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Ehud Barak's New Left Isn't Left at All

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Ehud Barak
Israel's savior? Ehud Barak.

Ehud Barak the book critic has coined a new term: the “responsible left.” After the failure of the Zionist left – it’s time to admit it – comes Barak’s new left. But the former prime minister is neither a backslapper nor a leftist. His responsible left is nothing but a cover for maintaining ultranationalism, the security cult, the status quo and its (terrifying) resemblance to the ruling right wing.

In a well-argued review of Micah Goodman’s “Milkud 67” (“Catch 67”), Barak raises a few important points, starting with his criticism of the loathsome symmetry Goodman sets up between the left and the right in Israel. It’s good to read Barak, to know that one man of letters remains in politics. But the bottom line of his piece proves that since his declaration of “a new day” in his 1999 election victory speech, there is nothing new under the sun; there is no real ideological alternative in Israel.

Nearly all of Israel speaks in one tongue, the language of arrogance and denial in which only Israelis exist – Israelis’ security, Israelis’ fears, Israelis’ distress. There is no one else, and only they will decide. In fact, they’ve already decided: Barak proposes continuing the occupation in a manner more convenient to Israel. Of course to Israel? Unilateral withdrawal and control from a distance, as in the Gaza Strip. We don’t need such a left, Israel is already right-wing enough.

Barak proposes ending “control of the territories” because it’s dangerous. To whom? To Israel. In his alternative reality there are no Palestinians, whose security is much more precarious than that of Israelis. If ruling them were not “dangerous for Israel” he would probably not call for ending it. He might even move from his Tel Aviv high-rise to a high-rise settlement, if it’s nice enough.

Barak’s left has two primary tenets: security (“before and above everything”) and “the ‘wholeness of the nation’ and its unity take precedence over the ‘wholeness of the land.’” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also supports the first tenet, Barak merely argues that his own support is more professional. He includes all the usual elements. Only one is absent, as with Netanyahu: justice.

Nothing diminishes Israel’s security more than the absence of morality, which affects not only Israel’s global standing, but also its inner strength. An unjust society, or a society that is not certain of its justness, becomes violent, brutal and aggressive, like Israel. But the left’s Mr. Security ignores this.

The second tenet is even more surprising: The nation’s wholeness and unity can be attained today only through wholeness of the land. But the only path to ending the occupation passes through a necessary rupture of the nation, led by a courageous and determined leader. Barak prefers the wholeness of the nation, which means the wholeness of the land. Frederik Willem de Klerk he’s not.

The jargon, too, is from the bad old days: The “demographic threat,” once again. Human reproduction as a problem, merely because they’re not Jews. Who needs racists when we have Barak. “The demographic threat is definite,” he states. Good that in Europe there’s no more Jewish “demographic threat.” At least that problem was solved, and everybody knows how. Nor is the other side “ripe” for a settlement. Israel is trembling with ripeness to reach a settlement. Only the Palestinians are standing in its way. Is there a greater lie than this? Even that, Netanyahu would have said better.

At the foundation of all this right-wing thinking is the great denial of reality. The man who comes out against those who deny the demographic threat is a great denier himself. Even from the great heights of his age and status, Barak does not dare, or does not want, to be a party pooper. There are no 700,000 settlers without whose removal there is no two-state solution; there is no Palestinian people who deserve all the rights, all of them, just as Israel does. “Regional conference,” “interim plan,” “Commanders for Israel’s Security” – the words dance and the dream of withdrawal is being realized. That truly is a dream of a lying leftist who is so responsible that it hurts.

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