Gershon Baskin believes that it is not a question of Right or Left – as he told young Mexican Jewish students. It is a question of whether or not you are a Zionist.
I just came back from a lecture in Mexico. I was invited by the amazing Jewish community of Mexico City and had an fabulous and intensive week there including: a public lecture for more than 250 people at the CDI, the Jewish community sports center, marking the conclusion of a week of peace activities there; a separate evening lecture to more than 50 leaders of the CDI; a talk with 9th graders at Beit Hayeladim school – this was a high point for me; a lecture to undergraduate students of international relations at Ahahuac University on lessons learned from the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace process; a talk to 30 teachers from Mexico City’s Jewish schools at the Yavne School about education for peace; a tour of Jewish Mexico city with the amazing Monica Unikel; a public lecture at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance on hope, peace and strategic choices; an evening with 65 “non-hasbara members of the Jewish community” focusing on what Mexican Jewry can do to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace and peace within the community; and a lecture to high school students at the Colegio Israelita De Mexico (Idishe school) on Israel’s future, Shimon Peres and peace.
At the talk for some 150 high school students at the Idishe school, one bright young man asked me: are you on the Right or the Left? This is not an uncommon question to me.
This is what I said: tell me please, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Right or the Left? I then repeated some of Netanyahu’s statements on the world stage of the United Nations – about the Palestinian state, Arab peace initiative, teaching Arabic to all Jewish Israelis, that Israel will make peace with all of its neighbors. The student was clearly confused. Yes, the prime minister of Israel, the leader of the rightwing Likud Party sounded like a leading leftist. I said I didn’t know what Left and Right mean in Israel when it comes to peace and security. I am a Zionist, I said.
What is a Zionist? A Zionist is someone who believes in and works for the existence of a democratic nation state for the Jewish people. Israel was established on two pillars – two foundations. Israel is a democratic state; I would not want to live in a non-democratic one. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. I made aliya to our home 38 years ago because Israel is the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people.
I would not have made aliya and I would not have left the United States if Israel was something else. Yet today, Israel’s future regarding these two pillars is in danger. For almost 50 years there has been a binational, one-state reality threatening either the democratic nature of Israel or its Jewish character. If Israel fails to end its control over the Palestinian people Israel will either cease to be democratic or the nation-state of the Jewish people. What needs to be done is clear.
Those who work to prevent the partition of the Land of Israel into two states for two peoples are anti-Zionists because they seek to change Israel’s character to being either non-democratic or not being the nation-state of the Jewish people. Those who support building settlements in the parts of the Land which must become the Palestinian state are anti-Zionist. Yes – that’s right – those who work to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, on only 22 percent of the land between the River and the Sea (that was the underlying deal in Oslo), are working to bring about a one-state reality which is either anti-democratic in which there are two peoples under separate and unequal political and economic realities controlled by Israel, sometimes known as a new form of apartheid, or a state which could no longer be defined as the nation-state of the Jewish people, because in a very short time there will be a Palestinian Arab majority there.
It is not a question of Right or Left – as I told the young Mexican Jewish students. It is a question of whether or not you are a Zionist. I am a Zionist. I believe in and work to secure the security and stability of a democratic nation-state for the Jewish people.
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke in the United Nations as a Zionist. Now the question is whether or not he will lead the State of Israel in the coming near future as a Zionist. The choice is clear: two states for two people – the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people living side-by-side with the nation state of the Palestinian people – or one-state for two peoples, which will either be a democratic binational state or a non-democratic apartheid state which by definition cannot be Jewish.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.