Opinion |

Israel's Left-wing Groups Should Close Shop

These organizations are not really bringing peace or an end to the occupation any closer. Let’s see what Israel looks like without B’Tselem and Peace Now and Breaking the Silence.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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A tour held by the B'tselem human rights group in the West Bank.
A tour held by the B'tselem human rights group in the West Bank in 2012.Credit: Michal Fattal
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

The periodic attacks on left-wing organizations and human rights groups in Israel are despicable. The time has come to deal with them differently. The various governments headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the metastases that they have spawned will of course never have enough of these attacks. As pathetic as they may be, the attacks have achieved their goals of incitement and diversion of attention. They are short-term but effective spin efforts that manage to spare the right wing and its government the blame for the current reality, attributing it instead to a few short-lived organizations (as Netanyahu characterized them), in which just a handful of staff and volunteers are involved.

On one occasion, it’s B’Tselem. On another, it’s Breaking the Silence. One time, it’s for testifying before the United Nations. Another time, it’s over an exhibit in Geneva. The attacks will also of course occur in the event of another pointless and hopeless military operation, another lethal wave of terrorist attacks or a humiliating diplomatic debacle.

The rationale for them was stated simply by Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, who said the following: “It’s always possible to make citizens follow their leaders’ orders. It’s easy. All that is needed is that they be told that they are under attack, denouncing those seeking peace for their lack of patriotism, for exposing the country to danger. It works the same everywhere.”

Everywhere? Maybe, but in the crazy Israel of the past several years, this witch hunt has also been getting backing from the “opposition.” Two unsubstantial, lowly political parties that glorify themselves with names such as the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid (meaning “there is a future”), take their places on the front lines of this persecution with the declared purpose of “connecting to the people.” That, in their view, is the essence of Zionism and what it appears the future holds: A wall-to-wall national unity government confronting a line-up of scapegoats.

As the occupation enters its 50th year, it would be fitting, however, to seriously consider an approach that has not been tried before. The left wing and human rights organizations should announce that they are suspending their activity.

Isn’t the state persecuting them, inciting against them, enacting laws restricting their activity, labeling their members, trying to limit their sources of funding? Now is the time to tell the state: “Okay, you’ve won. Let’s see Israel without B’Tselem, without Peace Now, without Breaking the Silence, without Machsom Watch. Let’s see Israel without Combatants for Peace, and Bereaved Families for Peace and Gush Shalom and the Geneva Initiative and the Committee Against Torture and Yesh Gvul and Yesh Din and Lawyers for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights and Rabbis for Human Rights and others.”

Let’s see what Israel looks like without its fig leaves and without the facade of democracy. In the next phase, if the boycotts and incitement against the political left continue, the Joint List and Meretz parties should consider suspending their parliamentary activities. Let’s see how the world receives such an Israel.

Moreover, for all their welcome Sisyphean work, these organizations are not really bringing peace or an end to the occupation any closer. At most, they are just nipping at it, stopping a specific injustice here or there with their remaining strength.

Most of Israeli society is turning its back on them. A large number of Israelis accuse them of stabbing the country in the back. Perhaps the just people of Sodom should let the UN Security Council deal with the occupation, let monitoring of the settlements be handled by the Americans. They should let violations of human rights be dealt with by the UN Human Rights Council and the investigation of war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and let the Palestinians deal with the uprising.

Maybe the time has come to stop playing into the dirty hands of the right wing and its collaborators.

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