Opinion

Cowards of the Left

What a pity that while the right’s leaders are committed to serving the settlers’ lobby – the leaders of the center-left are fleeing the issue as fast as gazelles

Avi Gabbay delivers a speech during the inauguration of France's EDF Energies Nouvelles Zmorot solar plant facility near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon May 22, 2016.
REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The settlers’ foremost aspiration was and still is to produce an optimistic charade showing a perfect correlation between their interests and Israel’s. This was the idea behind the slogan “to settle in the hearts,” this explains the sense of crisis in the settlers’ camp, which felt it had been abandoned by the Israeli public in the disengagement period, and this is the engine successfully activating today’s government.

This is also the idea behind the wacky detentions, investigations and entry denials at Ben Gurion Airport. These are ridiculous incidents in which a 22-year-old student is being detained for nine days in incarceration, or a Malawi national aged 46, a member of the World Council of Churches, is suspected of documenting life in the West Bank “while ignoring Israeli actions for the Palestinian population’s welfare.”

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Any sensible person – including Erdan and his friends – knows very well that these people are no threat to Israel. The rhetorical climate here has simply become insufferable. This week, for example, Zeev Elkin, the greatest incitement schemer, was called a “leftist” in connection with the Jerusalem mayoral race, and was deeply offended. But the real motivation to keep these people out of the country is the fight to suppress and denounce clear objections to the occupation. This attempt is taking place inside Israel as well, by targeting and branding organizations like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

In view of the current trend, the right may soon no longer need to hide behind BDS and its supporters. Instead, things will be said plainly: Anyone who criticizes the occupation – foreigner or Israeli – is persona non grata in this country. Their life here will be turned into hell. They will understand that they must not open their mouth and criticize Israel’s policy or the IDF in the territories, because it could cost them their livelihood, and the number of “likes” they give statements on social media that aren’t pleasing to the rulers will hang like a cloud over their head. The desire to decide the issue of the territories is boiling in the ideological right wing, which now feels at the height of its power. It even haunts Netanyahu himself, who was forced in the past to use David Bitan as a surrogate to stop annexation initiatives in his party.

Erdan clearly finds it more pleasant to deal with the detained student Lara Alqasem than with the prime minister’s investigations, which are also part of his ministerial responsibilities. But what a pity that while the right’s leaders are committed to serving the settlers’ lobby – the leaders of the center-left are fleeing the issue as fast as gazelles.

>> Read more: The Rise of the Israeli Center Reflects the Fall of the Israeli Left | Analysis 

Avi Gabbay and Yair Lapid talk at most about parting from the Palestinians; Benny Gantz, who is breathing down their necks, hasn’t said a word on the subject and presumably won’t; Orly Levy Abekasis, part of whose support base, if not most of it, comes from the left, has refrained from taking a clear stand on the issue and she’s even a member, at least on paper, of the Knesset caucus for Greater Israel. Outside the political movements like “Darkeinu” (“Our Path”), which has taken on itself the organization of the annual rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin – who was murdered, by the way, because he sought to give away some piece of the Land of Israel to the Palestinians in the future – prefer to babble vaguely about anti-extremism and a moderate majority. Instead they should say simply and clearly Yes, with regard to the most polarizing and explosive issue in Israeli society, which is the military rule of millions of people in territories conquered in 1967, we object to the corrupting, atrocious occupation that is neither moral nor a security need, but is the messianic upholding of some religious command, which one group is forcing on an entire population.

This attempt to be a little of everything is crumbling the left when it faces the right. There is no “little of everything” in Israeli reality. The right is a clenched fist of aggression and resolve to turn Israel into a racist Jewish theocracy at the expense of democracy. The left is still afraid of calling itself the left.