Israel's Left Was a Silent Accomplice to the Right, and Now It Is a Minority

Yossi Klein
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Anti-Netanyahu protests in Caesarea, December 12, 2020
Yossi Klein

A reminder before the election: Around here, the right does not signify capitalism or Jabotinsky, nor only “King Bibi.” Our right is about oppression expulsion, occupation, nationalism and racism. Lest anyone deceive themselves: Right means Netanyahu, Sa’ar, Bennett and all the rest. And if you think the polls are lying – they are not. The right is in the majority.

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So what is a minority to do in a completely right-wing country whose democracy means nothing except “majority rule”? How is it possible to live in a country where everything the majority does is opposed to what the minority believes in? How can a minority cope with the contradiction between the democratic duty to accept the majority’s decision and the moral duty to reject it? The minority evades this question, and claims that it, too, is a victim. Really? It is not a victim, but a collaborator, a silent partner. It accepts what is happening then sighs and says: Hey, what more can I do? I’ve gone out to protest, I’ve written, I’ve stopped watching the news, I’ve gone into internal exile, I’ve shut myself inside a personal bubble. I’ve done my part.

Anyone who believes in democracy and lives in a state that is not one is a rebel by definition. On a small scale. They rebel so they won’t be another sheep in the herd. They won’t get married by the rabbinate, they’ll shirk reserve duty, pay people on the black market and vote for the Joint List. But despite it all, they are is still a party to the corruption and tyranny, the occupation and harassment of Arabs and refugees, to the surrender to the haredim.

According to Socrates, someone who accepts the laws of a place for their entire life without fleeing in protest cannot refuse to obey an unjust law, nor flee from punishment. In Professor Shlomo Avineri’s view, one must accept and obey such a law “with gritted teeth.” What can a minority do in an undemocratic regime? It can mark a red line. There are already dozens of red lines. They inch closer and get nudged away.

You can also find solace in the Knesset, the High Court or social media. And then say that Sa’ar is someone you can talk to, that Naftali is decent and Lieberman is reasonable, and the haredim can be bought and the Arabs don’t count. The minority is not that young anymore, and its eyesight isn’t so hot, but still it gazes at the horizon, peers into the distance – perhaps some former IDF chief who’s seen the light will magically appear, or some repentant former far-rightist, or maybe a famous anchorman... No, wait, an anchorwoman! A woman whose femininity will lead, who knows how to end the occupation, to separate religion and state, establish equality and everything we always wanted but were afraid to ask for.

It hasn’t happened and it won’t. Once again the minority looks at the polls in disbelief. It can’t find its group at the end of the scale, or the bottom of the chart – it’s completely off the chart. This is not its league. This is not them, it’s the other people, and they have nothing to do with them. And if you ask, they actually feel fine. It’s not just Gantz. We look at the polls and ask, where did 100,000 Labor and Meretz voters disappear to? They did not just evaporate, they continued writing articles and protesting until one morning they woke up to discover a strange swelling of the forehead.

Those standing, sickened, on the sidelines, see the lump grow into a horn, and the bearer of a horn become a rhinocerose. Their moral corruption doesn’t stem from bad intentions, but adaptation and convenience. No one wants to be a sheep in a herd of rhinos. And we, stunned watching this, are careful not to feel our own foreheads, lest we find they have lumps, too.

Again we draw a red line, then another. This week it was the nation-state law, which erases equality, negates Arabs and empowers the haredi cult. This is the line in which Elkin’s vision of a “Jewish state” replaces Herzl’s of a “state for the Jews.” And anyone who says: Don’t make such a big deal out of it – “Jewish” or “for Jews,” what does it matter? Well, they ought to reach up and feel their forehead. Something is growing there.

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