Monday, September 12, 2005

Uri Avnery on 1967 and the settlers: "[The religious-nationalist] approach [represented] a very minor and even despised faction of Zionism before 1967. It took the settlement project over, robbed the socialist-Zionist camp of its original vision, and turned it into the hallmark of the national religious Zionist camp. And this is a change, not just in quantity, but also in quality. It is this camp which has become stronger every year for the last thirty-eight years. It has been promoted by all Israeli governments, whether Labor or Likud. It has been assisted not only by the Israeli army, but also by every part of the Israeli government and every ministry, both openly and covertly. This camp has become a very important force in Israeli society."

"The old socialist part of the Zionist movement and the kibbutz movement has broken down. It is economically bankrupt, and, what's more important, it is ideologically bankrupt. A third generation has now come to the fore in the Labor Party, a generation without ideology, without any real motivation. They are as capitalist as other parts of Israeli society. They're out to make money. The Labor Party is nothing but a reeking cadaver today, and is typical of this process. "

The religious Zionist movement has grown in force, ideological motivation, and fanaticism. It is a new kind of Jewish religion -- a tribal religion, a very aggressive nationalist religion -- and has elements (as I've said before) that must be characterized as fascist. And this force is now the only force in Israel that has a clear-cut ideology, that has thousands of people believing in it. Its thinking is clearly aimed at evicting the Palestinian population, and [creating] a homogeneous Jewish religious state, subject to the Halachah, and governed by rabbis. This is not often clearly articulated, but you can find it in the writings and the sayings of the leaders of this movement."

"Why did the majority of Israelis allow that to happen?

"UA: That's a very good question, and it's not easy to answer. When a majority doesn't have a clear and dominant ideology, and is faced with a strongly motivated, ideologically fanatical minority, the majority is at a great disadvantage.

"A majority of Israelis believe in democracy, but don't feel the urge to go out into the streets. For years, my friends and I have been demonstrating for an end to the Occupation, for peace with the Palestinians, and for democracy in Israel. We have experienced many heartbreaking moments when we called on people to come out and demonstrate and found that there is no force that can bring Israelis out, except on the annual day of mourning for Yitzhak Rabin. The only thing that mobilized these people was his murder and his memory. But it is very difficult to get them out for any other aim.

"It is a basic weakness of democracy that the democratic majority only comes out when it is severely provoked. And what is happening now in Israel, perhaps, is that the provocation by the settlers may reach a point where it will succeed in provoking the majority of Israelis to come out and fight for what they believe is important."

Nearly everyone believes or say they believe in democracy and liberty but how many are prepared to fight for it? Democracy hangs by a thread.

"All this shows that there is no clear will of the government to fight against the settlers. They find themselves in a fight that they did not expect to have. Sharon is completely bewildered, because when he started this so called "disengagement plan" he did not dream of entering a battle with the settlers. Quite the contrary. Ariel Sharon has been the father of the settlers more than any other person in the country. He put the settlements where they are and has worked tirelessly for years for the settlers. Sharon did not think that his plan was aimed against them. What he told the settlers was something like "we should give up a few settlements in the Gaza Strip, which are quite small and unimportant, in order to consolidate and save the big settlements in the West Bank and annex all the territory on which these settlements are sitting.""

"This sounded logical to Sharon. It is the logic of an army officer used to giving up territory in order to gain other territory. But the settlers did not accept it, and Sharon found himself unexpectedly confronted by them. This is a difficult situation, not only for Sharon personally, but for the entire Israeli political system to operate with any sense of consistency and determination because it [represents] a kind of cognitive dissonance."

"The great majority of Israelis are not aware of the real and present danger to Israeli democracy. They still have the illusion that this is something that will pass. Only when people realize that real danger is there and that people must come out and face it will there be a chance that some leadership will emerge. One can only hope that it will not be too late. I'm very much reminded of the last days of the Weimar Republic. I think about it constantly. And I think that the dangers that people were facing at that time are here. It has been said that the Weimar Republic collapsed not because the fascists overthrew it, but because at the moment of truth no one was ready to step up and defend the Republic. This nightmare pursues me. I think about it all the time."

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