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Hebrew University
About Zeev Sternhell [Political Science at the Hebrew U] in "Zionism's dying - a change in Israeli perspective?"


Zionism's dying - a change in Israeli perspective? By Ray Bergmann 13/08/08

Israeli historian Ze’ev Sternhell, described in 'The Founding Myths of
Israel' (published in Hebrew in 1995 and in English in 1998), the motive of
Israel’s leaders for retaining the conquests of 1967 as “imperial
expansion”, and he decried the Israeli occupation and Israel's
nationalistic settlement of the West Bank as a major impediment to
"Israel's ability to develop as a free and open society."

In this book he claimed that, in the Oslo agreements, the Jewish national
movement had implicitly "recognized the equal rights of the Palestinian
people to freedom and independence" and he warned of “the moral and
political price Israeli society will have to pay to overcome the resistance
that the hard core of the settlers is bound to show to any just and
reasonable solution." (Z. Sternhell, 1998, The Founding Myths of Israel,
ISBN 0-691-01694-1, pp. 339-345)

In Ze’ev Sternhell’s latest essay 'Zionism's dying between Hebron and
Yitzhar' (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009632.html - 8/08/2008) he
quotes Berl Katznelson in 1929 justifying the early Zionist enterprise as a
"conquest enterprise" in which “all means were permitted to carry out the
task” to ensure the survival of the Jewish settlement in Palestine.” In
his book Sternhell had described Jewish nationalist aspirations as
legitimate in its early days because of the threat of death hanging over
the Jews in the first half of the 20th century which impelled the drive to
establish a refuge for the Jewish people preferably in Palestine which had
always been the focus of Jewish religious aspirations. (Z. Sternhell, 1998,
The Founding Myths of Israel, ISBN 0-691-01694-1, p.338)

But in 'Zionism's dying between Hebron and Yitzhar' he criticises
Israel’s subsequent imperial expansion as “an ugly and violent form of
colonial occupation: the authoritarian regime in the territories, the
creation of two legal systems, the placing of the army and police at the
service of the settlement movement, the robbing of Palestinian lands. These
all symbolize not the fulfillment of Zionism but rather its burial. It is
there, between Hebron and Yitzhar, that the settlements are burying the
democratic Jewish state.”

Stenhell describes in the Ha'aretz article how this came about.

“The nationalist-messianist fervor and the desire to end the War of
Independence merged into the momentum for occupation: The entire right and
most of the left ... bear joint responsibility for the gradual creation of
the disaster in which Israeli society is wallowing.”

“Since it was impossible to take control of the lands legally, a
mafia-like culture of theft, lies and deception developed in the
territories, in which the various government authorities are still
wallowing, from ministers in tailored suits to the last of the policemen
sweating on the highways. Contrary to the rules of international and
Israeli law, contrary to elementary rules of justice, contrary to all logic
and every genuine Israeli interest, broad areas were confiscated for the
sake of the settlers and huge sums were poured in.”

“When the public finally realized that if the Jewish national movement
does not absorb universal foundations of human rights, democracy and the
rule of law it will doom itself to destruction, a force had already arisen
over the Green Line that now threatens to drown all of Israel. Thus a
minority took control of the fate of the entire society and held it
hostage, due both to the left's ideological impotence and a lack of
character, determination and leadership. If society does not find the
emotional strength to remove the noose of the settlements, nothing but a
sad memory will remain of the Jewish state as it still exists.”

Whether Sternhell's realizations are the harbinger of a change in
perspective of the Israeli public can be judged from the comments at
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009632.html - a very curious mix of
supportive realism and antagonistic hyperbole. I'll go with comment 107 by
Margot Salom: "its really good to hear about the imminent death of Zionism
- let it be quick and allow Jewish ethics to return to Israel."


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