Labor's Long Demise

Even in the social realm, which has barely warranted mention in this election campaign, Labor has nothing to offer.

Don't blame Ehud Barak, he's just the victim. Don't blame Eitan Cabel, he is the one who registers the death certificate for the corpse that is the Labor Party, which has been wallowing in the streets for years, twitching and gurgling.

For all intents and purposes the party concluded its historic role the day after the Six-Day War. Since then, we have gone downhill, the party and us, deteriorating deeper and deeper. Only artificial attempts to resuscitate it by joining almost any government allowed it to live barely, if one can call it living when talking about a party of the left.

Now it is in vogue to blame Barak, but the original sin has long been committed. Now, infuriatingly overdue, comes the punishment. Labor died when Golda Meir, Yigal Alon, Shimon Peres and Yisrael Galili turned into the major contractors of the settlement enterprise, and Labor died a second death when its socialism was liquidated in favor of an economy of subcontractors.

Settlement contractors and subcontractors - it is to them that Labor can attribute its long, painful death. It lost its way, and never found it again. It founded a state by blood and fire, and a socialist society with real "safety nets," long before the concept was born. But 19 years after it founded the state and its society, it did not do well enough to understand the need to open a new chapter of real integration based on justice, human rights and equal opportunity.

Parties and political movements are judged in time by the deep currents that flow in their depths, not the mischief of image consultants. The Israeli right has such deep currents, based on messianic foundations, xenophobia, fear mongering, idol worship for the deity of security, and racism - negative foundations, but real foundations nonetheless. The deep currents of the left - in Israel and throughout the world - need to be the aspiration for justice. For some time now, the Labor Party lost these currents and turned into Israel's weak right wing.

As a weak right wing, it doesn't deserve any more than what it is getting in the polls. It cannot speak of human rights, since it turned into a full partner to the occupation enterprise, and it cannot speak of workers' rights, since it became a partner to the double-values system that has been put in place here, for both the Jewish worker and the foreign worker. Even its latest role as "the protector of the rule of law" is no more than a gimmick in light of the fact that here, too, there is a system of double values - one for a Jew and the other for an Arab.

All that has happened here since 1967, perhaps with the exception of the Oslo Accords, is to Labor's discredit: the missed opportunity by Levy Eshkol and Moshe Dayan, who failed to reach an accord following the war; Golda's refusal to enter into an interim peace accord with Egypt; the Yom Kippur War; the refusal to recognize the PLO; its lack of any moral stance on the issue of the occupation; and bringing about the entrenchment of the occupation to the point of permanence and the flourishing of the settlement enterprise.

The Labor movement lost claim to its assets in the social realm as well, as almost nothing remains of the Histadrut and the kibbutz, moshav and Histadrut-owned and managed company "Hevrat Haovdim," the health maintenance organizations and the social, cultural and welfare networks.

Everything has disappeared as if it did not exist, and in its stead we have inherited the rotten fruits of the worst of Israel's social-democrats. Golda and Dayan provoked war, Peres was the biggest of the deceivers of peace, Yitzhak Rabin had a hand in bringing the first intifada upon our heads, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was a partner to the eruption of the second intifada, and Haim Ramon dismantled the Histadrut.

It was all tainted by the affliction of occupation, patronization, belligerence, racism, and the Israeli rejectionism of a party that thought of itself as being born to rule and never learned to present itself as an alternative to the right. Everything the right did was also done by Labor: sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always in the same direction.

There is no real left-winger who today would vote for Labor. No image consultant can change the fact that Barak is as far away from striving toward peace and social justice as Netanyahu. No advertising ploy can bring back the deep currents of left for the Labor Party - and so its fate is sealed. Over the years, all of its leaders taught Israelis that they can have their cake and eat it too; to be a cruel occupier and an exploitative employer with no moral boundaries, just like Israelis love so much.

If the Ariel Sharon of the first Lebanon War and the Benjamin Netanyahu who followed in his footsteps moved Israelis to be ashamed of the actions of their government, the Labor heads always knew how to lead everyone astray. Even in the social realm, which has barely warranted mention in this election campaign, Labor has nothing to offer. Nothing. Its deep currents have run dry, and this happened long ago.

Thus, perhaps it is best that Labor breathes its last breath. The pursuers of peace and justice do not need to be sorry about its departure, which is not premature. Perhaps losing this shady camouflage will lead to the revival of a new movement with deep currents. In the meantime, we have an election campaign devoid of a significant leftist presence. To whom do we owe thanks, to whom do we owe praise? To Labor.