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Some Israeli Leftists Are Just Reactionaries Dressed in Revolutionaries’ Clothing

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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A removal truck, carrying an anti-Netanyahu sign, in Jerusalem in front of the prime minister official residence, yesterday.
A removal truck, carrying an anti-Netanyahu sign, in Jerusalem in front of the prime minister official residence, yesterday. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

In the current political and social situation, there are those who cannot decide what to do with Benjamin Netanyahu. Is he still significant, or are we simply unable to erase him from our awareness? There are those who still search for Bibi-ists in every corner, whether avowed or secret, right-wing or left.

They are one-trick ponies. They find it hard to reinvent themselves without Netanyahu, and are putting fear of his return to the center of their emotional world. There’s no doubt that Netanyahu himself wants to make it seem as if he still has a foot in the door, that any minute he will break up the government and return to Balfour Street. He has also instructed Likud members to continue to call him prime minister, which some journalists and, to great embarrassment, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett himself, have continued to do, almost instinctively. What the unconscious does to us behind our backs.

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But it’s more interesting to examine the consciousness of those who have devoted their whole being to fighting Netanyahu, the man and the symbol, who have found themselves suddenly devoid of ideas. They are not facing the future; their dreams and imaginations are not focused on some new horizon. They are entrenched in the past and are trying to negotiate their rescue from there, with their first condition being the return of the world before Bibi.

That’s why they are also seeking to battle time through stability, stagnation and inaction. To return to those times when all Likudniks were loud, hand-waving riffraff, and the secular-Ashkenazi camp could bask in the purity of Merav Michaeli and her popular feminism, even if she ordered her party to vote for a law that constitutes ethnic discrimination.

In their world we must swallow the bitter bill of the demolition of the homes of 60 Palestinians, confiscation of their belongings and the erasure of their village, and lick our lips in thanks. We must not rethink issues like the citizenship law, we must reconcile ourselves with a sigh to the nation-state law, we cannot ask questions about the true meaning of equality for Arab citizens or about evacuating an illegal outpost, because all these are ticking time bombs that were left for the new government to detonate. We must not dream of building a better future, because that might anger Ayelet Shaked – although those who have tried to ascertain her margins of flexibility on issues of principle to the left get the impression that they are very narrow.

If you want them to pour sewage on your head and call you an impotent purist, who fears taking responsibility for running the country, or a sourpuss – it seems that the label Netanyahu gave to leftists has taken root – all you have to do is challenge the empty narrative that it was the Balfour protests (and not Gideon Sa’ar) that led to Netanyahu being replaced. Then the McCarthyist cells of first-generation leftists, those old-fashioned, conservative types, will hunt you down, you leftist for whom nothing is enough and who has difficulty getting excited about saving democracy solely for Jews.

The truth is that those first-generation leftists are closer to Bennett and Sa’ar than there are to Mossi Raz and to Ayman Odeh. They despise identity politics and multiculturalism. They want one culture. Theirs. Minority groups don’t enter their line of sight. They insist we act with restraint, so they can maintain the change government at any price. It is so well suited to people like them, for whom the only necessary change is to turn back the clock to the pre-Bibi era. If it were up to them, to preserve the Bennett-Lapid government there would be no discussion of the future, no questions. This is the sum total of the world of reactionaries in revolutionaries’ clothing: Bibi. First leave, now don’t come back, and to hell with the world.

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