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The left-right debate in Israel is over the speed of colonization, not how to end it

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“Bibi, it’s time to divorce the Palestinians”,

says a banner by the liberal-Zionist organization Commanders for Israel’s Security, which is now up on their main website page, having gone up on billboards across Israel.

This organization, endorsed by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, has been out with a similar campaign last year, with billboards in Arabic featuring Palestinians and Palestinian colors, saying “we are soon the majority”.

They thus show a particular taste, or rather lack of it, for gimmicks which are supposed to catch the Israeli nationalist mind – and it is very important to emphasize that this is not right-wing Zionism, this is the left and center.

The organization, which advocates for unilateral ‘separation’ from the Palestinians, started the recent campaign last week with videos which went under a Youtube channel of “Israel Israeli”, supposedly a private name, meant to mark their ultra-nationalist Zionist leaning. The logo features a likening of a wedding photo, which is being torn in the middle. The series of videos featured half-minute clips (Hebrew) of people who are supposedly speaking about their private lives. This recent one for example (from yesterday), features a man around his 30’s, saying:

“I’m trying to remember when we last had it good between us. Trying, trying, trying, and not succeeding. I think about our future and only see black, and I’m tired of it – tired of it! That’s not the life I want. Don’t want mediation, don’t want consulting, there’s no one to talk to! I want freedom, I want to live, and I’m not willing to wait any longer – I want to divorce”.

A slide then appears saying “it’s time to divorce and to separate from millions of Palestinians”, revealing the organization (Commanders for the Security of Israel) and inviting to enter their website.

All the videos basically follow this pattern, with that final sentence “I want to divorce” and the campaign promotion.

The vision – Bantustans, with a contractor

In a recent interview with TV host Avri Gilad one of the organization’s leaders, Uzi Arad, former head of the Institute for National Security Studies, laid out the group’s vision and said they hope the campaign is “hitting the awareness” of people. The vision is the notion that the ‘Jewish and democratic’ state is under threat – a demographic threat. The whole discussion is framed against the notion of a possible annexation of Area C of the West Bank, which comprises more than 60% of the area, surrounding some 165 Palestinian enclaves in a Bantustanized archipelago. This area C under full Israeli control is a design of the Oslo Accords of the mid 1990’s. Prominent proponents of its immediate annexation are people such as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (both Jewish Home party), who are to the right of Netanyahu. These areas have contained an estimated 300,000 Palestinians in a UN count of 2014, and it is likely close to 350,000 by today. Shaked says that Israel can afford ‘absorbing’ this population.

In the interview with Gilad, Arad says the annexation of Area C will have disastrous implications. He mentions several issues he thinks are central in relation to this “divorce”, and why annexation would hurt Israel:

1)     The “birth rate” of Palestinians (2:58).

2)     “Ongoing tension”, because “the Palestinian side will “become agitated” by annexation.

Gilad answers the latter by suggesting that maybe, when those Palestinians get Israeli citizenship, they will “calm down”. Arad answers that “then Israel will be less Jewish”.

This is what it all circles around. It’s a central Zionist concern: Maximum territory, but minimum Palestinians – just like ‘centrist-liberal’ lawmaker Yair Lapid says.

Then Gilad presents scare scenarios, in opposing a supposed ‘two-state solution’:

“What’s the option? To give them a state in that area, in their areas, and then masses rush in, all kinds of Palestinian refugees and the such, Hamas takes over, rockets on the airport – that’s more-or-less the script, no?”

Against such doomsday theories, which Gilad and Zionists in general are so prone to, Arad seems desperate to provide a comforting message of ‘security’. He thus assures:

“It’s clear that Israel needs to maintain security control of the whole area, such a situation that you hint at here cannot arise”.

Arad is suggesting that due to this “separation”, the Palestinian Authority will “blossom and thrive”. In other words, the Bantustanization will continue, with a contractor.

‘Separation between the yolk and white’

“Separation” is now a central word for liberal-Zionists. Recently, centrist opposition leader Tzipi Livni likened the separation between Israelis and Palestinians to “separation between the yolk and white” of an egg, in order to make “a good cake”.

People who are part of the Commanders for Israel’s Security line have been advocating for such “separation” also in order to “save Jewish Jerusalem”. Two years ago, in an appallingly racist, Islamophobic video, the Movement for Saving Jewish Jerusalem suggested a scenario where East Jerusalemite Palestinian residents go to vote en-masse, electing a Palestinian mayor. This is essentially the same scare-mongering as Netanyahu’s “the Arabs are going to vote in droves“ from the eve of the last elections, only it’s uttered by people who generally identify as the ‘peace camp’. The notion of the clip is that the terrorist Arabs will use Israeli democracy as their weapon. The solution is thus to cut off the 28 West Bank Palestinian villages which Israel annexed as part of east Jerusalem (expanding the municipal borders tenfold from 1967), yet maintain all the Jewish settlements in the same areas, in order to better ‘Judaize’ ‘Greater Jerusalem’. The group included Shaul Arieli, one of the lead negotiators of the Geneva Initiative, and Ami Ayalon, the former Shin Bet head and Labor Party MK who launched a two-state peace initiative with Sari Nusseibeh in 2003. Both have been central in the forming of the Commanders for Israel’s Security.

