The covenant for the land

December 22, 2009
Richard Kuper
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haaretzYitzhak Laor, 20 December 2009

Since the first half of the 20th century, it has been impossible to speak of obedience to the rule of law as a supreme value, but important in this respect regarding the settlers, their rabbis and soldiers is not disobedience but the entire concept of sovereignty. The sovereign, from their standpoint, is not the electorate. A proclamation by the Greater Land of Israel movement already in 1967, in the name of which Yitzhak Rabin would be murdered years later, said the following: “Inasmuch as we have no authority to relinquish the State of Israel, we are also commanded to maintain what we received from it [the state] – the Land of Israel …. And no Israeli government is entitled to relinquish this as an integral whole.”

This stance is linked in its very essence to Zionism’s “secular” roots. The signatories to that proclamation by the Greater Land of Israel, some of whom came from the left, defined themselves then as right-wingers – it was a distinction that began after 1967 as an answer to the implied question “Who is the sovereign?” While the settlers talk about their consciences, the interviewers stammer because they think there’s a difference between religious and secular people in this context. In fact, a different question should be asked: On what basis did these messianic people obtain their great power, and what is the connection between the Labor movement’s Land of Israel and the settlers?

The time has come to acknowledge that the most important undertaking of the State of Israel, within narrow or expanded borders, has always been to maintain the supremacy of the Jews. In the 1950s, when looting Arab land was at its height, even Marxists were assigned to do the job. The role only passed to the right wing when, after 1967, the task became replete with contradictions, and the contradictions could only be resolved with the help of the Almighty, the Holy One Blessed Be He, and his militarist representatives. In any event, to this day, when the secular elite collaborates in excluding the Arabs, the state has no need for settlers or the hesder yeshivas that combine Torah study with military service.

For example, at the University of Haifa, 20 percent of the students are Arab, but the faculty that very much enjoys its privileges is purely Jewish, if one overlooks the few who are not. But here there is no concern about compromising Jewish hegemony and redistributing wealth as a result of changed demographics. The hedonistic elite continues to collaborate with apartheid. The University of Haifa will not pursue any kind of affirmative action, but its people will feel disgust for the hesder yeshivas.

Thus, when the country has no better representatives than academics, yuppies who move to Jaffa, residents of purely Jewish communities from the Galilee who work in Haifa, only then does the state summon its messianism and its violent soldiers.

For example, in mixed Jewish-Arab towns, instead of telling the Arab residents that they can’t surpass a 30 percent presence (which is apparently the quota in those cities), they give rights to a yeshiva, which discovers ancient Jewish roots – even in Acre, where it is not clear when the city was Jewish. They then make the Arabs’ lives miserable until the Arabs move to Arab villages that the country’s modern infrastructure has bypassed.

There is nothing here that some future historian could not explain as the absolute logic of a systematic state effort at gradual expulsion, either in the occupied territories or within the state’s borders, each area at its own pace. All you have to do is examine infant-mortality figures or the education budget in the Arab community in Israel to understand that there is no conflict between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of the Har Bracha hesder yeshiva, who called on soldiers to disobey orders to remove settlers. This is the true historic covenant, whether in Nablus or Jaffa or Haifa.

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