its Zionist roots, its Jewish humanism and its democratic ideals.

Naomi Chazan is a member of the Knesset from the Meretz Party. This column previously appeared in The Jerusalem Post.


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