The Israeli Left's Test: Standing Up for Arab Labor Candidate

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin.
Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin.Credit: Meged Gozani
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Israel’s popular supreme tribunal, the TV talk show “Ofira and Berko” has ruled: Whoever doesn’t stand at attention for the Memorial Day siren doesn’t belong to Israel. “No excuse will help her,” the tribune Eyal Berkovic decided. “I’ll never forgive her. She can cry until tomorrow; she doesn’t belong in the Knesset,” the tribune Ofira Asayag determined. In the face of those barrages of slop, fascism and ignorance – the voice of the people – stood Labor Party chairwoman MK Merav Michaeli dignified and undaunted.

Michaeli, who defines herself as a “revisionist,” did not disavow the seventh member of her Knesset slate, as Yitzhak Rabin would certainly have done, and insultingly to boot. This is to her credit, of course. It’s just a pity that she mentioned in one breath the brave and authentic words of Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin, and sex offenders who have been rehabilitated. The connection is a wretched one. It’s also a pity that Mara’ana herself apologized for her remarks, which she made 10 years ago. They are still valid today for any Arab citizens who have not lost the last vestige of their national pride.

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The challenge that Mara’ana has placed on the doorstep of the Zionist left is earth­-shattering. It will be the test of this camp. Just as there is not and cannot be Arabs who observe the Sabbath, fast on Yom Kippur and wear a costume on Purim, there are not and cannot be Arabs who stand at attention on Memorial Day for IDF casualties, the soldiers who killed their people, conquered their land, expelled their forebears and who continue to abuse their brethren. An Arab who stands at attention for the siren lies in his soul and betrays his people. It’s as simple as that.

One can of course expect them to stand out of solidarity with the pain of Israelis and Jews, but even this solidarity can’t be demanded of them at a time when there is no solidarity with their fate and their heritage. Are Jews, Berko and Ofira for example, willing to stand at attention for the memorial siren of the casualties of the Nakba? Why not? Was there no Nakba? Were people not killed then? Were there no heroes? Should they not be remembered? Such a memorial day would have been instituted in Israel if only there were an egalitarian democracy here that respected all of its citizens. 

But Israel is the state of Jewish supremacy and therefore standing at attention is permitted only on the memorial day for the Jewish casualties. The memory of the other disasters of the people of this land must not be sanctified, nor even remembered. Those who feel differently and who can’t under any circumstances feel the way the Jews and the Zionists do must also be crushed.

How easy it is to understand Mara’ana: To drive while the siren sounds, of all times, to defy the sanctification of those who took over your country by force and decimated your people. Why should Mara’ana have to stand at attention in memory of Gideon Bachrach, the soldier of whom I think during the siren (I’m named after him), who conquered, expelled and perhaps even massacred the inhabitants of Tantura, the village next to Mara’ana’s village, Furedis? Why not keep driving in protest that there is no memorial day for the dead of her people, not even a memorial minute?

This brave woman also dared to touch on another sanctum sanctorum, the Holocaust: She dared ask about the sex life in the camps. The excellent documentary filmmaker Ada Ushpiz wrote over the weekend on Facebook that research on this charged and important subject has recently gained traction and reveals another angle on the loss of humanity in the Holocaust. That is what Mara’ana meant, but she must not say Holocaust, she’s an Arab. She’s also a woman and so she was burned at the stake, like her two courageous predecessors, former MK Haneen Zoabi and MK Hiba Yazbek. It is no coincidence that they are women; the right wing is a hero when it comes to the weak. But the real test is the test of the left. 

The left must embrace Mara’ana and respect her opinions. She is married to a Jew, she joined a Zionist party – what more does Zionism expect of her? Other than collaborators, there are no Arabs who can feel any differently than she does. Neither is there a left wing except the kind that knows how to accommodate the positions of the members of the other people that lives here. Those who don’t stand up for Mara’ana are not left wing. They are right wing.

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