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Meron Benvenisti | Haaretz | 10 February 2005
It's been a long time since Zionism had such a revival. Everyone's joining in the cause to affirm their contradictory position on the issue that is the heart and soul of Zionism - "redemption of the land."
The attorney general's decision to put an end to the Jewish National Fund's discrimination when it comes to leasing land to Arabs - and his finding of a way to perpetuate that discrimination through "alternative lands" - has been praised by Yossi Beilin, who found it was a "redemption of Zionism," and vehemently condemned by MKs on the right, who called it "anti-Zionist."
Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went so far as to enlist Zionism to legitimize the injustice of the decision to apply the absentee property owner's law to East Jerusalem, calling it "a proper Zionist decision."
When Zionism is called upon to excuse, legitimize and justify theft and discrimination, and when known facts are knowingly distorted, it becomes embarrassing and outrageous. Those proud of reprehensible deeds that are best served by silence are the first to be upset when haters of Israel and Zionism rely upon them to prove the accusations.
Take for example the "proper Zionist decision" regarding the theft of the property of West Bankers who are defined as "absent" from their lands inside East Jerusalem. The Israeli government drew the rusty weapon used by the two-year-old state to take over millions of dunam of abandoned property and decided to resume use of the law to continue "redeeming the land."
Like an echo of the Palestinians who preach "the return," Netanyahu said "Jerusalem is the same as Jaffa, Ramle, Acre and Haifa," thus opening the Pandora's box of West Jerusalem Arabs' "absenteeism."
The data are well-known and not disputed. Between 60 percent and 70 percent of West Jerusalem's land was owned by absent Palestinians, many of them East Jerusalemites, who were reminded again of their homes in Katamon, Baka and Malha. If the Jews can declare the "absence" of people who are present "an act of Zionist sovereignty," then their mirror image can regard the return of the absentee as a legitimate national goal. The approach that depicts "return" as terror meant to destroy Israel, while stealing the land through the use of force and legal high jinks is a noble Zionist deed, is only acceptable to those who think that universal values do not apply to them.
It's precisely that clash that the people who decided in 1968 not to apply the absentee owner law to East Jerusalem were trying to neutralize, seeking to determine that what was permissible in 1948 in the storm of war was prohibited in 1967. And those people were no less Zionist than Benjamin Netanyahu. They were certainly wiser than he: They wanted to disconnect the "case" of 1948 from the "case" of 1967, and turn the six-day victory into a lever with which Israeli-Palestinian relations would be lifted to a new plane, of peace and reconciliation. That aspiration was subsequently foiled by those who perceive Zionism as a state of permanent revolution, and therefore as an ideology that imposes eternal hostility.
That environment justifies thieving racist discrimination against the Arab "enemy" and allows distortions of history. The details have already been revealed about the false claims of the JNF that the land was acquired "with the kopeks, pennies, and centimes that went into the little blue box." The uprooted Palestinians, including tens of thousands of Israeli "absent-present" citizens, did not get a single agora for their land that was given to the JNF, while the government of Israel was compensated in their stead in a deal that was illegal even according to the heads of the JNF.
That pact of thieves deliberately created a blurring of voluntary acquisition from owners during the time of the British mandate and "redemption of the land" by the government of Israel, and all just because David Ben-Gurion was worried about the UN's power. He promised, according to the partition decision, that "there would not be any expropriation of Arab land by the Jewish state" and through the sale to the JNF wanted to circumvent that ban.
Ben-Gurion learned very quickly that there was nothing to fear and thus the need for the JNF disappeared, but the fact was established: A mechanism of discrimination against the Arab citizens of the state was instituted and has now been revived.
There are two conclusions to be drawn from this outbreak of energetic Zionism. First, a private one: if this be Zionism, it is disgraceful to be a Zionist. The second is that a society cannot be based over time on a rotting foundation of theft and deception, and if it does not convert its ideological basis, it is doomed.