Salt of the Earth

How did the 'salt of the earth' become a 'cancer of the state'?

The left does not have the wise man to stop the drift and criticize the way of dividing the people and destroying the country in which they are working and towards which they are aiming. The majority of the people believe in the importance of the settlements project and for it, the settlers, not only are not 'the cancer of the state', but the salt of the earth, in whom they believe and to whom they give their hope

(Photo: Flash90)

The use of the term 'cancer,' not for medical reasons but as a tool for agitation, has become increasingly common in Israeli politics. In the past, it was used to describe the Arab population in Israel as they were perceived to be gaining more and more control over the land, with a hundred percent rights and zero obligations. In its broader sense, it was sought to present it as an existential threat to the State of Israel, clinically associated with a spreading process, yet nothing was done to mitigate it.

How has the use of this term changed by the left and those at its forefront towards their Jewish brothers, the settlers in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip?

The first to use this term towards Jewish settlers in the territories was the former Prime Minister, the late Yitzhak Rabin, who was recorded using the term 'cancer' when referring to the settlers and warning of the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state. In a newspaper interview he gave in 1976, the Prime Minister referred to the Gush Emunim movement, which worked on Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 1974 onwards: "The settlement movement is, in terms of the social-democratic fabric of the State of Israel, akin to cancer." Similarly, he wrote in his book 'Service Notebook': "Gush Emunim is a cancer in the body of Israeli democracy."

The Gush Emunim movement, to which Rabin referred, was founded by students of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and religious Zionists after the Yom Kippur War, due to concerns about territorial concessions resulting from the war. The movement succeeded in instilling hope among supporters of settlement, even among the secular public who aligned with the movement for the sake of Greater Israel, including those who counted settlers as continuers of their path in terms of settlement and Zionism. The movement worked towards the establishment of settlements in Samaria.

To decipher the difficult statement, it becomes clear that it is not devoid of its political context, which is a result of processes undergone by leftist movements in Israel. As is well known, these processes have a characteristic of continuity over time, with milestones and a graded system of stages that lead a developing movement from its starting point to its destination. In such processes, the stage of disillusionment in the face of the existing reality is also taken into account.

Building the country is not a cancer

After their rule in the country was assured, the leaders of the left feel that it is time to stop for observation and include the Arabs of Israel as part of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Oslo Accords, which were worked on under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, represented an opportunity to achieve both goals. Left-wing government in the country and a peace agreement with the Palestinians in exchange for the settlement's evacuation. From their point of view, anyone who opposes or sabotages the pursuit of this through the operation of settlements, is considered a 'cancer' that spreads through the fabric of the democratic society in Israel and endangers its existence.

This is interesting, given the initiative and promotion of the establishment of settlements under the leadership of the left at the beginning of the establishment of the state. According to their perception, the building of the country from the time of Homa Umigdal until the establishment of the state, is not a cancer. Even the establishment of settlements in the territories occupied in the War of Independence and the Six Day War is certainly not a cancer.

Land robbery by the Arabs of the country is not a cancer, neither is their national loyalty to the Palestinian people and their work to liberate them from the burden of the 'occupation' is not a cancer. As it turns out, every Jewish citizen who acts against the political position of those holding the wheel of power is identified as a cancer, even if he worked to achieve the same goal exactly and in the same way provided that it is not compatible with their current position.

Against this background, it is possible to understand the words of the late Knesset member Kahana, referring to the Arabs of Israel: "Today we are facing a cancer that is spreading in the body of the Jewish state. With cancer there is no life in coexistence." According to them, along with his lack of faith in life in coexistence with the Arabs, the main part of his criticism was aimed at the Jewish society itself, which stopped believing in its right to this place and pursued futile compromises of a people with a 'non-people', by promoting rights for Arabs that will ensure our continued survival here.

What indicates the change in the left's stance towards Arab citizens of Israel is their opposite approach compared to their attitude towards the settlers. In the past, the founding generation of the state used the term "Arab citizens of Israel" to connect the Palestinian Arab minority to the newly-established Jewish state and separate them from the Arab space and their Palestinian compatriots. However, their goal has since shifted. The signing of the Oslo Accords presented an opportunity for coexistence with Arab citizens of Israel. Disillusionment with the failure of the peace agreements on the Arab side, who responded with terrorism instead of peace, led the left-wing to replace their attitude of reconciliation towards their Arab brethren with one of resentment towards their fellow countrymen, the settlers, and their protectors.

The left has lost its way

It seems that the left chooses to ignore the process of national Palestinianization that is taking place among the Arabs of Israel. Terminologically changing their identity from Israeli Arabs to the Palestinians is only semantic for them. They also choose to ignore the fact that the use of the term 'Palestinian people' to describe the Arabs of Israel was made for the first time only in 1964, in the Palestinian treaty of the PLO and for technical purposes only.

Unlike other peoples who formed their national identity over many centuries, the Palestinian people were suddenly born in accordance with the text of the treaty, as a direct result of the Zionist enterprise that flourished in the country. Now Israeli Arabs talk about being Palestinians. Why does it matter? Well, if before there was a separation between the Palestinian Authority and the Arabs of Israel, now Israel must deal with the Palestinians living beside us and within us. All of this can be attributed to the fault of the Israeli left, which disintegrated from its Zionist principles and sought to redefine its Jewish identity and the nature of the state in which we live.

In the absence of proper leadership, it seems that the left has lost its way and is looking for eclectic solutions to cling to, in order to regain the people's trust and support. They see that the people are fed up with terrorism, with the help of which the Arabs of Israel are tailing us. They see that the people are tired of wars. Therefore, in their view, any solution they propose will be welcomed by the people. The first step to this is the delegitimization of the settlement enterprise and the religious Zionism that leads it. This can be seen in the incitement towards this public.

There is no wise man on the left who will stop the drift and criticize the way of dividing the people and destroying the country in which they are working and towards which they are aiming. Whoever tells them that their war, even if they think it is just, still lacks a realistic basis to win it, because the majority of the people believe in the importance of the settlement enterprise and for it, the settlers, not only are not the 'cancer of the state', but the salt of the earth, in whom they believe and to whom they give their hope.


Yehudit Ohana is a pedagogical supervisor and leads development and empowerment processes in the educational system.


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