Israel's Left Needs to Drop Self Pity

The only alternative to a state that disregards all minorities is a sane left supported by the large segment of the population that is not locked into one worldview.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

One can hear the lamentations coming from Israel’s left, perhaps also from its center. It is the silent weeping of those indulging in self-pity, viewing themselves as victims. The Israeli left, even its moderate elements, does not call itself “Zionist”, since it does not concord with the depths of its self-pity. If Zionism now takes the shape of Avigdor Lieberman, Ze’ev Elkin and Uri Ariel, they want no part of it. If these are the ones now embodying Zionism, the Israeli left no longer embraces it.

By doing so, the left is situating itself exactly where its opponents want it to be. In their opponents’ eyes the left is defined as “post-Zionist and anti-Israel.” The left no longer bothers to reject this pejorative imagery, since it has relinquished the belief that a return to sanity, progress and tolerance can be achieved through the ballot box. Does anyone really believe that the left will return to take on a leadership role? Does anyone believe that by distancing and alienating oneself from the leaders of Yesh Atid, Meretz, Labor and Hatnua an alternative can be found? I very much doubt it.

The biggest problem with the Israeli left is that it has stopped thinking in concrete political terms. It has stopped thinking of ways to build an alternative to Danny Danon, Elkin and Lieberman, who have set out to use every position and bit of power in their hands to change Israel’s norms and values. When the left decries the damage they inflict on democracy or on the delicate balance between a Jewish and a democratic state, they only shrug their shoulders. They intend to lead Israel precisely to the place the left fears it will reach: a Jewish state that disregards all minorities, that doesn’t believe in a political settlement to the conflict, that builds across the West Bank, that restricts its opponents’ opportunities to obtain funding and in which civil rights are in retreat.

At the fringes of the leftist camp there are some who cling to the hope that Israel’s condemnation by the outside world will bring about internal changes. This will not happen, even if sanctions are imposed by the United Nations or Europe (which the United States will oppose in any case.) Even if these cause economic hardships and a political shakeup, they won’t be effective. There certainly will be no support for those “post-Zionists” who were indifferent to the imposition of these sanctions.

The sane left has to come up with an alternative that will sweep up support from the large segment of the population that is not locked into one political worldview, and that is capable of changing its positions. Such a public would support a movement that appears patriotic and whose aims serve the political, economic and social interests of the general public. Achieving such a turnaround depends on the capacity to join together disparate movements, finding a common denominator for anyone who is not on the right, not a settler, and who does not reject equality as a value we should strive for.

Ahead of the next elections, a large movement should be established that will shake off the prevailing exploitative capitalism, which affects nearly all citizens. This movement should also free itself from the doctrine which claims that there is no chance of reaching a political resolution to the conflict. It should bestow on Israel a more civil, democratic and open image. This will be a large movement which will include all those who define themselves as “left”, but who are also open to influence from Israel’s center, as well as people who are content with being in the “center”, but who are sensitive to the same values the left holds dear.

If every small strand of society hunkers down in its own bunker, there is no chance of this happening. Furthermore, Israel’s demography will prevent this from happening a decade from now. People’s vision must now be courageous and realistic. One cannot isolate oneself within God’s little acre, feeling sanctimonious and indulging in self-pity.

New Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog; Can he create a broad-based opposition?Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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