In other words, more or less everything that comes from Zionists, left and right, is always about Apartheid, and it’s always appallingly racist.

The Zionist ‘peace-camp’ cannot catch the attention of those in their fold or further right by means other than vulgarity, in order to “hit their awareness” – that Zionist awareness, that the Arabs are threatening the Jewish State in droves. Zionism doesn’t have a solution to this, because its adherents can’t seem to find in themselves the ability to even conceive a divorce of Zionism. The talks about ‘divorcing Palestinians’ are disingenuous from the outset, because it’s not as if Israel ‘married’ them to begin with. The ‘divorce’ solution is likewise not an actual equal separation where each goes to their own life, but one where Israel continues its colonialist control and subjugation of the ‘divorced’ Palestinians. The inherent racist imbalance is never addressed.

The ‘plague’ of mixed-marriage

One might also be under the impression, that the “divorce” campaign is but a euphemism for a purely national, impersonal issue. Yet it echoes a general Zionist isolationist vein that reaches all the way to the private lives of individuals, and this often comes from the left and center of Zionism.

Earlier this year, former left and opposition leader Isaac Herzog warned that intermarriage, especially in USA, is a “plague”. In response to a recent marriage between Jewish and Muslim celebrities Tzahi Halevy and Lucy Aharish, the mentioned ‘centrist-liberal’ Yair Lapid bemoaned merely that condemnations of the marriage (from top Israeli ministers) were not reserved for a week after the wedding; back in 2014, Lapid responded to another supposed “mixed marriage” (supposed, because the woman had converted to Islam an the man was Muslim), by saying:

“It would bother me if my son married a non-Jew… It would bother me greatly.”

So there is a very real personal aspect here, one of fundamentalist isolationism, and it’s very Zionist. The ‘peaceniks’ use the personal ‘divorce’ notion as a metaphor, because they know it will “hit the awareness” of Israelis (read=mostly Jewish), since they will imagine it as if they were, God forbid, married to a Palestinian (read=non-Jewish).

In this mindset Palestinians are regarded with intrinsic and institutional disgust by the colonialist state of Israel. And none of these enlightened Zionists really care how this portrays Palestinians, because it’s all for the sake of the sacred ideal of Zionism: “separation”. Because we need to be a nation apart, in “our land” as the national anthem goes.

A debate over the speed of expansion

In the end, there is really nothing new here. This is all very Barak-like, that is, when Ehud Barak made a supposedly “generous offer” to Palestinians in 2000, one which basically amounted to Bantustans. The struggles between right and left Zionism have always historically been not about a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but about the speed and rate at which expansionism needs to happen. The essential factor is always Jewish demography, which is existentially important for Zionists, because the coveted and supposed ‘Jewish and Democratic’ nature of the state could only be achieved by means of expulsion and Apartheid in various forms. The ‘peace process’ has also played an integral part in this. As Ben White summarizes in his recent in The Arab Weekly:

“Thus, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decade in power has seen the consolidation of a de facto single state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, it was the Oslo Accords and Rabin’s vision of separation which lay the foundations for today’s apartheid status quo”.

While the Commanders for Israel’s Security are warning about the dire consequences of annexing Area C, Israel is engaged in ongoing slow-motion ethnic cleansing of that area. B’tselem, the Israeli human-rights monitoring NGO, has a permanent theme-page with a live blog called “facing expulsion”:

“Thousands of people – residents of dozens of Palestinian communities located throughout Area C, the West Bank – face imminent expulsion by Israeli authorities on a variety of pretexts”.

So Israel is actively engaged in “solving the demographic problem”. While the left-center say that annexation is no solution, this is not so as far as the right, as well as Zionist logic as a whole, are concerned. ‘Non-solutions’ of Zionists have also played part in Zionist strategy. In the wake of the 1967 war, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan proposed saying to Palestinians:

“We don’t have a solution, and you will continue living like dogs, and whoever wants will go, and we’ll see how this procedure will work out”.

This is essentially how Israel carries on, shifting Palestinians around, dispossessing them, and creating settlement ‘facts on the ground’ in order to ‘Judaize’ the territories it expands into. This is all Zionism 101. The ‘liberal-Zionist’ concern is always about how fast it should go, and which solutions, or non-solutions, are acceptable at any given time.

That’s why I’ve divorced Zionism. 

Many thanks to Ofer Neiman

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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11 Responses

  1. RoHa on December 14, 2018, 12:11 am

    “What happens when I’m seventy?
    Must come a time…seventy.”

    Israel is now seventy. A bit late to start reviewing the situation, but the Zionists really do have to think it out again.

