With Friends Like Ari Shavit, the Israeli Left Doesn't Need Enemies

For 15 years he has been shooting words directly at the heart of the left, but since he too sees the occupation as an existential threat to a Jewish and democratic Israel, he is shooting himself in the heart as well.

Let’s assume that the right-wingers who infiltrated the Ta’ayush organization discovered that a major Ta’ayush activist, former plumber Ezra Nawi, was caked with muck after years of sticking his hands into the filth of the occupation. Let’s assume that the same person, who devoted himself to the Palestinians of the south Hebron Hills out of deep identification with them, indeed betrayed Palestinian land dealers to death by torture. We will accept the “facts” of the right-wing Ad Kan group that were given a platform by Ilana Dayan and Omri Assenheim on the investigative TV program “Uvda.”

We will ignore the lack of any proof the Palestinian Authority has executed anyone in the past few years, including Palestinians who sold land to Jews. We will persuade Zehava Galon to renounce Nawi in an incisive Facebook post (as the Meretz leader indeed did). Let’s imagine that all leftists attack Alon Liel, vilify Breaking the Silence, and submissively accept the NGO law that is aimed at delegitimizing them.

Ezra Nawi, center, near a Jerusalem court this week.
Olivier Fitoussi

After all that, will a single Israeli Jew move even one step leftward?

Ari Shavit is correct; the left is shooting itself in the foot. It does so by demonstrating against unnecessary wars when the people and the media are beating the war drums. The left is also shooting itself in the stomach. Leftists go out on cold winter nights to the streets of Jerusalem to physically defend Palestinians against Lehava activists, the far-rightists ostensibly fighting assimilation. The left is even shooting itself in the temple; leftists write in English about how there isn’t a grain of truth to the Israeli prime minister’s claim that he supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Indeed, as Shavit wrote in an op-ed attacking the left for its behavior in the Nawi case, which we should really refer to as the “Uvda” case, Israel needs a “strong, leading” left. It needs it to “save itself from the occupation, the settlements and the reactionary drift,” as Shavit put it. In Proverbs we are told, “The wounds of a friend are faithful,” but with friends like Shavit, the left doesn’t need enemies.

For 15 years he has been shooting words directly at the heart of the left, the side fighting stubbornly to end the occupation. Since Shavit sees the occupation as an existential threat to a Jewish and democratic Israel, he is shooting himself in the heart as well. Here’s a typical example. “The peace movement never addressed the fact that the Palestinians effectively rejected the peace initiatives of U.S. President Bill Clinton and prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert Exactly 14 years ago, Israel’s most generous peace offer led to the worst terror attack on Israel,” he wrote in September 2014.

Shavit is a talented writer and a prominent journalist, and Haaretz, which many perceive as the organ of the left, highlights his articles. If he repeatedly writes that Clinton, Barak and Olmert gave the Palestinians the most generous offers, why should we doubt it? Only a few people wonder whether they would have signed an agreement with leaders like Barak and Olmert, who made their offers with the end of their political careers in sight. If one of Israel’s leading columnists argues that the second intifada, the most murderous of all, was the Palestinians’ ungrateful response to these generous peace offers, one assumes he examined the sequence of events. Who remembers that even former Shin Bet security service head Avi Dichter, today a Likud MK, said that Yasser Arafat didn’t plan the intifada?

How many times have you heard friends say, “We are against the occupation, the settlements, and reactionary trends, but unfortunately there’s no one to talk to.” Or, “Once we voted Meretz, but it turns out that Abba Eban was right — the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity?”

They are not responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches of incitement and lies, nor are they accepting the slanders of Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Those abandoning the left know that the right is dishing out propaganda. But Shavit and his kind are “one of us,” flesh of our flesh. When someone like that writes that the left is immoral, he presumably knows what he’s talking about.

Or not.

The writer is the political analyst for Israel Pulse on Al-Monitor.com.