In a remarkable political conversion, Yaakov Sharett, the heir to an iconic Zionist family and son of Israel’s second Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, has turned his back on the founding ideology of the occupation state.
“The State of Israel and the Zionist enterprise were born in sin,” said Sharett in an interview with Haaretz. The 95-year-old spoke at length about his journey from a faithful servant of Zionism in the state of Israel to one of its harshest critics.
Sharett was born in 1927 and is said to belong to a well-connected family from the cream of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. His father was Israel’s first foreign minister and one of the country’s leaders who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1948. Sharett also dutifully served Israel as a member of the Shin Bet, the country’s security agency, and helped Soviet Jews flee to Israel.
Ending his days in Tel Aviv as an anti-Zionist, Sharett predicts dark days for the country he spent nearly his entire life serving. “This original sin pursues and will pursue us and hang over us,” said Sharett referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine prior to Israel’s creation in 1948. More than half of the indigenous community were expelled in an attempt to artificially construct a Jewish majority.
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Sharett recollected the history of Zionism and its rise within Jewish communities. He argued that the moment Zionism called for the Jews to immigrate to Israel, in order to establish an ethno-nationalist state, a conflict was created. “I see in this whole transformation of the majority [Arab] to a minority and the minority [Jewish] into a majority as immoral,” explained Sharett.
“Have you seen anywhere in the world where the majority would agree to give in to a foreign invader, who says, ‘our forefathers were here,’ and demands to enter the land and take control?” Sharett rhetorically asked. “The conflict was inherent and Zionism denied this, ignored it… as the proportion of Jews to Arabs changed in favor of the Jews, the Arabs realized that they were losing the majority. Who would agree to such a thing?”
Lamenting his continued presence in Israel he said that he sees himself as a “a collaborator” against his will.
I’m a forced collaborator with a criminal country. I’m here, I have nowhere to go. Because of my age, I can’t go anywhere. And that bothers me. Every day. This recognition won’t leave me. The recognition that in the end, Israel is a country occupying and abusing another people.
Sharett also railed against Israel’s turn towards religious fundamentalism and ultra-nationalism. “When I see the prime minister with a kipah on his head, I don’t feel good,” he added. “This is not the Israel I want to see. How did it happen that this new place, that was to have brought innovations, became the blackest place, controlled by the nationalist ultra-Orthodox? How is it that here of all places, there’s reactionism and zealotry, messianism, the desire to expand and control another people?”
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