If Only Israel's Radical Left Had the Power Ari Shavit Says It Has

By Ari Shavit’s reasoning, two and a half individuals are to blame for almost everything. For instance, Benjamin Netanyahu is in power – because of Yitzhak Laor.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in.
A demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in.Credit: Jini
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

There is no radical left in Israel. Such a left is anarchist and sometimes even terrorist, as in Europe and Latin America. In Israel, where even Isaac Herzog is seen as “left” and Yair Lapid as “center” – when they’re both moderate right – what counts as radical left is the only left that exists here, and that is moderate left. All the rest are 50 shades of right wing, with an alarming, herd-like consensus and too little real difference of opinion.

Everyone agrees on all the wars, everyone enlists together against all international criticism and meanwhile the occupation arouses no active resistance. And wonder of wonders, in this sticky, unified mess the negligible minority that thinks otherwise, the extinct species, manages to arouse rage and hatred to such an extent that you’d think it was a majority. Such rage can only attest to one thing: the majority’s uncertainty about the rightness of its way.

The litmus test isn’t whether you identify with the left or right, but whether you identify with Zionism, that deceptive, undefined, anachronistic, expired value that distinguishes between legitimate Israelis and the rest. Are you on our side or the enemy’s? Say “Zionist” and you’re not radical. Good, you’re saved. Say “not Zionist” and you’re out. A pity, you’re extinct. When Zionism is a religion, heresy is treason. Anyone who dares to undermine Zionism’s validity, as the majority sees it, is radical left, illegitimate, and lately even criminal.

Another accusation, more grotesque than all the others, has been added: because of the radical left, the right is in power. That shred of difference in Israeli society, that pinch of unregimented thinking, a feeble voice against the homogenous, raging, torrential chorus – that’s what is keeping the right in power. There’s no way of following the twisted logic of this argument, but Ari Shavit made it (“Israel's Radical Left Committe Suicide, and Now the Right Will Kill Us All," Haaretz, August 29). Shavit may call the leftists his “brothers and sisters” – how moving, I myself have only one brother and he’s not Shavit – and says he “ache[s] over their downfall,” fortunately for them.

Despite this, writes Shavit, the radical left has committed suicide, cut itself off from reality, severed itself from Israeli pride, treated the Palestinians with disparagement and worst of all, took its own life and is now helping the right to take all of our lives. Two and a half individuals are to blame for almost everything. Benjamin Netanyahu is in power – because of Yitzhak Laor; Miri Regev is there because of Ilana Hammerman; Herzog – because of Anat Matar and 800,000 settlers are there because of Zeev Sternhell.

Back to reality. Suicide was committed here, and it was by the Zionist left, which lost its way and became a cheap imitation of the right. In fact, it was always like that. Its death was inevitable – the right was always better at being right, the source is always superior to the imitation. The day on which the Zionist left founded the settlement project is the day it declared its suicide. Golda Meir, Yisrael Galili, Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon and Shimon Peres are the left’s executioners and the right’s kingmakers. Their heirs pronounced the left dead.

The radical left has no part in this. It deserves appreciation (which will still come) and not any moral preaching, certainly not from Shavit. It is the only faction on the left that speaks the truth and doesn’t pretend at Zionism. And the truth is that only because of the Zionist left (and the right, of course), the chance for the two-state solution – which Israel never meant to carry out for a moment – has been missed. And the truth is, further, that democracy contradicts the Jewish state, and the Jewish state contradicts democracy. And the truth, finally, is that only one of two possibilities remains: democracy or apartheid.

Political kamikaze? Possibly. Sometimes it’s the only way left. That’s the truth, and only the radical left is saying it.

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