Opinion |

Meretz, Israel's 'Zionist Left' Party, Is Finished

It must leave the stage, alone, unaided, erect and with chin up, and allow the new left, which is more varied and aggressive, the left that will redefine Zionism and its goals, to try its luck

Ron Cahlili
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Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon with MK Ilan Gilon in 2015.
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon with MK Ilan Gilon in 2015.Credit: Nir Keidar
Ron Cahlili

There’s no such thing as a Zionist left, apropos the world war taking place in Meretz (Zehava Galon vs. Ilan Gilon, and vice versa), which in recent decades has become the biggest problem of the Israeli left, which is unable to create a space that it can enter, and repeatedly encounters the baseless claim that everything is taken, there’s already a left here, and firing inside the tank is forbidden.

There’s no such thing as a Zionist left because the terms “left” and “Zionist” are contradictory, and will never make peace with one another. While the basic definition of the universal left is “equality for all, regardless of religion, race and gender,” the basic definition of Zionist is “a national home for the Jewish people.” And the practical application of this is that a Jew has an inherent advantage, not only because of his recent past in Europe, but because he’s a Jew, the simplest explanation.

To create the left that democratic Israel needs so badly, because after all there’s no democracy without two political blocs of equal value, Meretz – the party that has eroded and disgraced the values of the left until nothing remains of them except, let’s say, some sort of cool Tel Aviv atmosphere, must disband, admit its failure and scatter among other parties. I’m convinced that each of the five (outstanding) MKs of this party without influence will quite easily find an alternative mission and salary.

Why is that important? Why is such a step not only self-evident, but essential? Not because Meretz, according to some public opinion surveys, can barely reach the minimum threshold to enter the Knesset, but because Meretz has no moral right to exist as long as it simultaneously uses both descriptions. Its insistence on the impossible link between the “left” and the “Zionist” attests not only to a profound conservatism and a pointless toadying to the Israeli mainstream (which isn’t buying this lie, and rightly so), it also attests to Meretz’s empty, wasteful use of universal values that have become eroded over the years, until they have become the big joke of the populist right.

Add to this the fact that Meretz, despite its Sisyphean efforts, does not excel in connecting to communities that are not Ashkenazi-secular-bourgeois-Tel Avivian, and that it has never taken a prominent role in workers’ struggles, for example, or in social struggles (Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Haredi and even Russian). And perhaps even its halfhearted support for most of Israel’s wars and military operations, not to mention its focus on the occupation, or on the rights of women and LGBTs (which, as we know, can also be found in other parties, on both the right and the left) and you too will reach the same conclusion: Meretz is finished.

Meretz must leave the stage, alone, unaided, erect and with chin up, and allow the new left, which is more varied and aggressive, the left that will redefine Zionism and its goals, to try its luck. Because as the poet said, there’s no room for two on the electricity pole.

True, it won’t be easy. Zionism is a dramatic, almost sacred component in the eyes of most Jews, even those who define themselves as leftist. But a responsible mention of what Zionism has done to the Mizrahim and the Haredim, for example, or even to education, sports and the law, will enable a serious shake-up of the most basic values of Israeli society, the preparation of a list of moral and realistic objectives, and may even help formulate a new vision that will emerge from these ashes.

Because Zionism, any way you look at it, is the scaffolding with which the State of Israel was built. After the state’s establishment, there is no longer any need for that scaffolding, it’s superfluous, it can be stored away, and we can skip over to the next page in our shared history book. Because otherwise, let me tell you a secret, it will become the absolute justification for the occupation, oppression, force and cruelty. Oh, has that happened already?

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