Lots of folks have sent along this piece by Bradley Burston in Haaretz on the death of Shamir, saying it was Zionism itself that was buried with the late prime minister. “Let it go.” This is an important piece because it shows that if Jews and Israelis show the courage to echo Tony Judt and Ali Abunimah and endorse simple ideas, I’m for democracy, for one person/one vote, for the right of consent over the government that controls a person’s life, well, we might actually get past all the fears and bring about a “quiet revolution” in Israel and Palestine.
There was never room for a Palestine in the Zionism of Greater Israel, nor in the Zionism of this government. There was room for one absolute value, and it was not democracy.
“It is permitted to liberate a people even against its will, or against the will of the majority,” Shamir once said, referring to the decision of his pre-state Lehi underground to fight and use terrorism against British authorities even if Ben-Gurion and the majority of the Jewish leadership were opposed.
“When we fought for freedom, for the establishment of a Jewish state, we didn’t send a questionnaire to the Jewish nation asking if it wanted a Jewish state.”
It’s time we began thinking like Shamir. When you believe in democracy, you should continue to believe in, and work toward and fight for democracy, whether the majority does or not. Even if in this Israel, proponents of democracy have become something of an underground.
“Zionism is a revolutionary process,” Shamir said. “And in a revolution you must be ready not to think too much about sentiments or human weaknesses….”
Speaking solely for myself, a person who has long embraced the label of Zionist, the revolution’s over. Time to try a new direction, maybe a new label as well. Something like a Democratic Israelist. Accent on the democratic.
Time, in the current reality, to think in the mode of quiet revolution. Time to think seriously about what democracy really means. Time to think seriously, for example, about what it would mean to give the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem the vote.
With Shamir as its spiritual guide, this Israel cannot allow the Palestinians independence, cannot allow them building permits, cannot allow them freedom of movement, appeal, due process.
We should call our own bluff. We should give them the vote. Right after we declare the university in Ariel. Then we’ll finally see if we can afford our own brand of independence.
(Though notice: no Gaza. And isn’t my headline sadly shocking: a revolution to urge that people get the vote! P.S. Burston is an American, too. Some time I got to figure out this transnational identity stuff).