Saturday night I decided to go to a campaign meeting of the Moledet Party in Kfar Shalem, a rough neighborhood in the south of Tel Aviv. In the past, houses there were periodically served with demolition orders by the Tel Aviv municipality; in 1982 one inhabitant pulled a gun on demolition crews who had come to tear down an illegally-built extension to his house. Some people consider the violence of the state in Kfar Shalem as a form of racism against Oriental Jews. The slogan “Askhe-Nazis!” with a swastika beside it appeared on the walls of mainly Ashkenazi (Jews of European origin) neighborhoods of north Tel Aviv, as well as on memorials of the 1948 War of Independence.

On the way to the meeting, the taxi driver, an Oriental Jew, explained to me that he was for the return of the territories to the Arabs, as long as he got the $400,000 he reckoned the house he had built in the West Bank was worth. “They encouraged us to settle there and there we’ll stay till they make it worthwhile for us to move.” Then he offered me his real opinion about what’s to be done: the government has been stupid and afraid of outside opinion; if 500 Palestinians had been killed in the first days of the uprising, it would have been finished. As for what will happen next: “that will be decided by the Americans, because they run this place!”

Kfar Shalem is Likud country. Undoubtedly Kahane’s Kach party had a following there, before it was outlawed by the courts. Moledet is the new party of Rehavam Ze’evi, nicknamed “Gandhi” because of his thinness and abstemious habits when he was younger. Its message, like that of Kach, is to expel the Palestinians from Greater Israel — not by force, Ze’evi says, but by agreement with the neighboring Arab states. The Arab citizens of Israel might remain, but clearly they are also considered enemies.

Ze’evi, a fifth generation Sabra (native-born Israeli), a member of the Palmach, a retired general and one-time head of the Central Command, an advisor on terrorism to then-Prime Minister Rabin and since 1981 director of the Ha-Aretz Museum in Tel Aviv, has serious credentials. (He is also said to have connections with the crime world of Tel Aviv, but these have not been proven in court.) He is not talking from the outskirts of Israeli society. “I was raised in the Labor movement,” he told Ma’ariv in a July 10, 1987 interview. “My father was among the leaders of MAPAI and a Histadrut leader. I have been a member of the Histadrut since the age of 17. I am a leftist. All the views I now express are those of the Labor movement.” He declares that the “transfer” idea came from the Labor leaders, including Ben Gurion, that it has been put into practice since the war of 1947-48, and he cites documents to prove it.

I found the meeting — about 40 people gathered in front of a house on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Ze’ evi arrived. He was dry, humorless, business-like, almost clinical. He sounded and looked ruthless, but was no rabble-rouser. He had the air of a military officer, a man in charge, sure of himself. His Hebrew was flowing and matter-of-fact. I taped his speech:

“Two peoples can’t live in one land. When they live in one land, there is blood and fire…wherever in the world two peoples live, sooner or later war begins between them. Look at Lebanon, Ireland, Sri Lanka….It’s possible to live as neighbors, but in the same house — impossible. When they live in the same house, the sorrows begin. When there’s a big national minority in a country, it begins to demand rights, begins to demand autonomy, builds an underground which starts planting bombs. Their children and ours begin killing one another. Among us it’s worse…a minority that will soon be the majority in this country. Look around here, as we’ve done. Every [Arab] settlement is becoming a village, every village a small town, every small town a city.

“In a dozen years, according to the statisticians, the numbers will be equal. In a democratic state where everyone has the right to vote, they&rsqou;ll be the majority. In 13 years, the prime minister, minister of defense and chief-of-staff here will be Arabs…

“They know how to take care of minorities. Look how they finish off a strike, a demonstration. In Algeria there were 500 dead in a week. We’ve been living through the intifada now for 11 months and hardly reached 180, 200; I don’t know how many; and for each one we apologize, ask forgiveness and explain that he threw stones…

“Let me tell you something: in September 1970,1 was commander of Central Command. Hussain hit the terrorists so hard they called it Black September. It was really black from their point of view. They fled and came to us, surrendering, begging refuge. We received them and asked why they fled from an Arab state to a Jewish state. They told us about the horrors. That’s what Arabs did to Arabs, imagine what they’d do to Jews…

