Opinion

Israel's Left Barely Exists, While Its Political Center Is Filled With Cowards and Sycophants

If Israel had a real left, it would say that Zionism was needed to rescue European Jewry, not a campaign to liberate sacred stones.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Ofer Vaknin

For several weeks the knights of the center and its spokesmen have been preaching to the left, including on the pages of this newspaper. For this purpose they are labeling the left “radical,” because it is a sine qua non that to overthrow Likud one must win the hearts of the people. This is of course a revolutionary notion, but it’s doubtful there is even a left remaining, apart from Meretz and civil society organizations the right is doing its best to eradicate. In the effort to mollify the people, its figures have begun to resemble the right like brothers.

The problem of the left’s existence arose in all its intensity with the end of the fighting in June 1967. We would have expected the left to say that all of Zionism’s objectives, as set down immediately after the War of Independence, had been achieved. But there was no one to say that, because already there was barely daylight between the right and the so-called left. Both regarded the victory in 1967 as the last chapter of the War of Independence. There was no real ideological difference between the center-left and the right.

This was also true in the realm of political behavior. Everyone wanted to be of the people, to suck up to it, but not to lead it; to feed into its illusions and fears and conceal the truth about the occupation. The historic rights were sacred to them all, and remain so today. From the electoral defeat in 1977 the left understood that the majority was avenging the left’s failure to keep its promise to turn Israel into an invincible military power, and that the people wanted to continue down the path that had worked so well for us until then: to hold the new territories as we hold all our old conquests. Very little has changed: The disgraceful flattery of the people only increased (see under: Yair Lapid).

Had there been a genuine left then, the leaders of the Labor Party, the heads of the labor unions and the kibbutz movement, with all its streams and branches, and the blue-shirted youth movement leaders would have told the people that Zionism was the solution to the “Jewish problem,” to the sword hanging over European Jewry, not a campaign to liberate sacred stones. Had there been a left, we would have seen Natan Alterman and Yitzhak Tabenkin, Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan addressing the people and telling them that Zionism was a necessity proved by the Holocaust; it wasn’t an ongoing campaign that sets its borders solely by military might. They might have added that the conquered people also have rights and they also deserve to breathe the air of freedom.

If there was a left, it would be telling the people that necessity gave birth to Zionism, shaped the state’s legitimate infrastructure and drew its borders. If we had a vital, active left today, we would be hearing from the Labor Party executive that the conquest of the land to save the Jews from annihilation was just because it was necessary, but that to rely on divine promises and naked power to deprive a conquered people of its land and its freedom is nothing but an insult to one’s intelligence and shows crude contempt for religious faith, if it isn’t actually criminal.

But this is not what most of the people want to hear, which is why “the left” doesn’t say it, and which is why it doesn’t exist as a political force with a chance to change the situation. Nor will salvation come from the swamp in the center, because nobody really respects cowardice, imitation and sycophancy, the fundamental characteristics of those who dwell there.