The Only Israeli Left Is in the Streets

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Members of the Pink Front movement protesting in front of the prime minister residence's in Jerusalem, summer 2020.
Members of the Pink Front movement protesting in front of the prime minister residence's in Jerusalem, summer 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Every November 4 we forget that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was no more left-wing than Eyal Berkovic, the former soccer star who’s now a talk show host. On November 4 this year we’ll be declaring the death of the left for the 25th time.

There’s no left today except in the cunning minds of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and campaign strategist Moshe Klughaft. They need the left because that’s where they can direct all the anger and disappointment that Netanyahu is causing his voters. You’re complaining that you have no livelihood? Wait till the left replaces me; you’ll miss me yet.

Netanyahu’s old left is tattered Mapai, the forerunner of the Labor Party, and his new left is the "anarchists" whom no one knows how to describe precisely. Netanyahu supporters will squirm a bit before blaming things on anarchy (what, in Israel?), but they’ll happily explain to you what anarchists are (those who piss in people’s yards). Traitorous leftists is Netanyahu’s message. Nothing will redeem them – not the military cemeteries, not the stories of the pioneers and certainly not the kibbutzim.

What are they betraying? They’re betraying “love of the land.” Love of the land is the most important flag the right is raising, basically the only one. After all, our right wing isn’t really right-wing and Likud isn’t the Republicans. What does this right wing have to do with the free market? With privatization? Shake it hard and the only thing that will fall out is “love of the land.”

Ask people who only love the land: “How is it that you don’t favor equality – how can you oppose justice? Do you have something against human rights?” They’ll knit their brow and look for the trap. In the end they’ll simply turn their backs, walk away and mutter something bad about Mapai. Don’t bother asking them about equality before the law.

With what excuse can an ordinary person dismiss “justice and equality?” The excuse is that this is “elitist talk.” The assumption is that human rights, democracy and equality only interest the elites, those who have no worries. If you say “elites” you mean the left. Elites always come in groups. You won’t be able to identify an elitist on the street. It’s said that such people are cold and haughty; we can confidently say they aren’t Jews.

Elites stand in complete contradiction to anything that’s authentic; they’re the opposite of Grandma’s matza balls and Kiddush at Shabbat meals. Elites love the world, and the right (“the people”) loves the Land of Israel. (You decide what works best here.)

Modern society always has an elite – intellectual, financial or political. But the elites deny their identity because every society hates its dependence on the elites. Every society hates everything they represent, from their backgrounds to their education.

There is no left and no leftists, but the demonstrators are defending the values of the left, democracy and equality before the law. These aren’t values that can be subject to coalition talks; they’re too beautiful for the muck of politics. They have no political value because if you don’t accept one of them, you’ve negated all of them. Occupation doesn’t go with a democratic state, and a Jewish state doesn’t fit with the separation of religion and state.

It’s not by chance that no parties have declared themselves leftist. At most, they call themselves the Zionist left. But Zionism doesn’t go with leftism, just as occupation doesn’t go with human rights. Leftism doesn’t sell well at the polls; things like equality and human rights can’t compete with the money-power-honor of Netanyahu’s bulldog Miki Zohar.

The left has no chance in politics. The left can’t cope with a public whose political worldview has been forged by 73 years of aggressive, nationalist education. The left doesn’t have the tools to handle people who’ve been their getting information filtered by a mobilized and submissive media; it doesn’t know how to lie, threaten and prevaricate, and there’s no Israel-style democracy without all that.

When a party is finally formed that’s labeled “left,” it won’t be able to resist and will seek a retired general, a budding writer and a reality show refugee. It will then join the governing coalition and call this “influencing from within.” A party declaring itself leftist and removing “Zionist” from its name will be forced to compromise on principles that can’t be compromised on. It might be in the government, but then it won't be on the left.

The state has survived tougher times – the Altalena, the controversy over the German reparations, the Mizrahim’s Black Panthers movement. But those were childhood illnesses, the measles and mumps of a young country. Nine-year-olds get sick and recover; 73-year-olds simply die.

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