Zionism was a revolutionary idea. It proposed that the “Jewish people”
should create a new Jewish entity in the land of Palestine.
The Zionist project was very successful indeed. By 1948 the embryo nation was
strong enough to create a state. Israel was born.
When one builds a house, one needs scaffolding. When the building is finished,
the scaffolding is removed.
But political ideas and structures don’t die easily. The human mind is lazy
and apprehensive, and clings to familiar ideas, long after they have become
obsolete. Also, political and material interests become vested in the idea and
Thus “Zionism” continued to exist after its aim had already been
achieved. The scaffolding became superfluous, indeed obstructive.
Why obstructive? Let’s take Australia, for example. It was created by British
settlers, as a colony of Britain. Australians were deeply committed to Britain.
During World War II they came to us, on their way to fight for Britain in North
Africa. (We liked them very much.)
But Australia is not Britain. A different climate, a different geography, a
different location, which dictates different political options.
If we consider World Jewry as a kind of motherland, like Britain for Australia,
Israel should have cut the umbilical cord at birth. A new nation. A new location.
A different neighborhood. Different options.
This never happened. Israel is a “Zionist” state, or so the vast
majority of its citizens and leaders believe. Not being a Zionist means being
an apostate, almost a traitor.
But what do Israelis mean by “Zionism”? Patriotism? Nationalism?
Solidarity with Jews around the world? Or something much more: the idea that
Israel does not really belong to its citizens, but to all the Jews around the
These basic conceptions, whether conscious or unconscious, have wide-ranging
Israel is officially and judicially defined as “a Jewish and democratic
state”. Does that mean that non-Jewish citizens of Israel, such as the
Arabs, do not really belong, but are only tolerated and their civil rights are
questionable? Does it mean that Israel as such is in reality a Western nation
transplanted to the Middle East? (In itself a Western name.)
Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, suggested in his fundamental
book “The Jewish State” that in Palestine we would volunteer to serve
as an outpost for European civilization against barbarism. Which barbarians
did he have in mind?
Some 110 years later, the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, expressed the
same idea in more colorful words, when he described Israel as a “villa
in the Jungle”. Again, it is easy to guess which wild beasts he had in
Since the mass immigration of Oriental Jewish communities to Israel (and other
countries) in the early 1950s, very few Jewish communities have remained in…