Who is a Zionist?
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Dudu Azoulay
Avraham Burg
Photo: Dudu Azoulay

Alternative to scaremongers

Op-ed: Time has come for Israelis to stop behaving as if they just came out of Auschwitz

While reading the words uttered by my critics in recent weeks, in the wake of my decision to form a new party and run in the next elections, I realized that for most of them it’s easy to just shoot the messenger, as long as they don’t have to deal with the actual delivery or substance of the message.


It was all so predictable: Referring to my French passport, noting that I own a jeep, saying that I’m a corrupt hedonist, and declaring that my father must be turning in his grave. Whatever. Half of the claims are false, while the other half is inaccurate. So what? It doesn’t matter. As it turns out, the argument that I have shunned Zionism has also turned into no more than personal gossip. Yet what do the critics have to say about the actual matter at hand? Almost nothing. However, I do have something to say.


Let’s start with the Zionist spectrum. Who’s a Zionist? A person born to a Zionist mother? In my view, Zionism was a necessarily scaffolding for shifting the Jewish people from the Diaspora structure to a new, sovereign home. And that’s it. We’re past it now. The new structure exists and is stable; we can now take apart the scaffolding.


In this respect, all of us are “post-Zionist” compared to the original Zionism. Yet within the spectrum ranging from Kiryat Arba to Aryeh Eldad, between Lieberman to Eli Yishai, I’m anti-Zionist, because their way isn’t my way, and their values rival my own.


In reality, we are already in the next chapter in the book of Israeliness; a chapter that accepts as fact Israel being the Jewish people’s state, as well as the state of all its citizens.


We’ve become nationalistic, fundamentalist

This chapter requires all to make every effort to turn into a model society of justice, humanity, and morality. This chapter also demands that we understand that the State had already been established, and we can’t keep behaving as if we just came out of Auschwitz. In addition, we’re not in the midst of an endless war of liberation where no holds are barred and which grants us permission to greedily wrest away whatever we can get our hands on.


Let’s turn our attention to the Israeli substance. Our politics is all about managing negative current affairs. Everyone whines. People say that there’s nobody to vote for, because everything – democracy, state institutions, global status, social solidarity, and human rights – had been ruined and destroyed. Hence, we end up again voting for…the very same people who brought the destruction and are now perpetuating it.


Nobody is willing to look up and wonder: Is it possible to adopt another way of thinking, different than anything being offered to us by the scaremongers and blood dealers? Unlike them, we demand politics of vision and broad thinking; one that would reconnect us to the important Western movements, those of modernity, tolerance, and enlightenment.


I have no personal interest in retaking my place at the Knesset, but I do hold a great commitment to stimulating a process that would ultimately provide my children, friends, and tens of thousands of other Israelis with a modern ideological movement and a political home that would represent us.


The most dangerous phenomenon is eroding democratic openness – which stood at the base of revived Israeli sovereignty - to the point of elimination. The face of Israelis has completely changed since the mythological days of Israel’s inception. We have turned into something else – nationalistic, fundamentalist, and mostly separatist. Most of Israeli society and the Knesset that represents it lost their ability to contain the other and the different.


Indeed, nationalistic Knesset members are competing with each other in an effort to be as patriotic as possible, and while at it, be as despicable as possible and least democratic as possible. The agreed-upon life in the swamp of despair has in fact turned into a collective surrender, with pessimism turning into policy.


Focusing on the individual

In the face of all of this, we seek to present a cultural and political alternative of substance, putting the Israeli focus on human beings and their natural rights and freedoms. Should the focus of the state be God – we’ll be like Iran; if our supreme values would become soil, blood, or the state itself – it would mean fascism is already here. Having the individual at the center of our existence is the only guarantee for a life of equality.


When all people are equal, questions such as “But is he Arab?” don’t exist, because the answer is “yes, he is a human being just like you.” I believe in a society that is devoid of discrimination, because an ethnic democracy that does not include all its citizens is no democracy. There is no such thing as Jewish democracy if it means democracy for Jews only.


Some people are telling me: Avrum, scare them. Tell them the state is being ruined, tell them we’re facing demographic danger, tell them bad things are in store. But I don’t want to. I am not a party to the Israeli discourse of fear, which stems from deep traumas and feeds the cycles of violence, paranoia, fear of peace, and xenophobia. Indeed, all these things are scary, yet we wish to present a model of trust and hope to counter them


Trust in ourselves, in our neighbors, and in human beings whoever they are; hope that we can indeed break the wicked cycle of hatred and hostility, fear and aggression. After all, this is why we established our state, and this is the only reason that makes it worthwhile to fight for the whole jackpot here.


The pleasure of surrendering and withdrawing from the dream of a humanistic, moral Israel is one we do not intend to grant to anyone. We’re here to fight for our home, so that the Israeli family who lives here won’t become violent towards itself and abusive of its neighbors just for the hell of it.


This is a struggle for Israel’s place in the family of enlightened nations, and not among the mad, isolated pariahs. All our prophets – Ezekiel, Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea – taught us that we cannot live in this home if it’s not a house of justice. The time has come for justice and for equality between people to prevail.



פרסום ראשון: 08.17.10, 00:45
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