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The End of the Zionist Enterprise Is Near, Writes Former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
September-October 2003

Avraham Burg, who served as speaker of Israel’s Knesset from 1999 to 2003, is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and is now a Labor Party Knesset member, believes that Israeli society is failing and that the end of the Zionist enterprise is near.  

In an article written for Yediot Aharanot, the Israeli newspaper, and adapted for The Forward (Aug. 29, 2003), Burg notes that, “The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly. There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and a political will to implement it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out ...”  

In Burg’s view, “We live in a thunderously failed reality. Yes, we have revived the Hebrew language, created a marvelous theater and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed. It turns out that the 2,000 year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive.”  

Concerning the settlements and the treatment of the Palestinians, Burg writes: “It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra ... Traveling on the fast highway that takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem’s northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it’s hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied ... A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism’s superstructure is already collapsing ... Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.”  

Now, Burg declares, is the time for decisions: “We love the entire land of our forefathers and in some other time we would have wanted to live here alone. But that will not happen. The Arabs, too, have dreams and needs. Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean there is no longer a clear Jewish majority. And so, fellow citizens, it is not possible to keep the whole thing without paying a price, We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew. ... Israel’s friends abroad ... should choose as well. They must reach out and help Israel navigate the road map toward our national destiny as a light unto the nations and a society of peace, justice and equality.”  

Commenting on the Burg article, Prof. Shaul Magid of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America described it “as painful as it is true. Burg discloses what seems so obvious yet so unspoken in the Jewish media - that we are committing Zionist suicide for the sake of a corrupt version of nationalism. We are witnessing a case of the margins becoming the center (Kahanism is now espoused by elected Israeli officials), a prelude to the disappearance of any visible moral barometer in the Jewish world and the collapse of the very foundations upon which Zionism was founded and which gave the Jewish state legitimacy ... Thank you, Avraham Burg, for saying what is unsaid, at least here in the Diaspora,” (The Forward, Sept. 5, 2003)  

Editorially, The Forward (Aug. 29, 2003), declared: “Burg is no extremist. His anger and frustration over the impasse and drift are shared by a vast and growing number of Israelis. Israel’s friends in this country may not choose to join them, but they need to hear them.”  

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