“Harold dear, (Sir Harold MacMichael) there’s a nice looking man at the door wanting to see you. presentable. he says he knows Lord Moyne, …and by the way, he’s holding a gun. A rather large one. Imagine, in our neighborhood,” ….
In realistic terms, the Israel of Shamir as he debarked in Palestine in 1935, was, to most in the disapora, particularly in America, a place where the pious and religious were sent to be buried, laid to rest, not to toil the desert and malarial swamps. Not a place where modern jews lived. In fact, they were a damned annoyance and Israel could not readily be conceived as a spiritual center for the renaissance of jewish culture anymore than Brooklyn or California. The idea of oppression, survival and transcendence of historical fate could much less painfully be accomplished through the aegis of Stephen Wise and reform judaism within the American system. Don’t make waves. Assimilate and leave those Eastern European jews to their sort. These jews were an “absence” as much as the Zionists referred to the Arabs as an absence.
Shamir’s Zionist vision is bounded by the twin concerns of Nazi anti-Semitism and Arab violence, and the inherent tendency to be avoided of traditional Jewish passive stoicism and to act on those impulses that seemed foreign to a Herzl or Weizmann, emotions unfiltered by bourgeois values of the Enlightenment, the fine manners of the drawing room and salon, the decorum of a Moses Mendelssohn. To Shamir, this was shown to be a sham, a behavior leading to the ovens, a reinforcement of “otherness” made more pernicious by efforts to hide it, cloak it under assimlationist jargon, the jewish jew against some species of prefixed jew, German, English, French etc. The only way to evoke hope and light in a dark, bitter time as the Nazis engaged Bauhaus architects to build the killing centres, led to a preoccupation with the need for a sanctuary-homeland where spirituality could follow as a consequence; it was a narrow Zionist view, but to Shamir and the Irgun/Stern/Lehi the only one plausible in the circumstances.
Also, the “otherness” of Arabs, a good century of Orientalism, aided the West to accept the Zionist claim as a lesser of two evils. A tampon to heaven forbid, the Moslem hordes should ever be at the gates of Vienna again. And hopefully, Palestine could help , provide a valve to rid them of their own; a double bill where Jews can do the West’s heavy lifting and be an “absence” as well. Shamir was not concerned in the least with the grievances and fates of the palestinians; and fifty years of pogroms only added resolve, urgency and reinforced historical, even Biblical pretext for the activities. As intense as the Zionists were, the Arabs were functioning within a context of feudalism, and social hierarchies no longer serviceable in knitting together a sort of pan-Arab revival limited by tribal, clan and territorial concerns that were never resolved. What could a Shamir care about the British? to him they were something abstract, judged on the same merits as the Reds or the Nazis; another large entity concerned with power and money.
The dreadful position of Jews in 1936-1941, was convincing enough that oppression and longing was not a hopeless situation, but part of an ongoing process and journey and the people being killed, the British command and diplomats, in this rationale were no more innocent than the Heydreich assassination. The waffling disavowal was determined to be rejection and failure was not an option. It was not the Shamir types that treated the holocaust survivr immigrants like putrid fish on their arrival; it was the same white, liberal secular elite that cow-towed to the British and were trying to make the new jew in their image.
Of course, Shamir saw the Arab as the an ultimate other: which was a metaphor for death. None of the kindly Buber and Zionist anarchism and bi-national states, and utopia of them mixed neighborhood. The Arab was a nightmare presence, and the shadow of the Nazis was too present, too traumatizing to expel brotherhood on the Arabs for. Ironically, The palestinians finally seemed to be gone after 1948, or at least invisibly irrelevant, but the six day war brought them back to Shamir and his own Waterloo was that inability to deal with the antifada by using methods of the birth of the nation. For broader strategic considerations, Israel did not hand back the occupied territories which implicated hundreds of thousands of Palestinians back to Israeli control and, more importantly, consciousness. The conundrum, and Shamir sensed this, was to be deluded by wishful ideas that they would leave and be integrated within, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, which for many reasons was not possible, given their own political and economic agendas. So, preferable for them to use them in their own bizarre games, suppress civil liberties and blame Israel, more useful in the occupied territories, to them, than rabble rousing in their backyard. NIMBY.
