The Lonely Life of the Subversive Israeli Leftist

If Israelis like me are 'radical left,' then there are no more moderates among us and the whole country is right, posing as 'center.'

Yossi Sarid
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Left wing and right-wing protesters face-off in Haifa, July 19, 2014.Credit: Rami Shalosh
Yossi Sarid

When they asked me to sign the letter to the members of the British Parliament I did not hesitate for a moment. What they need to know is this: There are some Israelis who think differently, who never heard of Labor MK Hilik Bar, the opposition spokesman. Where was he, this Hilik, when they were handing out brains?

And this is what we : “We, Israelis who worry and care for the well-being of the state of Israel, believe that the long-term existence and security of Israel depends on the long-term existence and security of a Palestinian state. For this reason we, the undersigned, urge members of the U.K. Parliament to vote in favor of the motion to be debated on Monday 13th October 2014, calling on the British Government to recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.”

During the debate, our words were quoted in our name and perhaps had some effect. I promise: Any similar initiative will also get a letter of encouragement.

The indefatigable subversion of official policy on the part of my friends and myself hasn’t just begun now. When I was an elected official and even before I was considered one of the “radical leftists,” even then I tried to incite and inflame foreign elements against my fellow countrymen. Had the Im Tirtzu mischief-makers set up their “Zionist Guards of Democracy” sooner, they would long ago have revealed my true face and deplored it. I would have chalked up their disapprobation as a mark of commendation.

If Israelis like us are “radical left,” then there are no more moderates among us and the buck stops there; then the whole country is right and more right, which sometimes poses as “center.” And if the choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea, then we decided long ago: We are staying in Israel and not fleeing to Tarshish or Berlin from the ship that is “like to be broken” (Jonah 1:4.) And no one is going to be able to cast us into the sea, with the hope of stopping its raging. We know how to swim in a tempest and against the strong and murky currents. Old fish are still live fish, who don’t get swept up in the sewage; we still have what it takes.

We aren’t leaving the country but we are leaving the flock. We have never agreed to sit with the devil and listen to his hissing. Among our own people we stand proud, we don’t sit around.

I remember an act of subversion of mine, one of many: Joschka Fischer, formerly Germany’s foreign minister and chairman of the Greens, is my friend and we would meet now and then in good times and bad. At a time when he was playing a central role in international politics, I came to him with a grievance: You are collectively friends of Israel and you yourself are a good friend. Precisely for that reason, and for the sake of Zion, you must not keep silent about a crime; and you must not, for the sake of Jerusalem, keep silent about the errors of its policy. You are betraying your loyalty to us when you spare us your rod.

Fischer taught me a lesson in realpolitik: Yossi, he said, don’t labor under any delusions. Germany, with its dark history, will be the last to lift a hand against “the Jewish state.” The key is in the hands of America, not Europe.

It was then, years ago, that I understood: If a prisoner doesn’t extricate himself from the penitentiary, nobody from the outside is going to manage to get him out of there either, because he is the one who put his feet in the shackles of his own free will and even open prisons are full of patriots.

Fischer was right in his assessment of Germany. It is no secret that Chancellor Angela Merkel loathes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but nevertheless she agreed last week to give Israel a grant of hundreds of millions of euros for the purchase of three missile ships. One can only hope that guilt feelings over murdering my grandparents will not drag an additional source of German guilt in their wake.

But Fischer was wrong, apparently, regarding Europe: Just recently it has begun to show signs of being an awakening continent. Congratulations from here to the Swedish government and to the British Parliament, and perhaps on the wings of the evil at Givat Hamatos sanctions will also fly.

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