Opinion

Political Correctness Harms Israel's Left, Especially at Election Time

From right: Nitzan Horowitz, Stav Shaffir, Ehud Barak at a Democratic Union party meeting, Tel Aviv, October 14, 2019
Tomer Appelbaum

One reason for my willingness to meet with right-wing media people who have hair-raising opinions is my commitment to having fun. After all, there’s the beer and shot of whiskey toward noon, the good-natured insults from both sides of the table, and the possibility that this amusing situation will dispel the darkness.

But when you’re talking with leading lights on the left, the frustration is that the tea with ginger they serve is accompanied by unbearable gravitas. Sorry, maybe the word gravitas doesn’t include the entire idiotic experience I’m trying to describe.

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As someone close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told me, “Once you guys had all the fun. You were well informed, you dressed cool and you listened to good music. And we, the nebbishes from the Bnei Akiva religious-Zionist youth movement, envied you. Now we feel sorry for you. You no longer know how to have fun!”

And it’s true, it’s as if we have a Sanhedrin – an assembly of elders from ancient times – of the liberal left. And the constant effort to adapt ourselves to this Sanhedrin and the fear of being battered by it is exhausting. Let’s tell it like it is: Political correctness, as important as it may be, has taken over the public discourse, and according to the new priorities, we’re more appalled by the live transport of animals for slaughter than by the bitter lives of the Palestinians.

Education Minister Rafi Peretz’s interview with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth this week, and the reactions to it by the left on social media, are perfect examples of this. Even though his remarks about LGBT people and “natural” families are abhorrent to the majority, and there’s no danger that Israeli society will regress 50 years, the comments set off an uproar. Of course both Labor’s Itzik Shmuli and Meretz’s Nitzan Horowitz confidently jumped on this sentiment, and during the ensuing ruckus it was forgotten that Peretz has proposed annexing the West Bank, denying the Palestinians the right to vote and establishing an apartheid regime.

The left-wing parties are the mirror that reflects our faces. They’re the reverberating echo of our mediocre souls that are trapped in the same moldy paradigms. They’re our victim, as we are theirs. A constant balance of fear exists between us and them: The parties have repeatedly warned us they’ll be wiped out if we don’t overcome our disgust with them and vote; the base has warned that if the parties don’t merge, they’ll be finished.

This rotten, passionless marriage has to end. That’s why four days before the closing of the party tickets it finally looks like there will be some kind of link-up. And on the eve of the Meretz convention I’m willing to take a risk and bet that after all the bells and whistles, the next party slate will be identical to the one for the September election. Is that the right thing? I don’t know and don’t really care. The tribe will have had its say.

This rotten, passionless marriage has to end. That’s why four days before  I’m willing to prophesize that there will be some kind of link-up. And on the eve of the Meretz convention I’m willing to take a risk and bet that after all the bells and whistles, the next party slate will be identical to the one for the September election. Is that the right thing? I don’t know and don’t really care. The tribe will have had its say.

The same is true of the proposal by Labor Party leader Amir Peretz for a major link-up with Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan. Would that be good or practical? I think it would be. It’s certainly worth deeper consideration than it has received, but Peretz received a hasty diagnosis, was labeled crazy and was sent to do what’s expected of him.

My Haaretz colleague Ravit Hecht has written that there is no rational way to explain the behavior of the left-wing Zionist parties. Is there a rational way to explain the stagnation, the bullying and the mediocrity of everyone participating in this discussion, who have been repeating the same three and a half ideas for years?

So decency requires that we tell the truth to both these frightened parties: It’s not only you, it’s also us, totally. And the truth is, we don’t expect you to insist on uncompromising values. Ideology will have to wait.

What we want you to do is compromise, show some flexibility and make sure that the center-left bloc will have enough seats to form a government. Be pragmatic and help us get rid of Netanyahu. Later we’ll find time for the postmortem.