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July 1, 2010

Zionism must evolve

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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There is good news and bad news for Palestinians.

The good news is that history was, and still is, on the side of those who struggle against great odds to end occupations: Arabs against Crusaders, Irish against British, Algerians against French, French against Germans, and so on.  Every occupation is destined to end, eventually.

The bad news is that the Zionist occupation of Palestine will likely not end any time soon.

The Palestinian struggle is being obstructed by Israel and the United States because neither is ready for it to end; however, each has demonstrated a willingness to end illegal occupations: Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon after some 20 years of occupation, and in 1956 America demanded that Israeli forces withdraw from the Sinai soon after Israel, Britain and France invaded Egypt. 

A common argument is that any end to the occupation must be based on Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem to its June 4, 1967, borders, but withdrawal is not enough.

Israel is a Zionist Jewish state steeped in the mindset of 19th-century European colonialism.

Any peace agreement must take place within the context of “neo-Zionism,” a new political ideology for the 21st century. This new ideology would replace “let us do what’s right for the Jews” with “let us do what’s right.”

It is essential to remember that Zionism was conceived during an age of imperialism, when all of Europe thought along these lines.

Zionist Jews are largely European and, like Europeans, made their colonial plans in complete disregard of the native population of Palestine.

The Zionist movement goes back to 1882, and developed out of anti-Jewish violence in Russia.

As a result, an organization in Odessa called “The Lovers of Zion” came into being.

At the time, Zionists made up just three percent of the Jewish population, so their cause raised little interest among European and British Jews, who were content and well-integrated into society.

Nevertheless, the First Zionist Congress was held at Basel, Switzerland, on Aug. 29, 1897, and led to the declaration of two key objectives: Zionists would promote Jewish colonization in Palestine, and work to unite Jews worldwide to foster Jewish national sentiment and consciousness.

This 19th-century colonial mentality which renders any talk of peace impossible because, as Europeans, the vast majority of Israelis do not place a high priority on living in peace with their non-European neighbours.

For example, a study by the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies found that some 46 percent of Israel’s Jewish citizens favor transferring Palestinians out of the occupied territories, while 31 percent favor transferring Israeli Arabs right out of the country. 

Meanwhile, if most of the world’s Jews suddenly decided to move to Israel, as Zionists claim they have a right to do, they would overrun all of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Today, non-Zionist Jews are in the minority, and Zionism itself has become a religion for many Jews.

Israel must evolve into a modern, secular democratic state, and Zionism has to become a viable political movement, but for that to happen Zionists have to pull their head out of the ghetto.

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M. Elmasry

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