Opinion |

Joint List or the Worst of All Evils

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh votes in Israel's March 2020 election, last year.
Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh votes in Israel's March 2020 election, last year.Credit: Rami Shllush
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The left I belong to doesn’t waste its time on tedious debates about which right-wing prime minister is preferable, be it Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Gideon Sa’ar or Yair Lapid. The fashionable squabbling over who is more suitable for crowning only highlights for those of us on the left how far we are from their world. And now we hear people saying that since these contenders’ parties are at the front of the political pack, and our own options are so skimpy, we should vote for the least of all evils.

Yet, each and every aforementioned leader who could become the next prime minister is the worst of all evils, a source of concern and fear. The fact that an Israeli prime minister is not a sole captain of the ship increases the fear. In the basic matters, which are the entrenching of this state’s colonialist nature or destroying the welfare system, prime ministers have always been part and parcel of an establishment that embraces, materializes and manages those ideologies. You can call it Zionism, the national project, a Jewish state. A big part of Jewish-Israeli society protects the fruits produced by the dispossessive domination over the Palestinians, fruits which balance out the ills of neoliberal policies. This equation lies at the root of Israelis’ overwhelming rightist tendencies.

The not-so-mysterious death of the Israeli left, six weeks to the election. LISTEN

In essence, the left stands on three legs: the adherence to the principle of equality among all human beings, the opposition to the state’s expropriating nature of the state on both sides of the Green Line, and the striving for a society in which capital would not dominate and profits and commodoties cease to determine the value of human beings and their lives. The linkage between them explains why the left is so shrunken, having so few options for voting.

The crumbling Kahol Lavan, or the more successful Yesh Atid, never came close in their essence to a “center-left,” let alone the left. Center-right would be a more apt description of these parties. One of the greatest conceptual distortions that’s arisen here is the identification of the left with middle- or upper-class Ashkenazi Jews, and with pilots who bombed refugee camps in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The sociological phenomenon whereby those two categories are not numbered among traditional right-wing voters (regardless of the number of Ashkenazi Jews and former defense establishment officials in the top echelons of Likud), does not make Labor a left-wing party, given that this was the party that established and developed the expropriation enterprise spanning between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Even before 1948, all strands of the labor movement utilized socialist institutions (like the kibbutzim and the Histadrut labor federation) to push out as much as possible the native Palestinian population from its homeland and from the political system. Jewish ethnocracy and expropriation are so inbred into the average Israeli that those socialist husks continue to define the labor movement as left-wing, even though these tools were discarded when they were no longer required for advancing the Zionist project. With all due sympathy to Labor leader Merav Michaeli, it’s hard to envision her small party entering a genuine process of assuming responsibility for the historical dispossession. The adherence of Meretz to a Zionist ideology is puzzling and off-putting. The new party called The Israel Democratic Party signals a healthy development, but it’s still too embryonic. The Joint List, whose components are not all left-wing, has disappointed.

So, is there no one to vote for? Not voting makes the election even more important than it is, as if we had more influence by not casting a ballot. This is a narcissistic attitude. We don’t wish to be and cannot be partners to a Zionist government, but not voting concedes something which nevertheless is taught by left-wing praxis: using any means at our disposal to express our ideas and to present alternatives anywhere possible, including in parliament.

Belonging to the left is characterized by an almost religious belief in the possibility of changing things for the better and by the obligation to act upon this belief, even in the prevailing darkness. This is why leftists are active in organizations such as the Koah Laovdim labor union, in helping the constantly harassed Masafer Yatta hamlets near Hebron, in feminist groups, in demonstrations in East Jerusalem’s Silwan against the eviction of this neighborhood’s residents, and in the protests at Balfour Street. This is why the Joint List, as the representative of the most dispossessed group in Israel, is deserving of our votes.

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