Avi Buskila, Peace Now’s new director is a different kind of leftist [ssba]

Avi Buskila, Peace Now’s new director is a different kind of leftist

Avi Buskila, the new director of Peace Now, is the opposite of a stereotypical leftist leader: his parents emigrated from Morocco, he grew up in the periphery, and he served as a combat soldier in the IDF.

“The left has a hard time understanding me,” Buskila tells Yedioth Ahronoth’s weekend magazine Hamusaf Leshabat. “They want to continue doing the same things that brought nothing but failures.”

Buskila talks about the kind of posts he encounters in left-wing groups on social media. For example one person wrote: “We’ve gathered the savages and brought them to Israel, and now they are destroying us,” meaning Jews of Mizrahi descent. “After all, right-wingers equal Mizrahim, equal religious,” he says.

But Buskila says has no intention of being the “left’s pet Mizrahi.”

“I won’t apologize for serving in the IDF longer than Naftali Bennett or for living in the periphery longer than Miri Regev,” he says defiantly.

“The portrayal of the left as old and Ashkenazi is accurate. There are a lot of people in the (peace) camp who would rather see us fail than give up their control. They refuse to recognize that it’s time they retire and leave. But I have news for them—they are going to lose control and if they don’t, we’ll take it from them, both in the political parties and in organizations. The left, in many ways, failed to speak to the people. For years, it just told everyone why they are wrong.

“The left doesn’t respect the painful narrative of fear. I don’t doubt my mother’s fears. She spent most of her life in shelters under the threat of rocket fire. Speaking their language means I’m not preaching, and I’m not constantly explaining to someone why he’s wrong. It’s not about coming from Tel Aviv to tell a Netivot resident that his fears and the discrimination he feels are nonexistent bullshit. I accept what they’re telling me.”

Maya Haber’s translation of the article was published in Ynet. Continue reading.

Our Misconceptions of Israel Undermine our Ability to Advocate for Peace [ssba]

Our Misconceptions of Israel Undermine our Ability to Advocate for Peace

This blog post was published originally in the Huffington Post.

A participant in a recent progressive discussion on Israel voiced an emphatic frustration: “My Israeli family doesn’t care about the occupation. All they want to talk about is the price of milk!” In private conversations, many of my American friends say they find it difficult to speak to their Israeli families and friends. They want to discuss the occupation and a two-state solution, but these topics halt in a dead end. Most Israelis relate to the two-state solution much like they relate to the Messiah. Yes, they want it to come. But they don’t necessarily believe it will, at least not in their lifetime. Nor do they know how to bring it.

The feeling of strained communication is mutual. Daily worries consume Israelis: the price of milk, the number of children in their kids’ daycare, and how to pay next month’s rent. They perceive Israel as a divided society and understand voting through an ethnic, local and religious lenses. So when their American families and friends relate to Israel as a “Start Up nation” populated by a homogeneous Jewish community divided only by its position vis-à-vis the occupation, they naturally feel frustrated. They often utter in response a version of “you don’t know what it’s like to live here.” Israelis sense that their American friends sit on the moral high ground, speak of the evils of the occupation and Jewish values, but are tone deaf to the economic difficulties facing them.

A recent Pew survey shows this gap in hard numbers. While four-in-ten Israeli Jews cite economic issues (inequality, rising housing costs, etc.) as the single biggest long-term problem facing Israel (this number is higher among Arabs), when U.S. Jews were asked the same question, almost none (1%) mentioned economic problems, and two-thirds cited various security issues as the biggest long-term problem facing Israel.

This gap has revealed itself as an obstacle to peace. Though J Street has grown large, strong and effective, and even accomplished ‘the impossible’ – helping pass President Obama’s Iran deal despite of Netanyahu’s objections —- as long as Israelis vote against a two-state solution, J Street’s increased influence inside the United States falls flat when trying to convince the average Israeli to choose peace.

If we want to steer Israelis’ vote toward peace and to an end the occupation, we must abandon the language of universal morals and develop sympathy for their daily reality. We have to understand that the majority of Israelis live substantially different lives than the average American Jew.

The cost of living in Israel has substantially risen in the last decade. Salaries, however, have remained stagnant. The median income in Israel is $21,000 a year. The cost of a standard home comes to more than 12 years of average pay. That’s twelve years without eating, raising kids or paying utility bills. Worse yet, this is an average for Israel as a whole despite significantly cheaper cities in the periphery. In Jerusalem, a person earning an average wage (roughly $22,000 a year) would have to work for twenty-one and a half years in order to afford an apartment. Compare these figures to Manhattan, where the median apartment price is indeed high, around $916,000. But Manhattan’s median income is three times higher than in Jerusalem. A median apartment in Manhattan costs a little less than fourteen years of labor.

For many Israelis daily economic life is precarious. A couple of years ago a survey asked Israelis “If you encounter an unexpected expenditure of 8,000 shekels [roughly $2000] would you be able to cover it either from your own savings or borrowing from family and friends or a credit card loan?” Seventy percent of Israelis said that they would not be able or would have significant difficulties finding the money. This percentage has been growing gradually every year. This means that at least 70 percent of Israelis are experiencing economic insecurity – if they needed a root canal, or their refrigerator or the car breaks, they would be lost. Over the last decade more and more middle class educated Israelis and families with two breadwinners gradually fell under the poverty line. Today one in three children in Israel is poor. A third of the workforce earns minimum wage.

