To Fight Rising Facism, Israel Needs a Third Political Camp – Now

A real alternative to replace Netanyahu’s rule has arisen: Kahol Lavan. The main question now is how to influence it and also how to build an alternative to it

Hadash-Ta’al Chairman Ayman Odeh, formerly head of the Joint Arab List, voting in Israel's election, April 9, 2019
Rami Shllush

During the next election we will witness tens of thousands of cameras surveilling voters at the polling stations, without any regard to religion, race or gender – and everyone will inform on everyone else. In a loving home, a daughter will tell her father how she filmed her teacher confessing that Arabs are human beings too.

What began with 1,200 cameras at polling stations serving the Israeli Arab community in order "to preserve the integrity of the election” – and, say those behind the initiative, was done with the knowledge of Likud, whose leader Benjamin Netanyahu is of course known as the standard-bearer of integrity – will later be used against Jewish “traitors” too.

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The rising wave of fascism has reached dangerous heights indeed when citizens, and not government institutions, decide to take action and the leader, in this case Netanyahu, does not even need to ask them to do so – after all, the patriotic public can read the mind of its leader. And who knows what else the machinery of evil is preparing for us at this very moment, while we are busy with our day-to-day concerns.

It turns out that the lone drops, which began with the right-wing Ad Kan NGO filming the activities of the Arab-Jewish Ta’ayush organization, have thickened into a steady rain that could well lead to a disaster.

As an aside, I would just like to note one dry fact here: The hacking of telephones, recently attributed to the Iranians? It was done only to the phones of Netanyahu’s opponents, on both sides of the political divide: Benny Gantz, Ehud Barak, Ayelet Shaked and Gideon Sa’ar.

When such a player, in other words fascism, enters the game we must reorganize ourselves accordingly – including updating our lists of rivals and friends. Otherwise, our situation will be like that of the democrats in Europe back in the era of darkness, when they suffered from the disease of dogmatism and did not differentiate between social-democratic parties and fascist ones, and put them all in the same basket.

The growth of a new camp in this political territory after the election demands rethinking. True, Kahol Lavan is full of right-wingers, both political and ideological, but we must still look for the differences between that party and Likud: Not only because it has Knesset members with a liberal approach, such as Yael German, Ofer Shelah and others – but also because the right in Kahol Lavan is different than the right-wing model of Netanyahu, Bezalel Smotrich and Gilad Erdan and their ilk.

Fascism, which in Hayamin Hehadash's election video clip was turned into an enticing fragrance, will continue after the election – and with even greater strength – to attack the legal system, the media, civil society and the Arab community in Israel by means of incitement and aggressive racist discourse, and almost certainly through violent acts too.

Therefore, with all the feelings of disappointment as a result of the election, it is important to note that nonetheless there is something new under the sun: A real alternative to replace Netanyahu’s rule has arisen. It may be that this camp is not to the taste of the forces of peace, but in the battle against the spread of fascism it is an achievement of the highest order.

The main question now is how to influence this camp and at the same time how to build an alternative to it – which we'll call by the name the “third camp” – that will challenge it and also join forces with it at important junctions. Jewish-Arab forces can fill an important role in this mission; the Arabs, despite everything, have not been erased from the political map and they could very well be a central and steadfast asset.

Today, more and more people are convinced of the need to establish a third camp. Declarations on the matter by Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg are an important turning point, but she must reverse the equation: From creating an alliance with the Labor Party first and only after that with the parties active in the Arab community – to building an alliance with the Arab parties first and only after that with those from Labor who are up to the task.

At the same time, the Arab parties must stop placing all the “Zionist parties” in the same basket, from Meretz all the way to the Union of Right-Wing Parties. The time has come to deepen the awareness that we are all in the same boat against the fascist right. The time for the third camp is now.