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Occupation magazine - Commentary

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

Hebrew original:

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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