“To defend the Land of Israel, we need the mountains of Judea and Samaria, the high ground….It’s a matter of strategic depth. Even if we sign a peace treaty with Hussain and Arafat, others — Hawatmeh, Jabril, Habash — will come and strike us on our soft underbelly….Who’s going to protect us — an Arab commander-in-chief? They say it themselves: the war is for all the Land of Israel….They want the right to return — to Safed, to Acre, to Tiberia, to Haifa, to Beersheba, to Kiryat Gat — to wherever they once lived. Indeed, before 1948 they did live in all of the country…

“It’s true that hardly any man wants to abandon his home, his fields, the trees he’s planted. But for peace between peoples, it’s permissible. We did it — built settlements and towns in Sinai, then because of peace with Sadat, the government carried out a ‘transfer’ of Jewish settlers. Those who want to return the territories today support the ‘transfer’ of Jews: of 70-80,000 settlers who are there now. Thus, if the government decides on ‘transfer,’ it’s considered all right. That is exactly what we’re offering to the Ishmaelites. For the sake of peace, get out of here, so that our sons don’t kill yours. So that you don’t plant bombs in our public squares…

“The greatest losers in the wars have been the Palestinians. They’ve been caught between Jews and Arabs. Their houses destroyed. They became refugees: they’ve been screwed. In order to put an end to their being screwed, let them travel some kilometers eastward. It’s not even a ‘transfer,’ just a simple move among their own people, language, culture, religion, from Nablus to Irbid.

“When we were attacked for our ideas a year ago we answered: everything carried out by Zionism over the past 100 years has been precisely that — ‘transfer.’ Every place we built here was on the ruins of an Arab village or city. I was an officer in the Palmach in 1948 when we conquered Lod and Ramleh. The inhabitants raised white flags. We asked our commanders what to do. The second officer in charge of the battalion, Yitzhak Rabin, answered: ‘expel them.’ We said: ‘What do you mean? How?’ He said: ‘that’s an order from B.[en] G.[urion].’ And that’s how it was — in Acre, Haifa, Tiberius, and right here in Salamea where there was also an Arab village…”

In the elections, Moledet received about 44,000 votes, 1.9 percent of the total, and two seats in the Knesset. Ze’evi’s words often include implicit allusions to a Biblical and tribal world. In one newspaper ad for the party, Israel Eldad, an ideologist of the LEHI underground as well as a professor of Bible and a translator of Nietzsche, cites the Biblical story of Abraham and his cousin Lot: When they could no longer dwell together, Abraham told Lot “let there be no enmity between us. For all the land is before you. Separate yourself from me. And he sent Lot to Jordan.” Eldad then asks, “Should our father Abraham not be called the originator of ‘transfer’?”

In the fierce Hebrew press debate around Ze’evi’s program, some argued that his project was not practical; others that he lied about the ideas and practices of earlier leaders, and still others that he was quite correct on that score; quite a few declared that he was an out-and-out racist. One of the most eloquent critiques came from Israel Eilat, another former LEHI member, in Hadashot (March 8,1988). Concerning claims that the situation in the territories has become irreversible and that attempts to make concessions will lead to civil war with the zealots, he writes that “There is nothing more terrible than a war between brothers, except a racist regime.” If one replaces “Arabs” with the word “enemies,” he argues, racist slogans can pass into the streets and become legitimate. As he puts it, “the new guise, the new dress, allows the expansion of racism into more ‘civilized’ circles. The less crude expressions, the more intelligent explanations, the academic language allows intellectuals who opposed Kahane’s mob to be bearers of racist ideas.” In Eilat’s opinion, “we have reached an advanced stage on the road to a racist system.” For him, “the true alternative is concessions and a compromise to reach peace, or a racist regime to keep the whole Land of Israel.” If the choice is between the racist regime and civil war, he prefers civil war.

How to cite this article:

Ken Brown "“Transfer” and the Discourse of Racism," Middle East Report 157 (March/April 1989).

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