Marketing the Truth Has Never Been Easy for Israel's Left

The left is often perceived as being elitist and condescending, but that's not necessarily our fault.

The Israeli left has surely made more than a few mistakes in recent years that have turned many people off. But even if it had done everything perfectly, it still wouldn't have been redeemed. Even in our prime, before our obsolescence, our hearts were not haughty, nor our eyes raised aloft. We fulfilled our mission with awe and reverence.

The left is often perceived as being elitist and condescending, but that's not necessarily our fault. We've tried to speak to people reasonably, out of respect for their opinions.

The bitterness people developed toward us did not stem from misunderstanding; on the contrary, they understood us all too well. Perhaps we were too clear, because we didn't blur our positions even during the wildest of times. We neither deceived nor obfuscated. We spoke the truth, and our truth was always difficult to digest, sometimes because it was spoken too soon, before the groundwork had been done and the hearts were ready. But if not for us, who would speak it?

Thus we earned a reputation as "Arab-lovers," when all we were asking was to love all human beings and spare their lives. We are at one with our own people, but don't want to trample on a neighboring people, knowing that until they are not living in their land, we will know no rest.

They called us to account twice: The first time, during the period of delirium, when we made an effort to cool things down; and the second time, during a cost-benefit analysis, when it emerged that in retrospect our forecasts had been correct here and there.

Passions, as usual, were not wise counselors; they were bad and belligerent advisers, and the violence achieved nothing. But being correct didn't help us; they just laid blame on us again: They saw it coming, those Israel-haters - we'll never forgive them for their self-fulfilling prophecies.

Then they accused us of dealing only with high diplomacy, of never going down to the people, to the "street." First of all, I never claimed that to the people one "goes down," one can only rise together. And second, most of our time and strength was directed inward and not outward: We put education, health, environmental and social justice and human rights at the top of our agenda; but all that didn't help us.

When blood was being spilled in the streets and rising to the heads of our decision-makers, we were invited to the studios to represent the other, opposing view. Who else would they invite if not the leftists so they could meet their commitment to "balance?" For too many years we were the fig leaf of Israeli democracy, and instead of people seeing it in its nakedness, they were seeing us on television.

The Israeli left has only tainted merchandise to offer. The best goods in the political market are made up of fear and hate. The right wing all over the world, and the Israeli right in particular, has entire warehouses full of implements of fear and potions of hate, but alas, our warehouses are empty. We don't have the desire, nor the ability, to open the underbelly with a butcher knife and roughly strum the low chords. The music we produce isn't pleasant to the terrified ear, which is yearning for tones of incitement and revenge against the nations.

Even Molad, the center for the renewal of Israeli democracy, which is doing welcome work, discerns the dissonance that is starting to grate on our inner ear: Only a quarter of the public, the institute found, believes that "the state is moving in the right direction." Sixty percent believes the country has "veered sharply off course."

The right's answers are running out and are perceived as totally inadequate, although the left is not yet portrayed as an alternative. But an alternative must be found, come what may, because we can't go on like this - and most of the public already knows it. It won't be long before the Jewish state is finished, and the democratic state is also in imminent and certain danger.

We shouldn't be surprised that the left is limping when so many of its leaders are lining up to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's next government. Only when it's crystal clear that we are not "Bibi," but that we are the total antithesis of Bibi, and that we are clear about the need to replace him and his policies - only then will our crown be restored to its former glory.

It will happen without hate, without fear; only with a lot of hope. The day will come, because if it doesn't, then night will fall instead. And that's not a forecast likely to find favor, either.

Grating music.
Moti Kimche
Benjamin Netanyahu
Gil Cohen-Magen