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[casi] A.Burg: A Failed Israeli Society Collapses

Omez ve Chezek le Avraham Burg




A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain

(Avraham Burg was speaker of Israel's Knesset from 1999 to 2003
and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is
currently a Labor Party Knesset member. This essay is adapted by
the author from an article that appeared in Yediot Aharonot.)

The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just
path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any
longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of
corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As
such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our
doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last
Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it
will be a different sort, strange and ugly.

There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a
new vision of a just society and the political will to implement
it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews
for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay
heed and speak out. If the pillar collapses, the upper floors
will come crashing down.

The opposition does not exist, and the coalition, with Arik
Sharon at its head, claims the right to remain silent. In a
nation of chatterboxes, everyone has suddenly fallen dumb,
because there's nothing left to say. We live in a thunderously
failed reality. Yes, we have revived the Hebrew language, created
a marvelous theater and a strong national currency. Our Jewish
minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is
this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive
for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer
security programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to
be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed.

It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival
comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of
corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to
their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive. More and
more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their
children where they expect to live in 25 years. Children who are
honest admit, to their parents' shock, that they do not know. The
countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun.

It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements
such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming.
>From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and
bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Traveling on the fast
highway at takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem's northern edge to
Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a
half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it's hard to
comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who
must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned
to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.

This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow
their shame and anger forever, it won't work. A structure built
on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note
this moment well: Zionism's superstructure is already collapsing
like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue dancing
on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.

We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering of the women
at the roadblocks. No wonder we don't hear the cries of the
abused woman living next door or the single mother struggling to
support her children in dignity. We don't even bother to count
the women murdered by their husbands.

Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the
Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in
hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.
They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation,
because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood
in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they
have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.

We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a day and
nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below
from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures" of
injustice and moral corruption.

If all this were inevitable, divinely ordained and immutable, I
would be silent. But things could be different, and so crying out
is a moral imperative.

Here is what the prime minister should say to the people:

The time for illusions is over. The time for decisions has
arrived. We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some
other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will
not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs.

Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a
clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not
possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price. We
cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at
the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle
East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who
live here, Arab as well as Jew. We cannot keep the territories
and preserve a Jewish majority in the world's only Jewish state
not by means that are humane and moral and Jewish.

Do you want the greater Land of Israel? No problem. Abandon
democracy. Let's institute an efficient system of racial
separation here, with prison camps and detention villages.
Qalqilya Ghetto and Gulag Jenin.

Do you want a Jewish majority? No problem. Either put the Arabs
on railway cars, buses, camels and donkeys and expel them en
masse  or separate ourselves from them absolutely, without tricks
and gimmicks. There is no middle path. We must remove all the
settlements  all of them  and draw an internationally recognized
border between the Jewish national home and the Palestinian
national home. The Jewish Law of Return will apply only within
our national home, and their right of return will apply only
within the borders of the Palestinian state.

Do you want democracy? No problem. Either abandon the greater
Land of Israel, to the last settlement and outpost, or give full
citizenship and voting rights to everyone, including Arabs. The
result, of course, will be that those who did not want a
Palestinian state alongside us will have one in our midst, via
the ballot box.

That's what the prime minister should say to the people. He
should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racialism or
democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of
barbed wire, roadblocks and suicide bombers, or a recognized
international border between two states and a shared capital in

But there is no prime minister in Jerusalem. The disease eating
away at the body of Zionism has already attacked the head. David
Ben-Gurion sometimes erred, but he remained straight as an arrow.
When Menachem Begin was wrong, nobody impugned his motives. No
longer. Polls published last weekend showed that a majority of
Israelis do not believe in the personal integrity of the prime
minister  yet they trust his political leadership. In other
words, Israel's current prime minister personally embodies both
halves of the curse: suspect personal morals and open disregard
for the law  combined with the brutality of occupation and the
trampling of any chance for peace. This is our nation, these its
leaders. The inescapable conclusion is that the Zionist
revolution is dead.

Why, then, is the opposition so quiet? Perhaps because it's
summer, or because they are tired, or because some would like to
join the government at any price, even the price of participating
in the sickness. But while they dither, the forces of good lose

This is the time for clear alternatives. Anyone who declines to
present a clear-cut position  black or white  is in effect
collaborating in the decline. It is not a matter of Labor versus
Likud or right versus left, but of right versus wrong, acceptable
versus unacceptable. The law-abiding versus the lawbreakers.
What's needed is not a political replacement for the Sharon
government but a vision of hope, an alternative to the
destruction of Zionism and its values by the deaf, dumb and

Israel's friends abroad  Jewish and non-Jewish alike, presidents
and prime ministers, rabbis and lay people  should choose as
well. They must reach out and help Israel to navigate the road
map toward our national destiny as a light unto the nations and a
society of peace, justice and equality.

Translated by J.J. Goldberg.

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