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What Shulamit Aloni missed
By: Assaf Ronel
Haaretz
29 January 2014

Original Hebrew: http://www.haaretz.co.il/opinions/.premium-1.2229977

In an opinion piece in the newspaper Haaretz a few years ago, Shulamit
Aloni spoke of a letter Lord Rothschild sent to Binyamin Zeev Herzl in 1902.

`In the letter, Rothschld explains why the establishment of a
Jewish state in the Land of Israel. He writes that he `should view with horror
the establishment of a Jewish colony pure and simple; such a colony would be
Imperium Imperio; it would be a Ghetto with the prejudice of the Ghetto; it
would be a small petty Jewish state, orthodox and illiberal, excluding the
Gentile and the Christian.`` (Shulamit Aloni. `Israel is controlled by
religious fanaticism`, Haaretz 4 June 2009
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/shulamit-aloni-israel-is-
controlled-by-religious-fanaticism-1.277278)

To a child who grew up in a typical left-wing home in Jerusalem in the 1980s
and 90s, Aloni was the great leader of the Left. In many ways she formed the
left-wing discourse on which we grew up recognition of the injustices done to
the Palestinians and struggle for equal rights for all. And indeed, all the
eulogies in recent days that stressed Aloni`s importance to the Israeli Left
were justified. She contributed perhaps more than any other politician to the
development of the Zionist Left.

But therein was her greatest failing as well. Aloni never managed to free
herself from the limitations of the `leftist` discourse to which she
contributed so greatly. Aloni lamented the state to which Israel had
`declined`, as she put it, but despite her humanism, the Teacher of the
Zionist Left believed that the Israeli original sin was the occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. Along with the entire Zionist Left, she did
not understand what the Right for its part understood very well: that the
source of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was in 1948 and even before; not
`the Occupation`.

Until her dying days Aloni declared that `We fought in the War of Independence
out of a great hope that we would build a `model society` here, that we would
make peace with our neighbors, work the land and develop the Jewish genius for
the benefit of science, culture and the value of man - every man.` (`Sadly,
Israel is no longer democratic`. Haaretz, 1 May 2009.
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/shulamit-aloni-sadly-israel-is-
no-longer-democratic-1.275168 ) Aloni invoked Lord Rothschilds words as a
warning of where Israel was headed under the leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu
and Avigdor Lieberman, who `are eradicating everything we built, everything we
dreamed about and everything we fought for`, in her words.

I am greatly indebted to Shulamit Aloni for having laid the foundations on
which I could formulate my outlook. And so I regret that she did not take the
additional step of understanding that the Declaration of Independence that she
praised and the principles of which she yearned for, which would `ensure
complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants
irrespective of religion, race or sex` was a dead letter from the moment it
was written. I regret that she continued to believe that Israel`s basic
problem was the occupation of the Territories in 1967, and not the creation of
a `National Home for the Jewish People` on the ruins of another nation. And
more than anything I regret that she did not understand that the solution was
to struggle for a life of equality for all the residents of this land, rather
than its division yet again.

After her death I went over her writings of recent years in the hope of
finding a hint of that understanding. That failed endeavour represented to
some extent the hope of that child who had believed in a ground-breaking
politician that even in his adulthood, after her death, he could continue to
believe in her. And the search stemmed from the hope that if Aloni understood
it, her pupils too would understand one day that Lord Rothschild was right,
that a Jewish state would be a ghetto with all the prejudices of the ghetto
and that in order to create a democratic state there is no alternative but to
think of another way.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
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