News

NYT Op-Ed offers tiresome dichotomy of good Zionists vs bad religious settlers

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Gadi Taub’s NYT oped on the coming negotiations is so problematic, ahistorical, Israeli-centric, and rife with elisions, it reads like… well… a lot of other stuff cluttering the pages and electrons of said publication.

It leads off with the rhetorical question, "Will Israel remain a Zionist state?" – as if this is the most important issue to be tackled at the talks. Not "Will the systematic and willful oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people finally come to an end?" (Which all sane observers are doubtful will be the result.) Then he sets up the Zionist left’s desperate, tiresome good guys vs. bad guys frame: the pious seculars vs. the evil religious nuts.

The secular Zionist dream was fundamentally democratic. Its proponents, from Theodor Herzl to David Ben-Gurion, sought to apply the universal right of self-determination to the Jews, to set them free individually and collectively as a nation within a democratic state.

David Ben-Gurion and his allies also orchestrated what can only be described as a "fundamentally democratic" ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of indigenous Palestinians, which "set them free" from their home, their lands, their lives….

Taub contrasts his Ben-Gurion good guys with the loathsome bad guys:

This dream is now seriously threatened by the religious settlers’ movement, Orthodox Jews whose theological version of Zionism is radically different…. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, later focused his father’s theological ideas around a single commandment: to settle all the land promised to the ancient Hebrews in the Bible.

Wait a second… The colonization of the West Bank has been a national project of every government of Israel for decades.

Whether Likud or Labor, so-called "left, "center," or "right," all Israeli governments have devoted massive financial, military, and human resources to the expulsion of Palestinians, confiscation of their farmlands, demolition of their homes, and construction of illegal settlements. But that’s an inconvenient fact for Taub, who wants to blame the religious kooks. He then glorifies the secular Zionists some more:

Herzl never doubted that Israeli Arabs should have full and equal rights. For religious settlers, Arabs are an alien element in the organic unity of Jews and their land.

Notice he doesn’t mention Ben-Gurion here. Ben-Gurion never doubted that his militias must expel the multitudes of indigenous Arabs in order to fulfill his dream (their nightmare) of an artificial Jewish majority.

Palestinians inside Israel have never had "full and equal rights." From day one Israel has treated Palestinians as second class citizens if that — see, for example, the Association of 40 unrecognized Palestinian villages inside Israel that still, 60 years later, seek recognition and basic social services like garbage collection. Several Palestinian orgs inside Israel are trying to get the country to (finally) adopt a constitution to protect their rights.

On the subject of apartheid, Taub’s op-ed rambles on about how there’s no apartheid now, but there will be someday soon if the pernicious religious settlers get their way. What, I’d like to ask Taub, do you anticipate the settlers would do that they aren’t doing already, that would get you to call it apartheid? No doubt, you will return to the NYT and write a new oped entitled "Now it’s finally apartheid, and it’s all the fault of the religious settlers — but not the government of Israel of course." Taub also claims that if (?) Israel becomes an apartheid state, "Israel will betray the beliefs it was founded on." Maybe Martin Buber’s beliefs, but certainly not Ben-Gurion’s, who insisted on Israel as a de facto apartheid state from the very beginning – how else to describe the impact of ethnic cleansing on those who are not allowed to return to their homes, not recognizing Palestinian villages, differing social services, etc.?

Predictably, Taub busts out that time-worn line of hasbara about how Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was an anti-settlement move, ignoring of course that it was a ploy to solidify Israel’s hold on the West Bank, as Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass proudly proclaimed.

But the most outrageous elision above all elisions is that Taub skips a chance to report some real news in his oped, about how far senior religious settler leaders have gone: calling for genocide of the Palestinians.

[Israel’s former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party], said during his weekly Shabbat sermon that the Palestinians, namely Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, should perish from the world. Yosef, a founder of the Shas Party, also described Palestinians as evil, bitter enemies of Israel.

"All these evil people should perish from this world … God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians," Yosef said.

Taub wraps it all up with the desperate plea of liberal self-absorbed Zionism, which I translate as "Please, please stop the occupation and the settlements now that they appear to be a threat of my dream of a militarily-enforced Jewish majority state existing in perpetuity":

The religious settlement movement is not just secular Zionism’s ideological adversary, it is a danger to its very existence. Terrorism is a hazard, but it cannot destroy Herzl’s Zionist vision. More settlements and continued occupation can.

Never once in the entire piece does Taub mention the suffering of the Palestinian people. For shame!

From where I sit, the only Zionist vision that ever has been worth saving and ever will be is Martin Buber’s. Humanists (non-tribal, post-tribal) should read Buber’s book, and try to imagine how much different and better life would be today for Israelis and Palestinians alike if the Zionist project had followed Buber’s humanistic path of equality and cooperation instead of Ben-Gurion’s "secular" path of military conquest, ethnic cleansing, and domination.

28 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments