The Israeli Left Has Been Orphaned

In Israel's nationalistic society, there are still several hundred thousand citizens who think otherwise, but have no alternative leadership to identify with and guide them.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

A few thousand Israelis marched last week in Tel Aviv to mark International Human Rights Day. They represented no less than 130 different organizations, and all were political orphans.

The Labor party has been orphaned (for quite a while now ). A reserve general, glorified for his courageous protest during the first Lebanon war and the impressive years he spent doing good work down in Yeruham, is now its Great White Hope. He comes in place of the other general who disappointed, the one who has nothing whatsoever in common with the left.

But the reception given the honest and humble Amram Mitzna indicates that it was premature to crown him the next savior. MK Eitan Cabel has already warned him not to "get near" the party. Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman, of course, came out against "tilting too far to the left."

Meretz was orphaned a long time ago. Most of the Arab parties don't even bother to address the Jewish voter. Even the binational Hadash party is still more Arab than Jewish. The "National Left," a worthy political initiative, may be taking its first steps but is also an orphan without leadership and plagued with the classic sight defect of the Israeli left: an inclination to set its sights on the center.

You don't build the left, even a nationalist one, with a scathing attack on draft resisters. This organization is at the moment an unfulfilled promise that could become the Kadima of the left. Kadima? No need to waste any words. A senior partner in some of the most anti-democratic and chauvinistic initiatives of the current Knesset, the great deceiver of the voters of the left, this center party has turned out, as expected, to be a party of the immoderate right in disguise.

Look to the left, and all you see is political orphanhood and organizational vacuum. Not that there are millions of Israelis trying to jump on the bandwagon, but even the few deserve more. In Israel's complacent and nationalistic society, there are still pockets of several hundred thousand citizens who think otherwise, who are shocked at what is going on and worried about where things are going. They have no father and mother, no political party, no ideological movement and certainly no alternative leadership to identify with and guide them. So most of them wrap themselves in their apathy and despair, and a minority find a niche, often too narrow, in the countless non-profits and organizations that march from time to time in Tel Aviv. They fight for the foreign workers, protest violence against women, monitor military checkpoints, demonstrate against the separation fence, fight to protect the environment, protest animal abuse, demonstrate against the ultra-Orthodox and even against furs.

All these causes are worthy, but they don't add up to any meaningful political activity. They all share an ideological common denominator, and that's why they all should be part of a broader, unified struggle.

You can't be an ardent feminist and support Tzipi Livni. You can't be green and support Gilad Erdan. You can't care for migrant workers while ignoring the plight of Palestinians without permits who are hunted down here like animals. Livni and Erdan should be judged on the basis of their overall worldview, and it is not a truly liberal and humanistic one. From opposing violence against women to opposing the occupation, from human rights to animal rights, one cause is linked to another, and they all come together to form a worldview. Non-profits don't do the job here. For this, you need a political party. The task of creating one is difficult. The shelf parties and skeleton companies, the former left - they long ago stopped fulfilling their purpose. Attempts to create new political frameworks in Israel have been full of disappointments and failures. But the vacuum begs for action. It cries out for an alternative that will not eye the center, will not justify itself to the right in response to accusations of being unpatriotic, will not apologize for alleged betrayal and will not be ashamed and ambiguous. What we need is a real, clear left, with no ifs, ands or buts. In a society where "left" is a derogatory term, this is a difficult task. But it is even more difficult to continue on without one.



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