chapter  7
14 Pages

Four States, Two People, One Solution: Can Israel Maintain Its Identity?

WithBY ZVI BAR’EL

Normal people with regular problems are not as lucky as we, Israelis, are. We are the Chosen People, true, but we were also given too many options to choose from. One example is our homeland. There is the biblical Eretz Israel, which would include Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq of today. There is also Israel of the partition plan; Israel of the Green Line; the Blue Line; the Purple Linewith the Golan Heights-and Israel with East Jerusalem, and without it. We have Israel with its branches in the West Bank, and we have an Israeli Diaspora, not in the United States but in Hebron, Ofra, and Efrat, where some 350,000 people, about 5 percent of the state’s population, are living. We have an imagined Israel, where most of the Israeli population has not stepped a foot in, and we have the real Israel, the state which was recognized by the international community. No wonder that we are confused, no wonder that we have chosen our

government according to our dreams, but realize that we bought ourselves a nightmare. We should be thankful to our Palestinian neighbors who are in the same

position. They also have too many states to choose from. They too have Eretz Palestine, which had nourished their dreams; they have Palestine of the partition plan; the occupied Palestine; Palestine minus settlements; and Palestine with Gaza and without Gaza-in short, they, like us, are not just Chosen People. They, like us, are the Choosing People, people who are always in the process of choosing the right place for their homeland, for their identity. Israelis are not unique in that situation, but we have a special feature in our

identity complex. We draw our identity from our inner-Diaspora, from the settlers. Like the Palestinians whose national purpose is to create a state for

their refugees, Israel has identified itself as a shelter. However, in the last 45 years, Israel went through an additional phase. Israel has become subjugated to the settlers’ state to such an extent that its future and its aim as a state are subjected to its ability to sell its new borders and its new territorial identity not to the world but to the settlers. In other words, the settlers are bestowed with the authority to define the nature and the identity of the State of Israel. “Borders are also meaning-making and meaning-carrying entities. Parts of cultural landscapes which often transcend the physical limits of the state and defy the power of state institutions,” Hastings and Wilson wrote wisely.1

However, in the Israeli case, it is difficult to define the location of the state’s cultural borders, and the identity of the “meaning-makers” who dwell beyond its physical borders. It is almost impossible now to relate to Israel as a nation-state, as Ulrich

Beck, Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson, or Clifford Geertz (1973)2 had tried to define the term. Interestingly, Israel’s relations with the settlers call for a revision of Anderson’s theory about Imagined Communities, since the Motherland became the imitator rather than the object of imitation. Contrary to most cultural and political theories, hegemony in Israel shifts from the governing elite to a minority inner-Diaspora.