Rehavam Ze’evi and the discourse of expelling Palestinians

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Rehavam Ze'evi
Rehavam Ze’evi

A recent Ha’aretz editorial criticized the government for enacting a law memorializing the death of Rehavam Ze’evi, who was assassinated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 2001.  Ze’evi, who at the time of his death was the Minister of Tourism, was the founder and leader of an extreme right-wing political party that advocated the expulsion of all Palestinians from the occupied territories.

The editorial goes on to characterize as “outrageous” the recent remarks of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.  Ya’alon said:  “It could be that Gandhi’s [ironically Ze’evi’s nickname] opinions were ahead of their time, and the fact that many people have sobered up in recent years is proof of this.”  As the newspaper points out,  Ze’evi had a very similar political philosophy to Meir Kahane, who was disqualified from serving in the Israeli Parliament for his racist views.

The editorial calls attention to the contradiction in the Defense Minister’s role in participating in the current peace talks while expressing support for Ze’evi’s worldview.

Ya’alon, who has been courting Likud’s Ze’evist right wing in the hope of someday inheriting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mantle, is betraying his responsibility as defense minister in a government that is conducting peace talks when he says that “Gandhi” was right.  In what was he right? In his demand to “transfer” those with whom Israel is conducting negotiations?

Unlike Kahane, who was born in the United States and was an outsider among the Israeli military-political establishment, Ze’evi had been a general in the army and was about as much of an insider as one could be.   He was given a state funeral worthy of a Prime Minister.  The murdered minister was warmly eulogized by his good friend, the then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and many military and political dignitaries.

Among those who effusively praised Ze’evi was Avraham Burg, then the Speaker of the Parliament.  A few years later, after retiring from politics, Burg became a leading critic of Israeli society and darling of American opponents of the occupation.

Ze’evi’s assassination was surely related to his extreme political views and specifically to his advocacy of expelling Palestinians.  However, the Ha’aretz report of the 2001 funeral never mentioned this or alluded to Ze’evi’s outrageous worldview.

Remembering Ze’evi is to confront just how embedded the idea of transfer is in the Jewish Israeli political discourse. As Max Blumenthal wrote in his new book, Goliath:  Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel, in 1989, Benjamin Netanyahu bragged that he had advised the government to carry out mass expulsions of Palestinians (p.32).

For the Palestinians, the idea of mass forced transfer is both a memory and an ongoing fear.  The validity of this fear is becoming more and more difficult to deny.

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If israel ethnically cleanses the Palestinians it will be the last jewish state in the middle east. Zionism has to understand that mutual tolerance is the only way to secure the jewish presence in the holy land. Sooner or later the Muslims are going to get their shit together (cf Salah ad din ) and even if every zionist is fully indoctrinated and committed they are going to get their comeuppance if they abandon decency.… Read more »

“Liberal Zionist” RW could never bring himself to admit that ethnic cleansing is never necessary. The best he could manage was “Currently it’s not necessary.”

I suppose there may come another time when he and his equally-squeamish co-collectivists will once again have to “hold their noses” while hardier Zio-supremacists do the dirty work of implementing a final solution to the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State’s” pesky Palestinian problem.

“and even if every zionist is fully indoctrinated and committed they are going to get their comeuppance if they abandon decency” seafoid I don,t know if all Zionists are fully indoctrinated but am sure all zionists abandoned decency along time ago. Zionists seem to think they can create this magic border which will offer them security from those on the other side whom they stole property from and then Ethnically cleansed. Same old zio racism.Jews… Read more »

It should be borne in mind that Ze’evi was “murdered” [sic] in retaliation for the outrageously provocative assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa, then leader of the Popular Front.

Its not going to happen. Israel is not like the Arab countries that kick out Palestinian Arabs when they become inconvenient or tiresome. The Arabs don’t want peace and want the Jews gone – this is an inversion of the truth… the Arabs are the side who want to do ethnic cleansing! Israel is going the last mile for peace but it won’t be realized because the Arabs are not prepared to accept Jewish national… Read more »