The right wing is recently running an extremely successful campaign to de-legitimize Peace Now, the once powerful left wing grassroots movement.
A few weeks ago, the deputy for PM Benjamin Netanyahu, minister Moshe “Bugy” Yaalon (Likud), referred to Peace Now as “a virus, which causes the state great damage”. Today, following a bizarre incident in which three Peace Now activists (Update: see Amitai’s comment below) tried to conduct a mock interview with the most extreme MK in the Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari – a friend and a student of the late Rabbi Meir Kahana – the Knesset’s chairman, MK Rubi Rivlin (Likud), forbid Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheim from entering the Israeli parliament. Meretz party – which was always close to Peace Now – has filed an official protest n this matter.
Peace Now was formed by IDF veterans in the late seventies. Its glory days were in the early eighties, when it led the protest against the war in Lebanon and the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The Peace Now rally in Rabin square (then Kikar Malchey Israel square) following the massacre in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 82′ was the largest demonstration in Israel’s history (pic below), and ultimately led to the resignation of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. The movement became less active in the nineties, probably because many of its ideas, like negotiating with the PLO and committing to territorial concessions, were adopted by Rabin’s government. In the last decade, Peace Now dealt mainly with monitoring the expansion of settlements – an activity which supposed to be in line with the Israeli consensus.
Peace Now was always considered a part of the Israeli left, but nobody serious ever questioned its legitimacy. It always proud itself for remaining an exclusively Zionist movement, who supported most of Israel’s military actions and objected the refusal movements, such as Yesh Gvul (יש גבול) and Ometz Lesarev (אומץ לסרב). It appears that all these distinctions don’t help Peace Now anymore. They are condemned as traitors just the same.
While this is definitely another example for the slippery slop the Israeli democracy is currently on (it’s the occupation, stupid), the de-legitimization of the Israeli left should serve as a lesson for its leaders and supporters. One cannot build an exclusive left, or an exclusive civil rights movement. By leaving its natural partners – the Arabs – behind, and instead trying to win some sort of competition in patriotism with the political right, Peace Now took part in creating the atmosphere and the mechanism that led to its downfall.
This is not going to change in the future. I don’t think there will be a comeback of the old Zionist left, the one many people want so badly to see. Call it what you like – a National Left, The New Movement (the name Meretz tried to re-brand itself with) or whatever other name your copywriters can come up with, without the Arabs – and without thinking about an alternative model for the relations between the Jewish majority and the large Palestinian minority – it simply won’t work.