(see link at end)…The repudiation of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is now a commonly held position, and one that is increasingly seen as legitimate. Among Israeli Arabs, for example, it is nearly impossible to find anyone willing to endorse, at least publicly, the right of Jews to national self-determination in the land of Israel. Rejection of the Jewish state has in fact become the norm among most representatives of the Arab public—including those who have sworn allegiance as members of Knesset. As far as they are concerned, the State of Israel, inasmuch as it is a Jewish state, was born in sin and continues to live in sin. Such a state is inherently undemocratic and incapable of protecting human rights. Only when it has lost its distinctive Jewish character, they insist, will Israel’s existence be justified….
More worrisome, perhaps, is the fact that many Jews in Israel agree with this view, or at least show a measure of sympathy for it. Some of the Jews committed to promoting the causes of democracy, human rights, and universal norms are, knowingly or not, assisting efforts to turn Israel into a neutral, liberal state—a “state of all its citizens,” as it is commonly called. Few of them understand the broader implications of such a belief for Israel’s character. Most are simply reassured by Israel’s success in establishing a modern, secular, liberal-democratic state with a Jewish national language and public culture, and think these achievements are not dependent on Israel’s status as the nation state of the Jews. Like many liberals in the modern era, they are suspicious of nation states, without always understanding their historical roots or the profound societal functions they serve. This suspicion often translates into a willingness to sacrifice Israel’s distinct national identity—even when this sacrifice is demanded on behalf of a competing national movement….
…Nor, at times, have Israel’s own actions made the job of justifying its unique national character an easy one. On the one hand, the government uses the state’s Jewish identity to justify wrongs it perpetrates on others; on the other, it hesitates to take steps that are vital to preserving the country’s national character. The use of Jewish identity as a shield to deflect claims concerning unjustifiable policies—such as discrimination against non-Jews or the Orthodox monopoly over matters of personal status—only reinforces the tendency of many Israelis to ignore the legitimate existential needs of the Jewish state, such as the preservation of a Jewish majority within its borders and the development of a vibrant Jewish cultural life.
…the existence of such a state is an important condition for the security of its Jewish citizens and the continuation of Jewish civilization. The establishment of Israel as a Jewish state was justified at the time of independence half a century ago, and its preservation continues to be justified today. Israel does have an obligation to protect the rights of all its citizens, to treat them fairly and with respect, and to provide equally for the security and welfare of its non-Jewish minorities. Yet these demands do not require a negation of the state’s Jewish character. Nor does that character pose an inherent threat to the state’s democratic nature: On the contrary, it is the duty of every democracy to reflect the basic preferences of the majority, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. In Israel’s case, this means preserving the Jewish character of the state.
…In my view, it is crucial to base the justification of a Jewish state on arguments that appeal to people who do not share such beliefs. We must look instead for a justification on universal moral grounds. This is the only sort of argument which will make sense to the majority of Israelis, who prefer not to base their Zionism on religious belief, or to those non-Jews who are committed to human rights but not to the Jews’ biblically based claims. Moreover, such an argument may have the added benefit of encouraging Palestinians to argue in universal terms, rather than relying on claims of historical ownership or the sanctity of Muslim lands. Locating an argument within the discourse of universal rights is, therefore, the best way to avoid a pointless clash of dogmas that leaves no room for dialogue or compromise.
Justifying the principle of a Jewish nation state, however, is only part of protecting the future of Israel. No less important is demonstrating that the state in fact can uphold, and does uphold, the principles considered essential to any civilized government, including the maintenance of a democratic regime and the protection of human rights….
One commonly held view of liberal democracy asserts that the state must be absolutely neutral with regard to the cultural, ethnic, and religious identity of its population and of its public sphere. I do not share this view. I believe such total neutrality is impossible, and that in the context of the region it is not desired by any group. The character of Israel as a Jewish nation state does generate some tension with the democratic principle of civic equality. Nonetheless, this tension does not prevent Israel from being a democracy. There is no inherent disagreement between the Jewish identity of the state and its liberal-democratic nature. …
The Jewish state whose existence I will justify is not, therefore, a neutral “state of all its citizens.” Israel has basic obligations to democracy and human rights, but its language is Hebrew, its weekly day of rest is Saturday, and it marks Jewish religious festivals as public holiday….Read More:http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=239