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The colonization instinct has not been tamed
By: Dimitry Shumsky
Haaretz
28 November 2012 (in Hebrew) (English translation posted 16 December 2012)

Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/1.1875464

Forty-five years ago, in November 1967, MK David Ben-Gurion hurled the
following harsh criticism at the Government over its failure to consolidate
the IDF’s victory in the Six-Day War: “If we want to ensure that all of
Jerusalem remains in our hands forever, we must rapidly colonize its east, its
north and its south”, he was quoted in the newspaper Haaretz (6
November 1967). “Since the last war nothing has been done to advance that
colonization”, he complained. “Victory (in the Six-Day War) is not the last
word … we have to rapidly colonize with speed the new areas”. A few days later
he went on to say that without mass aliya (Jewish immigration to
Israel), a significantly higher Jewish birth-rate and accelerated colonization
of the parts of the country that had recently come under Israel’s control,
“who knows if the State of Israel will live much longer?” (Haaretz 17
November 1967)

It may be pointed out that Ben-Gurion’s call for the realization of the Jews’
historic right to the Land of Israel (i.e. former British Mandate Palestine –
trans.) in its entirety has found practical expression in the policies of most
of Israel’s governments since then, starting with the creation of the first
settlements and culminating in repeated attempts to legitimize through
negotiations the robbery of Palestinian lands in what are called “settlement
blocs”.

This does not mean that the shapers of that policy needed quotations from the
Old Man [as D. Ben Gurion was affectionately called] in Haaretz of
November 1967, or from November 1937, when in a famous letter to his son he
promised that the entire Land would be redeemed in the future. But the words
of Ben Gurion as well as the actions of the State of Israel in the sphere of
colonization in the “new areas” for decades after the Six Day War both
faithfully reflect the real difficulty the Zionist mainstream has had in
suppressing the urge to expand and to colonize all parts of the Land.

In the post-colonial era it is uncomfortable and even embarrassing to
acknowledge openly the urge to expand into territories where another people is
living, even if those territories are perceived as belonging to us by virtue
of a Divine promise. Thus in the last decade we have been witness to the
consolidation of a new national-historical myth according to which the central
and pragmatic streams in the leadership of Zionism and Israel after 1937, with
Ben-Gurion as the clearest example of that position, accepted the principle of
partition of Land due to a strategic decision.

In the light of this myth, the post-1967 settlement enterprise is portrayed as
the work of certain extremist messianic “bad apples” that are foreign to the
essence and spirit of the Zionist mainstream rather than as an attempt to
complete the project of Zionist colonization, which had failed to establish
clear borders for itself when they were needed. Words in that spirit were
written not long ago also by Benny Morris (“The truth about Palestinian
rejectionism” (Hebrew) (Haaretz 12 September) and Colonel Ami Gluska
(“Ben-Gurion and ‘a state of all its citizens’” (Hebrew), Haaretz 2
October). They both debated the position of the author of this article.

That is a problematic approach, and not only because those who espouse it are
ignoring non-trivial events in the history of the State, such as the
ideological position of the founder of the State on the matter of the
wholeness of the Land (i.e. the question of whether or not the Jewish state
should include all of Palestine – trans.) and the power of the national
euphoria that took hold of the Israeli public and leadership when the IDF took
over parts of the Land of Israel 45 years ago. The approach is also dangerous
from a national-political point of view, because its adoption excuses “sane”
Israeli state actors from responsibility for the creation of the “wildcat”
settlement enterprise, whereas the untamed lust for expansion, which still
resides in the heart of the Israeli state sector, continues to nurture that
enterprise.

The self-destructive dialectic of flight from national responsibility for the
creation of the colonialist enterprise in the West Bank on the one hand, and
the constant strengthening of that enterprise under the negotiation-table with
the Palestinians on the other, ensure that Israeli colonialism in the West
Bank will continue to thrive and thwart any political solution. The longer
that tendency persists, the more relevant is Ben-Gurion’s probing rhetorical
question of 45 years ago – “who knows if the State of Israel will last much
longer?”


Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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