Opinion |

The Israeli Left Cannot Commit Suicide, It's Already Dead

The left is bleeding on the floor. The worst advice that can be given to the left right now is the kind that is being offered: to lean more to the right, to repress itself more, to lie more

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Tamar Zandberg celebrating after being chosen to be the new leader of the left-wing Meretz party on March 22.
Tamar Zandberg celebrating after being chosen to be the new leader of the left-wing Meretz party on March 22.Credit: Meged Gozani
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The dead don’t commit suicide. It’s too late. A terminally ill person usually finds it difficult to take his own life too, even “shooting himself in the foot” is hard for him. That’s how it is in life, and in death. All the lamenting about the “suicidal left” as described by Nehemia Shtrasler (Haaretz in Hebrew, March 27), simulates a non-existent reality: there is a left in Israel, it’s about to thrive, and then it commits suicide.

Well, there’s hardly any left, it’s certainly not thriving, so it is incapable of committing suicide. The left itself may be partly to blame for its dying, but not because it’s “going ho to destroy every possibility of winning,” or because it “excels at killing its leaders,” or because it doesn't lie enough like the right, as Shtrasler notes with envy. The Zionist left has lost its way, it has nothing unique to offer, it is less different than the right than it seems, it has no worthy leadership and it is up against a system of brainwashing and de-legitimization.

That is why it lies bleeding on the floor. The Zandberg affair – in which the new Meretz leader used a campaign consultant who previously worked for the far right, then lied about it – could serve as a positive reminder of what the left should and could have done: fought for its uniqueness. Not suicide.

The worst advice that can be given to the left right now is the kind that is being offered: to lean more to the right, to use the right’s consultants, to practice the right’s methods, to move further to the center, to repress itself more, to lie more, because that’s what everyone does. Even the advice to open its ranks to new groups is hollow. They too must be approached with something new, not with more of the same. The harsh attack on Tamar Zandberg was a reminder that the dying left still has enough libido to rise up and say: We are not the right; neither in content nor method.

The Zionist left has an almost genetic structural problem — the awful contradiction between the left and Zionism, certainly in the reality of the Zionist apartheid of 2018 and the deliberate blurring of the term Zionism. The Zionist left is trying as hard as it can to hide the contradiction, cover it up, blur it, repress and deny it – but it doesn’t have a chance. As long as it sticks to its Zionism and as long as that Zionism is by definition a non-egalitarian ideology, which deprives, dispossesses, evicts and occupies, grants privileges to only one part of the country’s residents and not the other – that left cannot be a left. It’s merely a softer, more moderate right, a more restrained and liberally-styled version of the nationalist right.

That is not enough. The voter will always prefer the original, which is more authentic. That’s the deceptive web of lies in which the left is enshrouded, and it will be removed only if it touches the truth courageously and draws the necessary conclusions. It can’t have both – it’s one or the other. That’s also why the left is less resolved in its struggle than the right. On the Shomron hills in the West Bank Israelis are fighting for a cause that is clear; on Rothschild Boulevard they’re not. Not only because of temperament and self-indulgence issues, but because of the blurred path they are on.

The Labor Party is of course the mother of this deception, the mother of all sin, but Meretz, most of whose leaders still insist on defining themselves as Zionists, is also a partner to the treachery. Are they jealous of Naftali Bennett and Habayit Hayehudi? There they speak the truth. A fascist truth, but the truth. They don’t sweep it under the rug. That’s why the future is there. The Zionist left wants to have the best of all worlds – both Zionism and egalitarian humanism – and ends up losing them all.

Egalitarian humanism is not possible in an occupying country, with military oppression in its back yard. That’s why this left has no chance, with or without Moshe Klughaft. Zandberg and her party members are filled with good intentions to change the situation, to stop the deportation of asylum seekers, to increase equality for Israel’s Arabs, safeguard the courts and even end the occupation in the framework of a two-state solution. But they want to remain Zionists. And that doesn’t work. It’s an oxymoron.

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