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The Palestinians Can't Count on the Mercy of Israel's 'Moderate' Left

Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor
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Benny Gantz at a ceremony marking Israel's Memorial Day at the Knesset, Jerusalem, April 26, 2020.
Benny Gantz at a ceremony marking Israel's Memorial Day at the Knesset, Jerusalem, April 26, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Yitzhak Laor
Yitzhak Laor

What was the Zionist left thinking before it was extinguished by the occupation? When the military government prevented Palestinians within Israel from returning to the land that they owned, pinned them to the places where they were living and limited their ability to become fully equal citizens? The “creeping annexation” taking place in the West Bank since 1967 has been based on that success.

LISTEN: Annexation vexation comes between Bibi and the settlersCredit: Haaretz

Even the doves were afraid of this. Their enterprise was about to collapse even before the Mizrahim became a part of the Israeli project. In contrast, the settler fascism grew out of this expression: I am for my army, and my army is for me; money and weapons are my redemption. The Land of Israel created a new, monarchist nation: “[Menahem] Begin, Arik [Sharon], Bibi, King of Israel.”

Then came U.S. President Donald Trump. Not only were TV commentators contorted, even Haaretz columnists were bent out of shape. Gideon Levy recommended accepting annexation: “Annexation would also put an end to the lies, and require everyone to look the truth straight in the eye.” But whose eye? Levy is the most important of them but even for him there is no Palestinian voice, only a cry of pain, the voice of the righteous Jew representing the struggling Palestinians.

The anticolonial discourse long ago became a conversation with the merciful and generous West. The left, for all its compassion and NGOs, forgot the right to self-determination. Usually its mercy lasts until the first military funeral on television, or until the first terror attack on a bus, and thus cannot maintain a long and difficult struggle. But the Palestinians haven’t forgotten this right, nor its clear expression, the Palestine Liberation Organization. After a decades-long bloody struggle, the leadership returned to the homeland. Aluf Benn’s recent oped (June 4) was symptomatic. The editor of Haaretz broke down possible arguments from the “left” into suggestions made in Hebrew and English to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “Palestinian consent to any discussion of the ‘deal of the century’ … would amount to an appalling national humiliation.” These leftists, “will justify the indifference and intransigence from Ramallah in the name of honor.” Who are these Orientalist leftists that he conjured up? Shin Bet security service agents? It doesn’t matter; Benn also knows better than the Palestinians – the right of return, the release of prisoners, dismantling settlements, the fear of a civil war, it’s all passé. The word “rejectionist” reveals the mildew.

Benn’s “we” is not original. This is the “moderate” side that the Americans promise to support in any internal political dispute within the strong state with regard to a military conflict with others (the Morgenthau doctrine). That’s been the role of the “moderates” throughout the generations. From Abba Eban, through Peace Now, Meretz all the way to Benny Gantz – all were waiting for Washington, but Washington invested a lot more in the army and the settlers.

The most prominent example of the position of the “moderates” was the invention of the “disappointed left” at the beginning of the second intifada in the fall of 2000. Haaretz’s supplement spoke to a few chosen intellectuals whose common denominator was their “Concern for our Jewish-democratic future.” For years they’d kept silent, so as not to disturb Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak, and then the blame fell on the Palestinians.

Now again the “moderates” are suggesting we rely on them, as if we didn’t rely on them at Oslo, as if there is a territorial difference between the hawks and the doves. So what will be? There will be a struggle, perhaps an armed one. “They never missed an opportunity.” Who? Those who didn’t fulfill their role. “We, the moderates,” and your representatives in the West.

In every colonial state, the left accepts the leadership of the dominated minority. Will that leadership support a joint struggle toward one state? The PLO will decide and the left will join it. Will the PLO insist on two states? We will retain our sympathetic loyalty to it and remember: Israel is only one side of the equation (“the most possible land with the least possible Arabs”). The Palestinians are the other side, and they are waiting for the left.

The dream of the pleasant Zionist is dead.

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