If This Is What’s Called Left

If the left that Ari Shavit represents throws up its hands in despair, what will right-wingers say?

Tal Niv
Tal Niv
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Mahmoud Abbas. According to logic, they can stop negotiating right now, with the Palestinian president blamed for not wanting an agreement because he did not want to give up the prisoner release.
Mahmoud Abbas. According to logic, they can stop negotiating right now, with the Palestinian president blamed for not wanting an agreement because he did not want to give up the prisoner release.Credit: Reuters
Tal Niv
Tal Niv

Ari Shavit’s comparison at the end of his article “Sorry, Schocken: Israel’s old left can’t end the occupation” (Haaretz, March 27) of leftists to the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta raises a forlorn smile. Whether Shvait is proposing an Ariel Sharon-style disengagement or that another position paper be formulated ahead of yet another meeting with United States Secretary of State John Kerry, the idea that the occupation can be ended “unilaterally” is baseless.

This suggestion, by people who want to enjoy a humanistic self-image and see themselves as peace-loving, does not take into account that an occupation cannot be “ended” if those who began it do not want to stand behind the values that they themselves propose as moral, and behind the actions derived from them.

Shavit’s article recalls a witty scene in the movie “The American President” in which the president, played by Michael Douglas, is accused of being a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union. When he is attacked by a right-winger imbued with righteous anger who is trying to fault the president for this fact, the president answers him: “For the record: Yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob?” That’s a wonderful reply. But the reality, which has become the Holy Grail of “finders, keepers,” is that Shavit and those he represents on the left, like Shimon Peres, waves his own membership card but does not really stand behind it.

Shavit’s recommendation to recognize the “reality” − that is, the basic violence of the Palestinians, as he sees it − does not allow an “end” to the occupation in a manner that is fair to them, and thus in any case voids any discussion of “reciprocity.” His call on the left to “wake up” from its innocence is a call on the left to give up the vitality of its vision for the survival of Israel. Under the guise of a recommendation to look at the complexity of this reality is an invitation to look at the reality in terms of black and white, disguised as “reciprocity” between equals, when the relationship between the parties is one of subjugation.

The fantasy of equality between Palestinians and Israelis arises only when the moment comes to talk, and it is ostensibly implemented only when discussing Israeli rights to self-definition and security. It is hollow − it does not include the understanding that the other side is in an inferior position or recognize that this inferiority spells disaster for Israel, not salvation. A declaration that demands imaginary equality puts the public to sleep rather than awakens it.

Shavit calls for a new left, which is nothing more than an old right. According to his logic, he is the one that recognizes that people are equal because he demands reciprocity from the Palestinians in the peace process. Well, people are equal, but the Israelis control the Palestinians from the sea to the Jordan, and therefore peace negotiations between the parties are asymmetrical. And even if in every Palestinian home a map hangs showing all of Palestine, a viable opportunity has been created to sign an agreement to end the conflict within adjusted 1967 borders.

At this juncture it is easy to declare oneself a clear-headed leftist, but beyond brandishing one’s Association of Civil Rights in Israel card, the concepts that this card represents must be implemented so that reality can be changed. It is easy to say “I am an enlightened leftist,” but a person who is not a leftist − is not a leftist.

If the left that Shavit represents throws up its hands in despair, what will right-wingers say? According to this logic, they can stop negotiating right now, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed for not wanting an agreement because he did not want to give up the prisoner release.