Israel Needs Another Kind of Left, One That Won't Commit Moral Suicide

A moral left should be faithful to the values of criticism and openness, not attack those that expose the morally repulsive actions of those on the fringes of the struggle against the occupation.

even we, in our wildest imagination wouldn’t have thought the day would come when the walls belonging to Jews would also sprout ears.
Emil Salman

The left has been committing its magnificent political suicide for years. Not a month, a week or a day goes by without the left shooting itself in the foot, stomach or temple.

If there’s a chance of expanding the circle of those who support dividing the land just a little, the left immediately kills it. If there’s an opening for communication with a part of the public that isn’t peacenik-secular-Tel Avivian, the left immediately blocks it. Thoroughly, consistently and systematically, the Israeli left is reducing itself to the margins of Israeli society.

Instead of trying to expand, get stronger and become a majority, the peace, democracy and liberalism camp insists on shrinking more and more. With its own hands, it’s turning itself into a closed, dogmatic fraternity, detached from the state in which it lives.

But this week the left decided to go further and commit moral suicide, as well. What did Ilana Dayan and Omri Assenheim do in the Channel 2 TV program Fact (Uvda) last week? They exposed the fact that on the very fringes of the resistance to the occupation, ugly, repulsive things are being done, which should turn every decent person’s stomach.

A moral left should have no problem with such an exposé. On the contrary. A moral left should be faithful to the values of criticism, openness, transparency and universality. It should thank the two journalists for their courageous, professional work, denounce Ezra Nawi and his collaborators and make it clear that there is no connection between them and him.

A moral left is supposed to say that the work done by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights, Machsom Watch and countless other organizations acting for justice is sacred work. But a man who informs on Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority so it can lock them up or kill them is a villain. A villain who is one of us.

But how did the Israeli left react? With forgiving silence toward the abomination and a savage attack on the messengers who dared to expose the horror. So far, the Israeli left hasn’t produced a single Reuven Rivlin to say: My world view is one thing and morality is another; and when I see villains who come from my tribe, I stand against them. So far no Yoel Bin Noon has been found on the Israeli left to stand up and say the rot has set into the camp’s fringes.

Instead, there was plenty of internal McCarthyism, attempting to blur Fact’s facts and silence them with heavy artillery. Criticism? Only of others. Openness? Only to our opinions. Transparency? Not when it comes to the peace army. Universality? Only if it serves our all-knowing, closed order’s rigid beliefs.

If it wasn’t sad and serious, it would be funny and amusing. The arguments the left used this week were exactly – but exactly – those the chauvinist right uses again and again. Don’t spread the word, the liberals said. We’re under siege so we cannot be criticized, said the democrats. When you chop trees chips fly, said the enlightened. Since we’re small, surrounded and in the right – we’re allowed to do anything. Since we’re surrounded by enemies, we’re outside every norm and above every law.

Just as the old Israeli nationalism regarded the Zionist establishment in the days before the High Court of Justice and B’Tselem, so the supporters of the High Court and B’Tselem saw themselves this week. Don’t confuse me with the facts, said the left of 2016. Don’t entangle me with complexity. Let me continue my sweet, dogmatic slumber within the walls of my chosen order’s fortified monastery.

Israel desperately needs the left. To save itself from the occupation, the settlements and the reactionary drift, Israel needs a strong, leading left. But as the week’s events have proved, the left Israel needs is another kind of left – realistic, moral, democratic, liberal and decent.