The Left Only Has Value When It's in the Opposition

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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The first meeting of the opposition, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, in June.
The first meeting of the opposition, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, in June.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

I have to admit that I’m starting to miss the Netanyahu era. When he was prime minister at least we had an opposition. True, it limped and stuttered a bit, but the spirit of the opposition hovered over many city squares.

Today, there’s a chilling silence. If you raise your voice against any injustice, people get angry at you and, with a finger to their lips, indicate you should shut up. We must not dismantle the anti-Bibi camp.

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But you know what? If the price of the bloc’s cohesion is a flood of injustices against the Palestinians, your neutered bloc can go to hell.

When Meretz was in the opposition, it spoke out clearly against the occupation. Quite a few people from Yesh Atid also sounded like liberals. The Labor Party, before its embarrassing crawl into the bosom of the Netanyahu-Gantz government, had something to say on the matter as well. And last but not least, the Joint List, with its 15 Knesset seats, was solidly against the occupation.

It’s true that Netanyahu posed a concrete threat to democratic freedoms. But the bloc opposing him was brave, stormy and no less straight-forward than he.

But today? How do the Arabs put it? “The drum has been broken, and the lovers have scattered.” The drum that set the opposition dancing around lofty goals fell silent with the establishment of this “government of change.” The left has subordinated itself to the dictates of the Hardal (Haredi-nationalist) movement, handed down by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

I, too, was fed up with Netanyahu and his corrupt government. But when he was in power, I have to admit we didn’t witness as many atrocities against Palestinians by Jews whose forefathers, sometimes even their actual fathers and mothers, personally experienced the terrors of those dark days in Europe.

In his famous speech in 2016, Yair Golan, then the army’s deputy chief of staff, spoke of the horrifying “processes” that occurred there and warned that there is “evidence of them here” as well. But those processes came to fruition in 2021. And that happened at the very time Golan’s own party became a partner in the governing coalition and he himself a deputy minister.

These processes have “ripened,” Deputy Minister Golan, so why aren’t you doing your part to stop them? Is giving sober speeches fit only for being in the opposition, while doing nothing is fit for being in the coalition? The Zionist left, in its voracious appetite for power and urge to be numbered among the brigades of the empty patriots, has become a rubber stamp for nationalism and even fascism.

Golan has come down with a worrying ideological blindness; he sees these “processes” only when they affect democratic freedoms in Jewish society. Judging by his conduct, he doesn’t see the injustices committed against Palestinians having anything to do with these processes. It’s like separating the anti-democratic processes in Europe from the plagues of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Twists and turns are the nature of history. We thought the end of Netanyahu’s rule would be a springboard for fighting the dangerous views of the right. But wonder of wonders, after Netanyahu’s defeat, the right is once again raising its head, under the auspices of the “government of change.”

The Hardal movement has declared war against the Palestinian people, and the defense minister in the “government of change” is actually the one providing it with protection and closing off Palestinian villages in its honor, lest the villagers disrupt its Kristallnacht march. And that’s on top of the fact that settlement outposts are being established wholesale. And if the “left” in the government has nothing to say, that is tacit consent.

The obvious conclusion is that the left has value only when it’s in the opposition. It is more influential there, because it’s free of the constraints of power and thus feels able to go out into the streets and mobilize the public on behalf of its goals. The left and power evidently don’t go together. History teaches us that the alliance between the center-left Mapai party and the leftist Mapam, in every successive government from 1948 to 1977, was actually ultra-rightist in its treatment of the Palestinian people and Israel’s Arab citizens. The latter were subjected to a brutal military government to which even Likud’s then-leader, Menachem Begin, objected.

Now, under Labor chairwoman Merav Michaeli and Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz, we’re watching a rerun of that movie, without even a change of scenery. And we really don’t miss the Mapai-Mapam alliance. Not at all.

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