Reprinted from Gush Shalom
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 resist change.
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 world?
THESE BASIC conceptions, whether conscious or unconscious, have wide-ranging consequences.
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 mind.