Jerusalem-born thinker Meron Benvenisti: “‘This country is a shared land, a single homeland.” -Haaretz
“There is a society here of settlers who dispossess others by seizing their place and pushing them out and creating a unilateral power system of migrant rule. That system cannot survive. Ultimately, the good Israelis will not be able to sustain the tension between their liberal values and the brutality of the reality amid which they live. They will leave. They are already starting to leave. Therefore, what’s needed is a transition to a different paradigm. The Jewish nation-state is doomed. It will implode. In the end, the only way to live here will be to create an equality of respect between us and the Palestinians. To recognize the fact that there are two national communities here which love this land and whose obligation is to channel the unavoidable conflict between them into a process of dialogue for life together.
It is time for you and your friends in Tel Aviv to understand: it is impossible to divide this land. Impossible. You cannot tell the Arabs to forget about Jaffa and Acre. They will not forget. And you cannot get any Palestinian to sign off on “the end of the conflict.” They will not sign. And the Green Line, which was the great alibi of the left, no longer exists. The Green Line is dead. The separation fence: that is truly apartheid. Separation is apartheid. Tel Avivans don’t want to understand this, but the Land of Israel is whole. It is a single geopolitical unit. It follows that the partition of the land is impossible. It is as impossible geographically and physically as it is psychologically. What’s impossible is the solution you are proposing. Even in Spain and Canada and Belgium, the binational structures are breaking up and falling apart.
Zionism was not born in sin, but in illusion. The illusion was that we are coming to a land in which there are no Arabs. And when we figured it out, we pulverized the country’s Arabs into five different groups: the Arabs of Israel, the Arabs of Gaza, the Arabs of the West Bank, the Arabs of Jerusalem and the refugee Arabs. We succeeded in creating a divide-and-rule system that made it possible for us to rule them and to preserve hegemonic power between the Mediterranean and the Jordan.
I do not want to say that Zionism is racist, but a constellation of traits developed here that is generally identified with racism, albeit without the biological element. We are imbued with a combination of hatred for the goy, which we inherited from our forebears, and hatred for the other whom we encountered here. The result is what we see today. Among a large segment of the public, there is an element of racism vis-a-vis the Arabs, but I would not categorize us all as racists. I would say that what characterizes us collectively is ethnic hatred, ethnic recoil, ethnic contempt and ethnic patronizing. Instead of progress, Zionism brought reaction. It became a movement of dispossession based on nonuniversal, non-egalitarian values.
In June 1948. How so? Because that was when state institutions were created here that were supposed to operate according to universal values. That was the moment at which the Zionist revolution was supposed to stop behaving by means of revolutionary force and bring into being a normal Western state. But [David] Ben-Gurion, who until that moment was the head of an ethnic group, did not internalize the fact that he was no longer the head of an ethnic group. He transformed the nascent state into the continuer of the ethnic struggle. Thus, the Arabs who remained within the boundaries of the state were immediately subjected to ethnic discrimination. Discrimination was institutionalized by means of the Military Government, land expropriations, budgetary inequality and the continued existence of organizations such as the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, which served only Jews.
But in 1967, that distorted situation, which was implicit in the state, underwent a quantum leap. Now it was no longer the Judaization of Galilee but the implementation of a wild policy of dispossession across the Green Line. Seizure of land, settlements, bypass roads: the creation of a declared situation of one law for Jews and another law for Palestinians. Oslo was a purported attempt to stop the rampant situation. There was mutual recognition between the nations, which is important. But in practice, it turned out that it was not Yossi Beilin who shaped the process but those who saw in Oslo an opportunity to continue the occupation indirectly and conveniently. Thus, a neocolonialist situation was created in the territories. We enjoy maintaining a captive market there which enriches us all.
At present we are talking about 350,000 settlers; or, if you also take Jerusalem into account, 550,000 settlers. So, everyone now understands what I said 30 years ago: it is irreversible. Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni can say whatever they like − it is irreversible. There is no way out of this mess.
It’s true that I live the story of the soil. I live the whole land and I am mindful of all the people who live here. That is how I know that the land cannot tolerate partition. And I know the land is hurting. The land is angry. After all, what two great monuments have we built here in the past decade? One is the separation fence and the other is [architect Moshe] Safdie’s terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport. The two monuments have something in common: they are intended to allow us to live here as though we are not here. They were built so that we would not see the land and not see the Palestinians, and live as though we are connected to the tail end of Italy. But I see all the fruit groves that were demolished in order to build the fence. I hear the hills that were sliced in two in order to build the fence. The heart weeps. The heart weeps in the name of the soil. For me, the soil is a living being. And I see how this conflict has tortured the soil, the homeland. I grieve for the torments of the homeland.
For years, we built against the Arabs. We dried the Hula Valley and we wrecked Jerusalem and we tore apart Judea and Samaria. But afterward, the Arabs started to build against us. They are no better than we are. We raped the soil and they raped the soil, and now the soil is violated. But I know that in the end it will be the soil that laughs at us: because we cannot exist without it and it cannot exist without us.
In the past, there were so many nations that thought they had succeeded in wresting control of the land. None of those nations was willing to share the land; they wanted the land for themselves and tried to seize it the way you seize a mare. But that noble untamed stallion shook them all off. The point is that if you want to live here, you cannot live alone and you cannot live without listening to the soil. You need to know that the soil breathes and the soil remembers. If you do not understand that, you are not truly a native son. Not truly a native. Your place is not here.”