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Israel's Left Is Also Waiting for the Messiah

Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn
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Protesters raise signs at a Tel Aviv demonstration against annexing parts of the West Bank, February 1, 2020.
Protesters raise signs at a Tel Aviv demonstration against annexing parts of the West Bank, February 1, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn

Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” has delivered a knockout blow to the Israeli left. The camp that took such pride in representing rational Western thought, pure wisdom and refined logic in the Middle East has given up all this for the coming of the Messiah.

The shattering of half a century of illusion – that the “world” would quickly force Israel to end the occupation, leave the Palestinian territories and celebrate Palestinian independence – has pushed the leftists into the strategy of their political rivals from the religious right. Instead of a political action plan, they expect redemption from the heavens.

In Haaretz last week, Akiva Eldar promised that “one day the occupation will end. That will happen in 10 years from now, or 50, or 100.” And how does Eldar know that the Redemption will happen? It’s very simple: “Nations don’t give up their identity and their right to self-determination. They fight for them until blood flows, and in the end they win.”

Is this true? History is filled with examples of nations that lost their identity, were assimilated into other nations or lived for long periods under occupation and repression. It’s happening in our time, too, in the era of neoliberal globalization, Facebook and Twitter – and not just in the West Bank and Gaza. The peoples of Scotland, Tibet and Kurdistan are more ancient than the Palestinians, live in a contiguous territory and have a rich culture – but don’t enjoy national independence and are ruled from the outside.

And even if Eldar is right and the Israeli occupation finally ends in 2120, how exactly will this help the people alive now, or even their children? His only proposal to the Palestinian leaders, the present and future ones, is to stick to their national dignity and reject Netanyahu, Trump and their heirs’ humiliating proposals for surrender in the hope that the wheel turns and Israel weakens.

In other words, stick with the status quo until circumstances change. This is the exact plan of the Israeli right, which has been sitting on the territories in order to hatch them and expand the settlements until an American president appears who considers the occupation the historic right of the Jewish people, not a violation of international law – as his predecessors believed.

Similar to Eldar last week, my Haaretz colleague Dmitry Shumsky is sure that Israel will lose because “nothing will prevent making the question of Palestine the symbol of the global struggle between the supporters of equality and liberty and the International of Racists of All Countries, who will stand alongside the Israeli occupier.”

Shumsky doesn’t explain what prevented making Palestine such a symbol so far, and realizes that this is a utopian dream. But at least he offers a plan of action until the dream is fulfilled: “organized, coordinated civil disobedience” against the planned annexation in the West Bank. He doesn’t provide details on how the disobedience will be conducted “against Jewish ethnocratic rule in the occupied territories,” who will organize it and who will coordinate it.

As a first step, Shumsky, who until recently was an enthusiastic supporter of Meretz, now intends to voting for the Joint List of Arab parties, which in his view represents “civil and national equality between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River,” implying a switch from the idea of two states to a single state.

But this country of equality between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, which will end the ethnocratic occupation and melt Zionism into “Israstine,” will also end the Palestinian national movement. After all, the moment Hamas runs for the Knesset and Yahya Sinwar, the group’s leader in Gaza, swears allegiance under a picture of Theodor Herzl as “Hatikva” plays in the background, he’ll find it hard to wave the Palestinian flag with the same uncompromising resolve that Eldar promises. So maybe it’s simpler to wait for the Messiah to come and divide the land?

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