  2. RoHa on December 14, 2018, 12:14 am

    Off topic, but a cheering bit of news from Damascus that I think MW commenters will like.

  3. Elizabeth Block on December 14, 2018, 9:17 am

    “the ‘Jewish and democratic’ state is under threat”
    Excuse me. What Jewish and democratic state?
    It used to be said that Israel had to choose between being Jewish and being democratic. That choice was made a long time ago.

    • oldgeezer on December 14, 2018, 11:29 am


      It is offensive for Israel to claim it is a democracy. Yes you get a vote but the result is gerrymandered. Restrictions on jobs and positions, unequal rights, unequal support from the state.

      Voting is the only similarity with a democracy and that is of no benefit. Even communist countries have votes.

      • MHughes976 on December 14, 2018, 3:50 pm

        Exercising sovereign power over a population in large part disfranchised is a form of oligarchy or minority rule

      • oldgeezer on December 14, 2018, 9:55 pm


        I minority rule is the appropriate choice. Israel claims all the land but denies the people resident on that land, for many centuries or more, any right to any political control over their lives.

        If you actually compared it to any western democracy it would be the equivalent of saying you may vote in municipal elections but not in state or national. They don’t really have as much control over their lives as a people in a municipality would have.

  4. Misterioso on December 14, 2018, 10:22 am

    Meanwhile, ever growing numbers of Jews are “divorcing” the entity know as “Israel.”
    Why Jews flee to Europe (or at least half of it)
    By Doug Saunders,
    Canada’s Globe and Mail, November 16, 2013
    “Have you heard about Europe’s Jewish exodus? Amid growing tensions and tough economic conditions, tens of thousands of educated middle-class Jews are fleeing every year – not out of the continent, but rather from Israel into Europe, and especially to Germany, which has become the chief destination (after the United States) for the half-million Israelis who have left the country amid its much-discussed ‘brain drain.’

    “This has taken both Israelis and many Europeans by surprise – and offended some Israeli leaders. Last month, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, during a visit to Budapest, took to Facebook to denounce the growing wave of Europe-bound Jews who have become known in the Israeli media as the New Yordim (emigrants, or literally, ‘fallen’).”
    “More Israelis are moving to the U.S.—and staying for good” Newsweek, May10/18
    “Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves.”
    By Yardena Schwartz Newsweek
    “Israel has one of the highest poverty rates and levels of income inequality in the Western world. It also has one of the highest costs of living. Tel Aviv ranks ninth among the world’s most expensive cities, higher than New York and Los Angeles; five years ago, it ranked 34th. The situation is so dire that a 2013 survey by the financial newspaper Calcalist (the most recent Israeli study conducted on this topic) found that 87 percent of adults—many with children of their own—depend on substantial financial support from their parents.”

    Times of Israel, June 21/17: -news/.premium-jewish-agency- chief-warns-young-u-s-jews- more-turned-off-to-israel-1. 5751616

    Haaretz – Jan 22, 2018, by Judy Maltz
    “Young American Jews Increasingly Turning Away From Israel, Jewish Agency Leader Warns”
    “The Jewish Agency’s CEO and director-general called the trend ‘extremely worrisome,’ and said that a new strategy must be undertaken to engage young American Jews with Israel.”
    “Why Young Jews and Democrats Are Waving Goodbye to AIPAC”
    By Emily Mayer, March 6, 2018 – Haaretz
    “My generation has only known Israel as an occupier. We won’t back anyone who supports that injustice – including the powerful lobby that is AIPAC”

  5. Misterioso on December 14, 2018, 10:49 am

    Good read:

    The Independent, Dec. 14/18
    “‘Music is a freedom that breaks every border’: Young musicians in Gaza fight the siege to play for peace. With just one grand piano in the whole of Gaza, and a dwindling number of teachers, young Palestinian musicians fight 11-year-long blockade to keep music alive in times of war.”

  6. klm90046 on December 14, 2018, 8:31 pm

    I have always said, and I say it now, these liberal, soft-spoken, mealy-mouthed Zionists are more dangerous than the Likud variety. The latter you can attack, condemn, wage war against. WTF do you do with these harmless-looking, love-spouting human beings?

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on December 15, 2018, 12:18 pm

      Yup. That’s why I was glad ‘Bibi’ won the last election, and will probably win the next one too.

      With Labour, nothing of substance would change, but the “Liberal” Zionists – who prefer their oppression of Palestinians to be done with nice words – would have a fig-leaf. With ‘Bibi’, it’s impossible for them to deny the horrible reality of Zionism, though lord knows they try.

  7. oldgeezer on December 14, 2018, 11:14 pm


    Liberal zionists are far worse than the right wing. They don’t seek a different outcome. They just want to be totally dishonest about it and have you feel good before they drive the knife in your back. Figuratively and not literally. They are ok with the iof putting bullets through you to enforce that outcome though

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