Gideon Levy published a column in Haaretz yesterday that goes to the furthest extent I have seen in Israeli mainstream media in challenging Zionism. He calls it a movement that “contradicts human rights, and is thus indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps even racist movement, as proponents of justice worldwide maintain”.
His piece, titled “Minster of Truth”, was a typically sarcastic one, set against the background of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who had said earlier in the week that
“Zionism should not – and I’m saying here that it will not – continue to bow its head to a system of individual rights interpreted in a universal manner”.
Levy takes Shaked’s words and elucidates the message further:
“Thus Shaked believes, as do so many around the world, that Israel is built on foundations of injustice and therefore must be defended from the hostile talk of justice. How else can the repulsion to discussing rights be explained? Individual rights are important, she said, but not when they are disconnected from ‘the Zionist challenges.’ Right again: The Zionist challenges indeed stand in contradiction to human rights.”
And Levy is very clear about what opposing this will mean:
“Zionism is Israel’s fundamentalist religion, and as in any religion, its denial is prohibited. In Israel, ‘non-Zionist’ or ‘anti-Zionist’ aren’t insults, they are social expulsion orders. There’s nothing like it in any free society. But now that Shaked has exposed Zionism, put her hand to the flame and admitted the truth, we can finally think about Zionism more freely. We can admit that the Jews’ right to a state contradicted the Palestinians’ right to their land, and that righteous Zionism gave birth to a terrible national wrong that has never been righted; that there are ways to resolve and atone for this contradiction, but the Zionist Israelis won’t agree to them.”
The background is that Shaked was responding to the Supreme Court’s decision last Monday, ruling against indefinite imprisonment of African asylum seekers who refuse to be deported to a third country (typically Uganda or Rwanda). Whilst permitting the deportation of what the court terms “infiltrators,” the court limited the term of their imprisonment to two months. Now notice what Supreme Court President Miriam Naor wrote:
“During this time, it’s permissible to try to persuade him through means that don’t infringe on his free will, or to try to find other ways to deport him against his will”.
This is the typical “light coercion” of the “Israeli democracy”, similar to the uniquely-Israeli expression “moderate physical pressure” as a legalized euphemism for torture.
Court President Naor adds: “Similarly, the state can consider alternatives to deportation, including the alternative of restricting his place of residence” (that is, within Israel).
Many people would naturally balk at this contempt for human rights. But for Israeli leaders, this was outrageous for the opposite reason: the court was too liberal.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whilst welcoming the decision that “infiltrators” could be sent to third countries, nonetheless decried the court for depriving him of a “very important tool”, and criticized the court for allowing only voluntary deportations (in some cases).
“The decision not to allow the state to deport infiltrators against their will is very problematic,” Deri said. “We have to care for the citizens of Israel, the residents of south Tel Aviv and other cities where residents’ lives are unlivable.”
And Prime Minister Netanyahu? He said:
“We’ll have to enact new laws that will enable us … to send the illegal infiltrators out of our country.”
In saying that human rights must yield to “the Zionist challenges,” Shaked was basically making it clear, as Levy stated, that Zionism stands in opposition to universal human rights – intrinsically so. Levy seems to hedge, writing that Zionism is a “perhaps even racist movement” (my emphasis), but the hedge disappears when he describes Zionism as a colonialist and ultranationalist movement. In other words, Levy is calling Zionism racism.
The historical notion of Zionism as racism is clear to Levy, and he mentions the UN Resolution 3379 of 1975, equating Zionism with racism, in his second paragraph. I have also mentioned that resolution (which Israeli UN Ambassador Haim Herzog famously tore apart, and which was later rescinded), in conjunction with the recent UN agency commissioned report on Israeli Apartheid, which noted the “state’s essentially racist character”.
What’s also important to note in this case is the background – not of Palestinians, but simply of non-Jewish asylum seekers. This is an important notion, because it flies in the face of the notion of Israeli policies being merely a response to Palestinian aggression, as it were. There is no aggression here as such, and there are no Palestinians in this story. It is merely about the presence of non-Jews.
When Zionism’s founder Theodore Herzl wrote in his diary in 1895 that “We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border … while denying it any employment in our own country”, he was not likely thinking of African refugees. But reality has shown that Zionism will enact such policies against anyone who endangers its racist, colonialist and ultranationalist designs.
So here we are: things are being said out loud. No more apologies. This is also evident in what Netanyahu recently said to a settler audience: “We are here to stay forever,” Netanyahu reassured. “We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle” (as noted by Jonathan Cook).
And Levy sets the stakes:
“Now, then, is the time for a new division, braver and more honest, between those Israelis who agree with Shaked’s statement and those [who] disagree. Between supporters of Zionism and supporters of justice. Between Zionists and the just.”
Indeed, and not a moment too soon.