The Prime Minister’s Office recently earmarked a trifling NIS 200,000 to “deepen awareness of Theodor Herzl’s legacy.” But instead of forking anything out for hype and pageantry, Ehud Olmert need only focus on what got Herzl into hot water at 1903’s Sixth Zionist Congress. There the harbinger of Jewish national revival felt impelled to vindicate himself and reaffirm his devotion to Zion, rendered suspect after he proposed Uganda as a nachtasyl (nighttime asylum) – a temporary haven for Jews fleeing czarist pogroms.
Yet these threatened Jews’ own delegates, dubbing themselves “Zion’s Zionists,” denounced as heresy any notion of even short-haul substitutes for Zion. To convince them he was no heretic, Herzl rose and with visible emotion recited Psalm 137:5: “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning.”
One hundred and five years on, as Olmertian Israel prepares to mark Jerusalem Day, Herzl wouldn’t have to resort to such dramatic gestures. The Ugandan alternative would be hailed as progressive pragmatism. Any deviation from the inherent bond to Zion would be cheered as a desirable departure from messianic mesmerism. Where nothing’s sacred, there’s no heresy.
Until Olmert’s ascendancy to the premiership of the state Herzl envisioned, the most outrageous promoter of the sham that nowadays parades as Zionism was another failed prime minister – Ehud Barak. Olmert’s current defense minister earned everlasting infamy as the first Israeli premier who formally offered to fritter away 20 centuries of Jewish yearnings and over a century of Jewish blood, sweat and tears – all for his own political survival. Barak thereby unleashed demons which have since never ceased to haunt us.
Each of Barak’s shady successors – too weak to resist the pressure of White House patrons and too vulnerable to defy left-wing blackmail – continues to compromise the Zionist endeavor for selfish interests. Regardless how Olmert’s headlong rush to appease turns out, it constitutes corruption – unprecedented in cynicism, scale and severity.
BARAK’S THEN-avid accomplice, his foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, asserted in omniscient professorial tones that the “territorial phase of Zionism is over” – i.e. ties to the historical homeland no longer matter. Olmert’s crass sidekick Haim Ramon put it more crudely: “Jews never prayed for Shuafat and A-Ram.” Our link to this land is diminished by Arab occupancy. That’s where Ben-Ami’s soft-spoken sacrilege and Ramon’s blusterous iconoclasm converge. For both, Zionism isn’t anchored to specific locations. It’s become nebulous. Pie in the sky.
The fact that two millennia of Jewish experience tragically prove that there’s no safety without territory won’t matter if tomorrow Galilee or Negev Arabs rise in an irredentist demand to hack off another chunk of teeny-weeny Israel. If Jews don’t insist on sovereignty over their Holiest of Holies, would they fight for Nazareth? Did our ancestors dream of it generations ago?
No wonder Mahmoud Abbas and his assorted cohorts cast doubt on the sacredness to Jews of Mount Moriah. It’s an irresistible temptation to taunt dignity-deficient Jews by portraying their attachment to the mount as a provocative fabrication (even if denying the existence of the destroyed Temple inter alia also slices through the heart of the Christian Gospel). Barak-Ramon-Olmert brought this upon us.
IN THE Mideast, when someone is down, you kick him harder. If Olmert is desperate enough to sign articles of surrender – though his army was never vanquished in a catastrophic war – then Israel’s enemies will rub Jewish noses in Jerusalem’s dirt. They already claim the Western Wall as a Wakf holding. If granted power even nearby, Muslims will infringe on the right of Jews – maligned as usurping interlopers – to congregate at their Temple’s remnant, as they infringed until 1967.
No Jews will be allowed beyond the seventh step (if at all) of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. There’ll be no prayers at Rachel’s Tomb and no visits to the pantheon that is the Mount of Olives cemetery (whose ancient tombstones were ripped out between 1948-67 and used to pave the floors of Arab latrines).
Abbas’s minions know Jews didn’t appear from nowhere as rootless rabbles without pasts, bands of sinister globetrotting nomads who inexplicably lusted after a barren, depopulated, malaria-infested land. The Arabs’ own favorite friendly historian, Arnold Toynbee, asserted the precise opposite. He took Jews to task for impudently carrying on despite his contention that they have only a past and remain unsavory vestiges who should comply with his dictum and go extinct. For not having lived up to their duty to die, Toynbee defined Jews as “fossils.”
And fossil evidence indeed inconsiderately impedes Arab efforts to erase Jewish history. Arabs even commemorate the Jewish Temple with their own name for Jerusalem. When Muslim conquistadors first invaded Jerusalem, they called it Bayt al-Maqdis, their adaptation of the Hebrew Beit Hamikdash – the Holy Temple. Al Quds – the contemporary Arabic contraction for this original appellation – daily betrays the very Jewish heritage which Arabs now take inordinate pains to expunge.
BUT SUCH quibbles are derisory for Olmert, Barak, Ramon et al. They tell us that sacrificing hallowed terrestrial relics is a paltry price for promises of peace, even if their interlocutors violently welched on all their undertakings hitherto. With pesky sanctum sanctorums out of the way, the conflict boils down to inundating Israel proper with so-called Arab refugees and undermining its very existence.
After Jerusalem is overrun by Arab migrants and Jews escape to their greater Tel Aviv enclave, “Palestine” will set its sights on reclaiming Sheikh Mounis (called Ramat Aviv by foreign colonizers), Soumeil (where streets known as Arlosoroff and Ibn Gvirol intersect in the Zionist urban adjunct to Jaffa) and Jamusin (off Derech Namir, a major traffic artery in the above settlement).
But not to worry. Olmert might postpone the inevitable by leasing the metropolis from its “rightful owners.” It can all be made ideologically palatable. Thereafter, we’ll conclude our Passover Seders and Yom Kippur services by vowing: “Next year in Akirov Towers.”
Our national anthem will celebrate “our 2,000-year-old hope to be a free nation in the Dan Region and Dizengoff Center.”
If Herzl reappeared, he’d probably, in the spirit of the times, raise his arm and proclaim: “If I forget thee, O Sheinkin Drag, may my right hand forget its cunning.”