Uri Avnery on Israel's upcoming 60th anniversary

Here’s an excerpt from Uri Avnery’s weekly article, which arrived today by email, and which this week focuses on Israel’s upcoming anniversary:

There is no escape from the historic fact: Israel’s Independence Day and the Palestinians’ Naqba (Catastrophe) Day are two sides of the same coin. In 60 years we have not succeeded – and actually have not even tried – to untie this knot by creating another reality.

And so the war goes on.

WITH THE 60th Independence Day approaching, a committee sat down to choose an emblem for the event. The one they came up with looks like something for Coca Cola or the Eurovision song contest.

The real emblem of the state is quite different, and no committee of bureaucrats has had to invent it. It is fixed to the ground and can be seen from afar: The Wall. The Separation Wall.

Separation between whom, between what?

Apparently between Israeli Kfar Sava and neighboring Palestinian Qalqiliyah, between Modi’in Illit and Bil’in. Between the State of Israel (and some more grabbed land) and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But in reality, between two worlds.

In the fevered imagination of those who believe in the ‘clash of civilizations’, whether George Bush or Osama Bin-Laden – the Wall is the border between the two titans of history, Western civilization and Islamic civilization, two mortal enemies fighting a war of Gog and Magog.

Our Wall has become the front-line between these two worlds.

The wall is not just a structure of concrete and wire. More than anything else, the wall – like every such wall – is an ideological statement, a declaration of intent, a mental reality. The builders declare that they belong, body and soul, to one camp, the Western one, and that on the other side of the wall there begins the opposing world, the enemy, the masses of Arabs and other Muslims.

When was that decided? Who made the decision? How?

102 years ago, Theodor Herzl wrote in his ground-breaking oeuvre, Der Judenstaat, which gave birth to the Zionist movement, a sentence fraught with significance: ‘For Europe we shall constitute there [in Palestine] a sector of the wall against Asia, we shall serve as the vanguard of culture against barbarism’.

Thus, in 22 German words, the world-view of Zionism, and our place in it, was laid down. And now, after a delay of four generations, the physical wall is following the path of the mental one.

The picture is bright and clear: We are essentially a part of Europe (like North America), a part of culture, which is entirely European. On the other side: Asia, a barbaric continent, empty of culture, including the Muslim and Arab world.

COULD IT have been different? Could we have become a part of the region? Could we have become a kind of cultural Switzerland, an independent island between East and West, bridging and mediating between the two?

The history of this country has seen dozens of invasions. They can be divided into two main categories.

There were the invaders who came from the West, such as the Philistines, the Greeks, the Romans, the Crusaders, Napoleon and the British. Such an invasion establishes a bridgehead, and its mental outlook is that of a bridgehead. The region beyond is hostile territory, its inhabitants enemies who have to be oppressed or destroyed. In the end, all of these invaders were expelled.

And there were the invaders who came from the East, such as the Emorites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Arabs. They conquered the land and became part of it, influenced its culture and were influenced by it, and in the end struck roots.

The ancient Israelites were of the second category. Even if there is some doubt about the Exodus from Egypt as described in the Books of Moses, or the Conquest of Canaan as described in the Book of Joshua, it is reasonable to assume that they were tribes that came in from the desert and infiltrated between the fortified Canaanite towns, which they could not conquer, as indeed described in Judges 1.

The Zionists, on the other hand, were of the first category. They brought with them the world-view of a bridgehead, a vanguard of Europe. This world-view gave birth to the Wall as a national symbol. It has to be changed entirely.

ONE OF our national peculiarities is a form of discussion where all the participants, whether from the Left or from the Right, use the clinching argument: ‘If we don’t do this and this, the state will cease to exist!’ Can one imagine such an argument in France, Britain or the USA?

This is a symptom of ‘Crusader’ anxiety. Even though the Crusaders stayed in this country for almost 200 years and produced eight generations of ‘natives’, they were never really sure of their continued existence here.

I am not worried about the existence of the State of Israel. It will exist as long as states exist. The question is: What kind of state will it be?

A state of permanent war, the terror of its neighbors, where violence pervades all spheres of life, where the rich flourish and the poor live in misery; a state that will be deserted by the best of its children?

Or a state that lives in peace with its neighbors, to their mutual benefit; a modern society with equal rights for all its citizens and without poverty; a state that invests its resources in science and culture, industry and the environment; where future generations will want to live; a source of pride for all its citizens?

That can be our objective for the next 60 years”.