The members of a bizarre coalition of pro-settlement right-wingers (for example, the late Yosef Ben-Shlomo, and Israel Harel, long may he live ) and the anti-Zionist left (recently, Yehouda Shenhav ) are united in one claim. They hold that the Zionist left’s support for the pre-1967 borders, and its sharp opposition to the settlements since, are hypocritical and inconsistent. The inconsistency, they say, is that Zionism has been settling at the Arab’s expense since it began – not only since 1967.
In addition, they claim that even if the post-’67 settlements are the basis of unjust acts, Zionism committed many more injustices in 1948 and the following decade. At that time it not only settled on private land belonging to Palestinians, it also uprooted masses of people from their homes and refused to allow them to return.
But the position of the Zionist left is far from inconsistent. There is a huge gap between the post-’67 settlements and the injustices perpetrated by Zionism until then; the wrongs committed after 1967 threaten the justice of Zionism in its entirety, while pre-’67 wrongs were wrongs of particular moves in the realization of Zionism.
The source of this distinction is of course the well-known distinction between the jus ad bellum and jus in bello. There is no contradiction between the claim that Britain’s bombing of Dresden during World War II was a criminal act and the claim that this criminality represented a step taken in a just war – even a sublimely just war, the war against Nazism.
We must acknowledge the great injustices committed by Zionism up to 1967. We have to take responsibility for them (via reparations ) – mainly for the expulsion of refugees. We must also acknowledge the high price the Palestinians paid for the realization of Zionism, even when Zionism did not commit injustices against them. But none of these admissions undermines the justice of Zionism in the least. For in 1948, Zionism realized the right of Jews to self-determination – after a history of persecution that created a necessity to implement the right to a historic homeland. The justice of this Zionism is sublime, even though crimes were committed during its realization.
The post-’67 settlements (in contrast to just an Israeli military presence in the territories ) cannot be justified on the basis of the needs of a persecuted nation. The settlements are the bases for the continuing injustices committed by a powerful state. These wrongs are being carried out many decades after the persecution of the Jews ended. They are in effect acts of persecution committed by Jews against Arabs with the backing of the Jewish state. So the Zionism in whose name they are carried out cannot be considered just.
Zionism cannot be just if it is a proprietary movement representing the so-called “generations of the Jewish people” to acquire the deed to the entire Land of Israel and Jerusalem – the way the right wing justifies the settlements and its opposition to the construction freeze in the territories and Jerusalem. “Zionism can be just only if it is an existential movement of Jews interested as individuals in maintaining their culture and living in their homeland without being persecuted. This justification supports the Zionism that existed before 1967. But not after. The settlements are therefore criminal not only in isolation. They deny Zionism of its justice as a whole.”
They deny not only the justice of its present and future, they also deny the justice of its past. The acts that were committed by Zionism up to 1967 – including its criminal acts – do not have these implications. Therefore, we must return to 1967. Not because of demographics. For the sake of justice.