As the Israeli spring approaches, it’s important to start thinking of political alternatives to Benjamin Netanyahu in particular and to the right wing in general. There’s a genre of articles mockingly called “the problem with the left” in left-wing circles. This is no accident. The left’s mockery is one of its fundamental problems.
In a fascinating interview with Gadi Taub (“Shaking off the diversity obsession,” November 24, 2017), the American political philosopher Mark Lilla explained the Democrats 2016 election loss by the fact that identity politics had taken over liberal thought. Worse, he detected in identity politics the left’s submission to the right’s terminology.
For what if not identity-based separation stood behind the Ku Klux Klan, slavery and segregation? Identity politics, said Lilla, speaks of “groups,” but such talk is only a disguise for radical individualism. “This is the reason why within every group there will be subgroups or individuals who will say that, for instance, feminism is actually white or straight, or that black feminism still excludes lesbians, or that lesbian feminism excludes Hispanic or obese women. Or that the letters LGBT exclude queers, asexuals and a seemingly endless number of others, each of whom believes that none of those letters describes their private case with sufficient precision. Because the principle behind all this is the prohibition on every attempt to define me from the outside, and so every attempt to find what two individuals have in common denies their singular self-definition. It follows that there are not, and cannot be, stable coalitions in these circles. Within a short time they start to accuse one another of oppression.”
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As expected, this interview was received with contempt in leftist circles; after all, it was written by that intellectual deserter Taub. But this is a serious problem that should not be taken lightly. In fact, Lilla is describing a way of thinking that acts like cancer in the political body that carries it. Like cancer it makes the political body cells divide uncontrollably. It takes over the body’s systems until it stops functioning. Anyone looking at the political body called “the Israeli left” will see exactly that: a thin, weak body, consisting of countless split, redundant cells. In fact, this body is not only incapable of setting up coalitions – that is, to bring together different groups for a joint cause – but is striving against the very possibility of joining people to a group, a possibility that is the basis of establishing society, not to mention a party.
Every political group seeks to increase its strength by expanding. But identity politics creates more and more categories and sub-categories, which set up their own criteria to exclude others. The left always says it wants to expand its ranks and appeal to new communities, but in fact it keeps raising the moral fee its members have to pay. It won’t be long, for example, before the left closes its doors to anyone who isn’t vegetarian. The endless list of ideals and principles, which each leftist is required to agree to (or shut up) turns, in the case of political candidates, into a list of criteria that acts as an identity filter. It’s already difficult to think of a heterosexual Ashkenazi man at the head of a left-wing party. Not only because he won’t be elected, but because one needs a sterile biography in order to consider submitting one’s candidacy.
No wonder there are more youngsters in politics. Older men are becoming dangerous; they have lived, after all, so they must be guilty of something. One wonders if those next in line for exclusion will be heterosexual Mizrahi men, or heterosexual Ashkenazi women.