For some time I have had a dream about a community, a coalition, a big tent that includes within it all those constituencies who cry out to end the occupation now. Yes, I know, there already is a US Campaign to End the Occupation, and they do good work. Read about them here. But I am thinking of something else
I am thinking of people of all colors, races, creeds, ethnicities, sexual orientation – and of varying, even opposing ideologies. Under this tent are committed anti-Zionists who believe that a Jewish ethnic state is a bad thing; others who don’t think that Jews have right to national self-determination in Palestine; Palestinians who would, if they could, liberate all of Palestine from Zionist hegemony, and liberal Zionists, who believe that Israel, for all its flaws, offers promise to the Jewish people, the world, and, yes, even to the Palestinians. What unites these constituencies is the conviction that the occupation and subjugation of one people by another over three generations is morally intolerable and can go on no longer. And that now is the time to link arms, despite our profound and irreconcilable differences, and act to end the occupation.
But what does “ending the occupation” mean? It doesn’t mean merely a withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces from the West Bank. It doesn’t even mean the creation of a Palestinian state. It means simply this: that Palestinians can live freely and with dignity, that they are not under the control of anybody else, that they are free at last. And that this freedom extends not only to the Palestinians living still within Palestine but wherever they may be, in the camps, in the Arab emirates, in Jordan, in Detroit. It also means that Israelis, Jews and Palestinians, can also live a life of freedom and dignity, enslaved neither to fear, nor to feelings of ethnic entitlement.
Who is not in the tent, aside from the usual suspects?
Well, if you want to drive Palestinians or Israeli Jews into the sea, or coerce them in all sorts of ways to leave Palestine, you are not in the tent.
If you think that the occupation, though unfortunate, cannot end soon because of the possible threat to Israel’s security, you are not in the tent.
If you oppose the occupation, but hold it hostage to a bilateral “peace process,” you are not in the tent.
If you, like Prof. Ruth Gavison, claim to favor two states but oppose Palestinian unilateralism because it does not really advance the two-state solution, you are not in the tent. (Especially if you, like Prof. Gavison, have no qualms about supporting the Zionists’ unilateral declaration of statehood in 1948. That surely advanced the two-state solution, didn’t it?)
If you think that a Jewish right to self-determination trumps the Palestinians right to live freely in their homeland, you are not in the tent.
If you are more worried about the Fateh-Hamas reconciliation than the ongoing theft of land and resources, you are not in the tent.
If you are more concerned with tribal loyalty, and with possible coalitions with “enemies” of your people, then about the subjugation of a people for decades, you are not in the tent.
If, when people bring up the occuption, you say, “Yeah, well what about terrorism and the kassam rocket firing?” you are not in the tent.
Every day, more and more liberal Zionists are entering the tent. They are not checking their liberal Zionism at the tent’s opening. Some of them are swallowing hard when they see who is inside the tent (as do the others, when they see the liberal Zionists hovering at the entrance flap). But the actions of this horrible government and the equally horrible Knesset are pushing them into the tent.
When Peace Now – the grande dame of liberal Zionism, always so careful not to break the establishment Zionist consensus – issues public calls to boycott the settlements in a knowing act of civil disobedience it moves closer toward the tent. When Palestinians, though they refuse to “normalize” relations with Israeli Jewish peace activists, are nevertheless convinced that there are Israelis who support their cause in a non-condescending and non-paternalistic manner, they move closer to the tent.
This is happening here in Palestine/Israel. On Friday at 2 pm at Jaffa Gate, there will be a solidarity march of Israeli Jews and Palestinians (and others) in favor of Palestinians Statehood, and the September initiative. Liberal Zionists should be at the head of the line on this one. As Zionists, they should rejoice that the Palestinians are acting unilaterally, as did the Zionists in 1948,and that they are doing so within the framework of two states. As liberals, they should be appreciative that the Palestinians are seeking their self-determination in a diplomatic and non-violent manner.
The only liberal Zionists who can oppose the move, in my opinion, are the ones who are more Zionist than liberal, and indeed, their self-perceived “liberalism” is nothing more than a delusion.
It’s time for liberal Zionists to get off the fence and start heading towards the tent with the one-staters and the BDSer’s – without, necessarily, accepting those ideologies. This move will come first, in Palestine/Israel, and then throughout the world.
“For Torah Will Come from Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” The Torah that proclaims liberty throughout the land and the Word of the Lord that procaims, no more fear.