This was written in in February of 2011 for a collection of essays called "Zionism Now", which was published by Hashomer Hatzair Movement.
Shomrot and Shomrim,
A web of visible repression is surfacing in Israel. It has been for quite some time. This reality has been growing since the occupation of land, and human beings, solidified in the years following 1967, and before that too.
Our movement in Israel has re-grown into a life movement, along with other Blue Shirts. We in North America, and around the world, have built new programs over there, built better programs out of the old ones, and found new vigor in our relationships with the State with which we are interlinked.
Meanwhile, the right has taken over. The current power in the Knesset led by the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu partnership is tearing apart any semblance of democracy that once was. Avodah is lost to the left; they are now indiscernible from the right. Meretz, our party, has steadily lost seats, now resting at three. Kadima sits in the opposition chair, but does not pose any sort of alternative to what we have now.
The laws are changing in Israel. Websites that seem questionable to the security of the state (Peace Now?!) are blocked at Ben Gurion airport. The Internal security agency (Shin Bet) is now allowed to spy on groups that they deem to be a threat. There is no due process. Instead, they use the simple tactics of secret policing. A new law is being drafted as I write this that would allow the state to bar entry to activists who wish to see an end to the occupation.
Eyes and lives are lost in weekly demonstrations, with no recourse. Arrests are made in Jerusalem during the exercise of free speech. Rabbis, paid by the government as civil servants, make racist decrees demanding that good Jews not sell or rent homes to Arabs.
The occupation continues. No solution on the horizon. The net is getting tighter. Settlers are moving into the West Bank and East Jerusalem in droves, taking homes and arable land from Palestinians. The government supports it, encourages it through the military might that protects the status quo. The courts can call it illegal, but the government may not listen.
This can be called fascism. Fascism happens when the complete and total control of the lives of citizens and laws of the state is taken over by an authoritarian leadership. There is no balance in this. The power has been siphoned away from the people there.
As Jstreet grows here, power is consolidated there. As the old ideals of the Socialist Zionist Kibbutz movement are reborn, the ideals of the shortsighted and power hungry take over. The two state solution, which grew from the hearts of Jews and Zionists like us, is dying.
We are the radical few who see two states as a step towards something better, which exists beyond the boundaries of today’s political realities. We are the radical few who envision a world of distinct communities in partnership with one another. Jews and Arabs will be partners we have said for a century. We are not wrong. This is Socialist-Zionism. This is our movement.
We, Shomrim, are a part of this. We built the Yishuv with our partners. We built the state with many, and we have tried to keep justice alive in our lives around the world and in Israel.
Why not turn away from this mess? Why not turn away from the increasing injustice? It is a part of our responsibility to fix this and to make it better. As Shomrim, we are members in a collective. We have partners throughout the world, but we are also partners with those who came before us, and those that will be Shomrim in the future. We are members of a people who were born in that place. We are intertwined with this space, because of our history and our identities, which propel us forward. This partnership demands that we address the realities that we have been a part of building (no matter how hard we have fought against these injustices in our history), and that we continue to do so in order for future Shomrim to join that fight.
We should have a personal, as well as an ideological connection to these realities, but if we find ourselves wondering where that connection is, we must all realize and remember that this struggle is our responsibility as Shomrim. Israel is a collective project of the Jewish people. It is our project. We cannot just toss it away. We cannot leave Israelis alone. We cannot leave Palestinians alone. We cannot leave ourselves alone. We cannot stop pushing for something better, something that is shared between us and the other people(s) who call that space home.
Jewish liberation in our homeland – a place that we are connected to through history, culture, religion, family, friends, experiences, and soul – will only come when we realize that it is also the homeland of others. Our self-determination is reliant on the self-determination of all people(s), in particular the Palestinian people.
This is not easy, and it seems that we need to regroup. I have brought some focus to the need for Shomrim to move to Israel to work toward a just reality in the state that we built. I do not believe that this trumps the need for Shomrim to work toward a just and open society here in North America. Justice in our State does not supersede the need for Shomrim to build new Jewish communities in partnership with the communities of the world, but it needs to be measured equally.
Still, it is vital that we engage in fixing, what is in part, our creation. We are a collective and we, as a collective, have the ability to be here and there. It’s true that we are small in number right now, but that hasn’t always been true, and that is another reason why it is so essential for us to build numbers in our movement here; in our Machanot, Communot, Kenim, and cultures.
We, as a movement, need to engage by going there. Whether a few of us go to live for the long term or forever, we need to be there in body. I plan to go there with my Chultza on. I plan to be there. I have spent a lot of time in dialogue and debate on the subject of where we need to be. We need to be here and there. Some of us can help there, and find fulfillment (Hagshama) in it. Some will find Hagshama in the challenges and responsibilities that face Shomrim here. In mind and spirit, we need to engage by tackling the issues that face Israel in our education and activism. We need to continue our programmatic presence and build it further. There is much to do at this critical juncture in the story of the world, and of the Jewish people.
The reality is that things are growing darker and it is our responsibility as Shomrim to build partnerships here and there. It is our responsibility to build the light. We are well equipped to attend to these very real troubles, but we need to be willing to take on that responsibility with strength and courage. Every Peula, every event, every vote, every Kvutza moment, every chance to invite a new member, every chance to stand up for something you believe in, whether we are here or there, should be taken with this responsibility in mind.
A. Daniel Roth