The Amona Evacuation and the Future of Zionism

February 7, 2017 | Daniel Gordis
About the author: Daniel Gordis is the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and the author of the ongoing online column, Israel from the Inside.

Following the orders of Israel’s supreme court, the IDF removed the residents of the West Bank town of Amona from their homes last week. While some left voluntarily, others holed up in the synagogue and waited for soldiers to drag them out, leading to a disturbing scene reminiscent of the evacuation of Gush Katif in 2009. Daniel Gordis reflects on what took place, and its implications for Zionism itself:

The supreme court had ruled that the settlement sat on private Palestinian land, and it therefore demanded that its inhabitants leave. One can question the court’s ruling or even the activism of the court in general. Yet, . . . [if] matters are so clear, why did we [Israelis] feel no moral clarity as we watched Amona brought to an end? Was not the triumph over Amona the triumph of Israel’s democracy and rule of law?

Yes, but no. What we saw as we watched the demolition of Amona’s synagogue was also the shattering of Israel’s founding ethos. Nothing articulated that ethos better than the old Zionist song, Anu banu artsah: “We have come to the Land to build and to be built on it.” Prior to statehood, Jews immigrated to Palestine and built on whatever land they could purchase. . . .

In truth, both [Israeli supporters and opponents of the settlements] lost last week. . . . If Zionism is no longer about settling the land, building on it and being built on it, then what is Zionism? . . . Do we [Israelis] as a collective still believe in anything at all? If we do, what is it? And if we do not, why do we dare imagine we can long survive in this region? . . .

If this was a week when we should have mourned, then next week and beyond need to be a time of re-imagining, of reviving dreams, of rediscovering purpose.

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