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Goodbye Zion, Hello Canaan

Goodbye Zion, Hello Canaan

Associate Editor

Surrender is usually less about treason than about exhaustion, and the Jews are an exhausted people. After centuries of being killed, there are Jews suggesting we die not with a bang but a whimper. Better to live in Canaan than in Zion; better intermarriage than to be thought intolerant; better oblivion than being eaten alive.
In Haaretz (Aug. 8), Ari Shavit interviews two ìveteran leftistsî ó Meron Benvenisti, former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, and Haim Hanegbi, a former leading member of the leadership of the Gush Shalom peace group ó who say the Jewish state has reached the end of its road and that Jews must be content to live under one government between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. They call it a ìbinational
state,î but demographics suggest it could only be a Palestinian state if it is to also be a democracy.
The anti-Zionist word currently in vogue among leftists such as Benvenisti is ìCanaan,î what the land was called before it was conquered by the biblical Israelites, before the inconvenience of the Temple Mount, before the Brooklyn Jews showed up.
That two such respected thinkers as Benvenisti and Hanegbi should separately have arrived at the same conclusion ìis of some significance,î Shavit says. ìPossibly it says something about the groundwater of the current Israeli reality.î
Hanegbi says a binational partnership ì is ìthe only way to transform ourselves from being strangers in our land into native sons.î Unlike those who believe the Israeli negotiating stance that a Palestinian right of return is unacceptable, Hanegbi knows enough about Israelís desperation to know that anything is eventually acceptable. Without the Palestinian right of return, says Hanegbi, ìthis is a barren country, a disabled country, a country that caused an entire nation to disappear.î
Hanegbi recognizes that the Israeli dispossession of Arab land was no less in the mainland Israel than on the West Bank.
ìI realized that the reason it is so tremendously difficult for Israel to dismantle settlements is that any recognition that the settlements in the West Bank exist on plundered Palestinian land will also cast a threatening shadowî over those parts of pre-1967 Israel that were also once Arab land.
Zionism is a ìhopeless cause,î says Hanegbi. ìThe whole story of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel is over. Because if you want Jewish sovereignty you must have a border, but as [Zionist thinker Yitzchak] Tabenkin said, this country cannot tolerate a border in its midst.î
Hanegbi figures that Jews and Palestinians have to create a binational state, ìjust as a new, multiracial South Africa was created.î
Benvenisti agrees that the Jews are not as indigenous to the land as theyíd like to think. The current war, he says, is ìa conflict between a society of immigrants and a society of natives,î with neither willing to renounce their right of return to anywhere within the land.
ìJust as the South African rulers understood at a certain point that there was no choice but to dismantle their regime, so the Israeli establishment has to understand that it is not capable of imposing its hegemonic conceptions on 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.2 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel,î Benvenisti says, adding later that ìthe problems that your children and my grandchildren are going to have to cope with are the same ones that de Klerk faced in South Africa.î
Benvenisti concludes, ìI really am a neo-Canaanite.î He notes that leftist Israelis are already ìfleeing from Jerusalem and fleeing from the landscape and the soil and huddling in Tel Aviv. … The Zionist revolution is over.î
Bret Stephens, writing in a front-page Jerusalem Post column ìEnter the Neo-Canaanitesî (Aug. 24), said: ìIt troubles me that I look at Benvenisti and Hanegbi and see trendsetters, not fringe figures.î
The idea that Jews no more belong in Zion than in Uganda, as per the early Zionist plan, ìsuggests that Jews remain, at best, refugees,î Stephens said. ìIt suggests the Zionist enterprise is colonialist. And it means that the Jewish state is as illegitimate as it is doomed.î
Stephens understands the neo-Canaanites as saying we might as well stop trying to be Jews. ìThey look at Israel and see a losing team that neither can nor deserves to win.î However, it is a curious yearning, said Stephens, ìthat seems so intent on killing us.î Also, ìI think there ought to be a place on this earth where Jewish civilization flourishes, where Jewish life is protected.î
Stephens goes so far as to say, ìTo the extent that Benvenisti and Hanegbi jeopardize that task [of protecting Jewish lives] ó and I believe they do ó they commit a crime. And to the extent that Haaretz and Shavit facilitate that task, they are accessories to it.î
But in Arutz Sheva (Aug. 20), Haifa University Professor Steven Plaut says the Sharon government already is neo-Canaanite, presiding over the ìcult of Moloch,î the Canaanite god who demanded the constant sacrifice of children. Israel has become ìa Canaanite state with superficial Jewish trappings,î he said. Like the ancient Israelite kings who facilitated the Moloch cult, Plaut says the modern prime minister is always shocked when his policies lead to death and barbarism.
ìThe only solution,î he wrote, ìis more passing of children through fire, more human sacrifices,î while worshiping at the altar of illusions.
In a column that ran in both the Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva (Aug. 20), columnist Naomi Ragen recounts a nice evening out in Jerusalem when the bus blew up on Aug. 19.
ìPeople were still sitting in outdoor cafes, smiling and laughing, while streets away children lay burnt and dying,î she wrote. ìIf you werenít paying attention, you could keep on telling yourself that everything was the same; a lovely summer evening in Jerusalem.î
Ragen seems to think the time has passed when it was sufficient to blame the world and pardon Sharon, to pretend that Jerusalem is safe even as it burns. She wrote: ìI shouldnít have been going out to dinner. I should have been standing with picket signs outside the home of my prime minister, my government, the American Embassy, telling them that the lives of the people of Israel are not a bargaining chip.î n

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