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Analysis Last Updated: Dec 11th, 2008 - 01:55:40

Understanding the goals of Zionism�s right-wing Revisionists
By Andrew E. Mathis
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 11, 2008, 00:27

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Zionism is a complicated word, if only because it�s been used as an epithet by a large portion of the left for such a long time. Many people don�t recognize that Zionism has a variety of manifestiations, from the Labor Zionism that dominated the first three decades of Israel�s existence to the right-wing Revisionist Zionism espoused by former Prime Ministers Begin, Shamir, and Netanyahu. (Despite allegations by many people, Ariel Sharon was never in ideology a Revisionist.)

An understanding of Revisionism is important if one wants to truly understand the ideology behind the Likud, currently led by Netanyahu.

Menachem Begin was the standard-bearer of Revisionist Zionism for his entire political career, which began as leader of the opposition to David Ben-Gurion�s several initial governments. Begin won election as Prime Minister in 1977 and made his name as a peacemaker with the Camp David Accords, but before Israel came into existence, Begin had been agitating for a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. Ben-Gurion actually had to sink a ship belonging to Begin�s Irgun militia because it was filled with weapons and there was a fragile ceasefire in place with the Arabs. After Israel was established, a group of prominent American Jews, Albert Einstein among them, protested the State Department allowing Begin to travel to the United States, arguing (correctly) that he was a terrorist and a security risk.

Begin brought all this baggage into his tenure as prime minister, including (but not limited to) massive settlement in the Palestinian Territories, unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and the Lebanon War. His legacy has been continued by Shamir and Netanyahu in the past. Now Netanyahu looks likely to win the plurality of votes in the forthcoming February general election in Israel. Netanyahu has been presenting the Likud as a centrist party. But the party�s list, presented Monday, says something different.

While the second place on the list is occupied by a relative moderate, Gideon Sa�ar, the next three seats are filled by real characters. Gilad Erdan is probably best known for having shouted at Arab Knesset member Azmi Bishara, while Bishara was making a speech on the floor of Israel�s parliament, �Why don�t you just go back to Syria?� (Bishara was born in Nazareth, which is inside Israel�s 1949 borders.) Erdad is followed in the list by Reuven Rivlin, a critic of judicial review in Israel. This is notable because the High Courts in Israel have been critical of torture in Israel and other issues vis-�-vis the rights of Arab Israelis and Palestinians.

The fifth place was won by Ze�ev �Benny� Begin, son of the former prime minister, who left the Likud when Netanyahu agreed to remove IDF troops and tanks from Hebron in the 1990s. Begin has openly associated with the most extremist elements in Israeli politics, including parties that have advocated �transfer,� i.e., the forced expulsion of Palestinians from the territories (and, in some versions, Arab citizens of Israel from the state entirely).

That�s the Top 5. Here are some other key facts about the other 37 Likudniks who make up the rest of the list that was published Monday. Four of them live in West Bank settlements that are in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on War, to which Israel is a signatory. Moshe Ya�alon, a former chief of staff of the IDF who is eighth on the list, once said, �The Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it�s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.�

Add to that the remarks of the next person on the list, Yuval Steinitz, about preventing college-aged students from Gaza being able to leave and attend universities: �We are fighting the regime in Gaza that does its utmost to kill our citizens and destroy our schools and our colleges. So I don�t think we should allow students from Gaza to go anywhere. Gaza is under siege, and rightly so, and it is up to the Gazans to change the regime or its behavior.� Number 11, Yisrael Katz, has been under suspicion of fraud since police in Israel recommended last year that he be indicted on that charge. Katz is followed by Yuli Edelstein, who began his political career with the ultra-right-wing National Religious Party, which is essentially the party of the settlers themselves (and, yes, Edelstein is a settler). The thirteenth place went to Limor Livnat, a former foreign minister who regularly attends meetings honoring the aforementioned Irgun and its uglier counterpart, the pre-independence Stern Gang, of which former Prime Minister Shamir was a member.

The most controversial spot on the list is the twentieth and was won by Moshe Feiglin, co-founder of Zo Artzeinu (�This Is Our Land�) and the essential leader of Israel�s non-violent resistance movement against disengagement from the Palestinian Territories. He ran against Netanyahu for the Likud leadership last year and took almost a quarter of the votes. That should speak volumes about where a sizable portion of Likud members have placed their priorities.

What remains to be seen is what the list for the current second-place party in the polls, Kadima, will look like. Kadima leader and Acting Prime Minister Tzipi Livni has already referred to the Likud�s list as �Netanyahu�s burden,� and the response in the Israeli press has been the same. Livni clearly hopes voters that would have voted for the Likud on issues other than the Palestinian conflict will now be drawn to her party. But it�s the party members that decide the list, and not the general population. And that is a matter that is out of her hands.

Andrew E. Mathis is a medical editor, Holocaust historian, and adjunct professor of English and humanities at Villanova University.

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