The myth of good Israel vs. bad Israel (II)

Posted: January 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Where was “the peace camp” when the Knesset decided to probe human rights NGOs?

As the Knesset is passing one undemocratic law after the other, many people ask themselves where is the famous Israeli Left. I have long argued that supporting the two-states solution (as many Israelis say they do) doesn’t necessarily relate to support of human rights, freedom, equality before the law and other democratic values. Only a small minority in Israel is still fighting for those issues.

Outsiders, especially from the Jewish-Liberal camp, tend to exaggerate the role the left plays in Israeli politics, and to downplay the racist and anti-democratic tendencies in the Israeli center. I guess it makes it easier for them to continue seeing in Israel the model Jewish democracy they dream of. But the truth is that until now, Labor and Kadima members didn’t try to stand up to the torrent of laws and racist moves initiated by the extreme right. At best, they gave some fable remarks to the media or issued condemnation, but they failed to engage in meaningful political action, probably because they felt that their public never demanded it.

Last week, the Israeli Knesset decided – in an overwhelming majority and with the support of Netanyahu and his government – to initiate an investigation of the funding and activities of human rights organizations (or as Roi Maor rightly called it, Knesset Committee on un-Israeli activities).

In the days leading to the Knesset debate on this issue, there was a considerable media build-up. Writers and pundits warned of the damaging effect this decision might have on the Israeli democracy. Yet when the vote came, most Kadima and Labor members failed to show up.

The following members of Knesset – all of them considered among Israel’s “pragmatists” – where among those who had other issues to attend to during what could turn out to be one of the most crucial moments in the history of the Israeli parliament:

Labor: Ehud Barak, Daniel Ben-Simon, Avishay Braverman, Amir Peretz, Eithan Cabel, Einat Wilf, Matan Vilnai, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, Orit Noked. Kadima: Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Shay Hermesh, Dalia Itzik, Ze’ev Bielski, Avi Dichter, And that’s just a partial list.

Many of these Knesset Members had official reasons for their absence, but as we all know, they would have showed up if they felt strongly enough about this issue. Politicians don’t miss political events which are important for their constituency. To Livni’s credit, she issued yesterday an explanation for her absence from the vote. She also declared that Kadima would try to challenge the decision in future votes, and still, from the leader of the opposition and the so called “peace camp”, we can expect more, much more.


3 Comments on “The myth of good Israel vs. bad Israel (II)”

  1. 1 Tom Mitchell said at 9:48 am on January 11th, 2011:

    Roi Maor’s label invites a comparison with the House Un-American Activities Committee, as he no doubt intended. This committee, established after World War II, was created to investigate the Communist Party of the USA. The CPUSA had ties with the Soviet Union, America’s main ideological and strategic enemy and a country officially dedicated to world communist revolution. The Israeli equivalent would be a group that had ties to Iran. Instead the committee will be investigating groups that have ties to the United States, Israel’s main strategic and diplomatic ally and its only consistently reliable ally. This just shows how inward looking these parties on the right are.

  2. 2 Dan said at 6:21 am on January 12th, 2011:

    Consider that seeking a two state solution with the Palestinians is not, at all, driven by the wish to see the Palestinians get human and civil rights but only to see the problem go away. In that case, the connection between a two state solution and the left is finally blown away and the mask torn off the vast majority of the so called “left” camp to expose them as neo-liberals who just want to be allowed to go on with their business.

    This is probably the first step in forming a real left in Israel, if that is at all possible.

  3. 3 Tom Mitchell said at 9:17 am on January 14th, 2011:

    Dan,
    The problem with the Left is that it has always had pretensions of being more moral than anyone else. It would rather be isolated and pure rather than sully itself with alliances that could actually accomplish something, except when it came to alliances with totalitarian forces like the Stalinist Soviet Union.

    Remember in the United States slavery was abolished by the Union armies deployed by a Republican president who was a late convert to the cause from the Whig Party. The Republicans were themselves a combination of former Free Soilers, a merger of the pragmatic wing of the antislavery Liberty Party and small antislavery splinters of the two main parties, and the pragmatic element of the Whigs in the North. They ran on pragmatic arguments on how slavery disadvantaged free laborers in the West, not on moralistic biblical arguments. The Republicans came to power vowing to restrict slavery not eliminate it. Today William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown are heroes for many leftists in America. But Garrison never became popular until Lincoln had carried the North and commited it to stopping secession. Brown was an incompetent terrorist who failed at everything he attempted in his life. And the purists who remained in the Liberty Party after 1848 were irrelevant to politics.