With both the coronavirus and the germ of annexation clogging the air in these parts, it’s surprising that most of the stench is not coming from Jerusalem but from somber and measured Jews in the diaspora – those who call themselves Zionists but aren’t willing to walk the walk.
Take for example the letter sent by about 40 prominent British Jews to the Israeli ambassador in London, solemnly warning about the grave consequences of annexation. “We are yet to see an argument that convinces us, committed Zionists and passionately outspoken friends of Israel, that the proposed annexation is a constructive step,” opined the Jewish notables, among them historian Simon Schama, writer Howard Jacobson and former foreign secretary Malolm Rifkind, as reported by the Guardian.
“Instead, it would in our view be a pyrrhic victory intensifying Israel’s political, diplomatic and economic challenges without yielding any tangible benefit.”
Or, in simpler terms, do you really want to tell the truth to the goyim?
Where have Schama, Jacobson and the other tribal chiefs been over the past fifty years as, step-by-step, Israel put the foundations of Jewish sovereignty over the West Bank into place? Where were they when Israel built and populated the settlements which it is now using as an excuse for annexation?
Hiding the truth from the goyim, is where they were. Being committed Zionists and passionately outspoken as Israel went about its apartheid business.
They certainly didn’t do much to prevent fifty-plus years of creeping annexation. But now, when Israel proposes to formalize what already exists in practice, they find their collective voice?
They give hypocrisy a bad name.
Annexation is not an aberration; it’s not a madcap idea that Benjamin Netanyahu and his sidekicks suddenly came up with in 2020, possibly under the influence of the coronavirus. Nor is it a partisan viewpoint held by a minority of the Israeli population.
Annexation is the natural – the organic, inevitable and inexorable – culmination of Zionist praxis going back to the late-19th century. For as long as modern Jews have coveted the land on which Palestinian Arabs were living, total Jewish sovereignty has been the one and only goal. There has never been any other goal.
“We are not coming to a desolate land to inherit it; rather, we are coming to conquer the land from the nation that resides there,” Moshe Sharett wrote in 1925.
For David Ben-Gurion, “We are not workers—we are conquerors. Conquerors of the land. We are a camp of conquerors … We worked and conquered and we were joyful with victory.”
The ultimate goal – conquest of the entire biblical Land of Israel, preferably with as few of its native inhabitants as possible – was never hidden. It wasn’t reserved for whispered conversations in dark corners between consenting adults. It appears repeatedly in public statements by Zionist leaders and in resolutions by Zionist organizations.
From the Second Aliyah onward Zionism had a clear and unwavering objective. Successive Israeli governments fiddled with the objective but never disowned it. Gaining and holding onto biblical territory in its entirety has always been the lodestar, even if committed and passionate Zionists in the diaspora preferred that it not be mentioned in their presence.
Over the years, Israel’s leaders have sometimes had to trim their sails to the prevailing diplomatic winds. In 1956, that meant withdrawing from the conquered Sinai peninsula, despite Ben-Gurion’s euphoric statement that the territories occupied by Israel would become part of “the third Jewish kingdom.”
The country’s ostensible acceptance of the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan was another such tactical realignment, as was Ariel Sharon’s dismantling of the settlements in Gaza in 2005. When the destination is clear and obvious, one can take the necessary detours to reach it.
The Sinai and Gaza are debatably part of the biblical heritage – few would wax lyrical today, as Davar newspaper did in 1956, about the Sinai being “the cradle of our transformation into a nation” – but there has never been any doubt about Judea and Samaria; Hebron and Nablus.
They were, are and always have been essential to the Zionist dream. What Netanyahu is threatening to do now – supported by Trump and his gaon son-in-law – is regularize what has been the quotidian since 1967. Diaspora Jewish leaders oppose it because it will call their bluff – highlight their hypocrisy. They will finally be seen for what they are.
Personally, I’m all for annexation. It will be a reactionary, atavistic move in every possible way – but at least it will reveal the Zionist mission for what it is. There is a chance, however slight, that it might clear the logjam; that it might finally get people thinking beyond their knee-jerk, romantic Zionism. It will show Israel in its true, apartheid light – a racist society lording it over its ethnic inferiors.
I don’t know what will happen after that, but letting in some light can’t be a bad thing.