As long as the pro-peace community chooses a language of universal human rights, the Israeli media can continue portraying us in pro-Palestinian colors. Only developing an understanding to Israelis’ daily lives will allow us to puncture their shield of suspicion and help steer them toward peace and to an end the occupation.

Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo [ssba]

Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo

Image: Hagiler 66 years in 60 seconds

The Israeli Right has taken on the re-writing history. And they are successful. In November 2015, I published a post about my personal impressions of the twentieth anniversary of Rabin’s murder entitled Forgetting and Forgiving Rabin’s Murder, capturing my surprise when I encountered last year’s non-political-nonpartisan Rabin commemoration. How Rabin the peacemaker turned into Rabin the IDF chief of staff and “Leftists like former President Peres, who attended the rally, were not allowed to speak, but representatives of religious Zionism – were.” 

Last week, when former President Shimon Peres collapsed on the twenty-third anniversary of the Oslo accord, I was surprised to see the myth-making around the Oslo Accord. These are stories of the good-old-days before radical anti-Zionist leftists (i.e. Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin) inspired by Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History decided to destroy it all and pursue a fantastic vision of a new Middle East.

Shalom Boguslavsky’s text translated by Ayala Emmett confronts this newly written history of the pre-Oslo times. Between the lines you can learn about the strange beliefs Boguslavsky is fighting. We need to know this if we are to help Israelis fight it. 

Maya Haber


 

Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo

From my perspective the Oslo Accord was an enormous leap, which from the outset, in retrospect and for various reasons rather than land successfully on the other side –fell flat on its face.

I want, however, to talk about the pre-Oslo phase, because twenty years after there are people reconstructing the history of that time as an imagined utopia – no borders, Arabs working for Jewish employers and the rare terrorist attacks.  Occasionally the first Intifada sneaks into this idyllic story.  But when it does it is accompanied by a newly invented interpretation: it was not Palestinians in the Territories who rebelled demanding independence after 20 years of military occupation. It was the fault of “The Leftists who had released thousands of terrorist prisoners” in the Jibril Accord.  Where have all the thousands of terrorists come from in that utopian period that ended when Oslo destroyed it? Nu, do we really have to explain how an Arab become a Terrorist? It’s the force of nature.

Or is it perhaps because in the good old days, Palestinians were imprisoned en masse not only for “terrorism,” which indeed existed, but for things like owning “banned books,” at home. On Palestinian history, for example.

It was a time when soldiers were instructed to order people on the street to climb electric poles to remove “PLO flags.” On one such occasion a man lost both his hands and the State Attorney, the settlements’ hero, Plea Albeck argued that the man should not be compensated because there was no harm done. He could still make Falafel with prosthetic hands.

At that time Israeli soldiers were stationed at every street corner in the centers of Palestinian cities.  During my army service I sat for coffee with some older reserve soldiers who shared nostalgic memories about “the good old days.”

One of them recounted how he and a friend were bored one day and decided to stand in the middle of market place and whenever a Palestinian with a wristwatch walked by one of them would hold the Palestinian’s hand and the other would smash the watch with a club.

Another told how he caught children who threw stones and brought them to his unit. The other soldiers “of course started beating them.” He went to fill out forms and when he came back he found two dead bodies.

These were not testimonials of Breaking the Silences. The soldiers were not beating for the Sin committed. They just offered entertaining anecdotes sipping coffee.

According to the newly constructed history, however, pre-Oslo time was great. The Arabs started the Intifada not because we had been in a violent conflict for decades. Neither because in the conflict’s latest phase they suffered a restrictive military rule in which a Palestinian could not operate a Shawarma kiosk without the permission of a Jewish officer.  No, the problem was Leftists who woke up with peace fantasies.

What else is new. You would have heard similar stories from slave owners in the US South, French landowners in Vietnam and British Gentlemen in India.

My personal views of the Oslo Accord, its promoters and fundamentals are mostly negative. Maybe I’ll write about it in the future. But let’s not get confused here. Oslo did not damage an acceptable situation. It was an attempt to fix a terribly broken condition.

When you encounter those who repaint a not-so-far history in nostalgic, warm and soft filters with flashes of Instagram—ask them to restore it. Let’s see what they’ll say then.

I can promise that it’s not going to happen. They will tell you how they are dying to restore it; but the Leftist and the High Court of Justice, the European Union and all the oldies-do-good just won’t let them.

The truth is that those rewriters of pre-Oslo life don’t really want to change things. Oslo never brought much but a few Palestinian enclaves surrounded by walls and check points, and public distrust that the conflict would ever be resolved.  And those who re-write history just love life post Oslo.

Original text: Shalom Boguslavsky in Drop the Scissors and Let’s talk about it (Taniakh Et haMisparaim v’bo Nedaber Al Ze), September 14, 2016

Translation: Ayala Emmett

Introduction: Maya Haber

Shlomo Swirski, Israel is Paying Heavily for the Occupation [ssba]

Shlomo Swirski, Israel is Paying Heavily for the Occupation

BDS advocates often argue that Israel has an economic interest in maintaining the occupation: its military tests weapons on Palestinians and markets them as ‘battle proven'; its security companies export knowledge to foreign police and military forces; and its workforce is highly invested in building and protecting the settlements. Therefore, they argue, the only way to force it to leave the West Bank is a boycott. Only when Israelis feel the consequences of the occupation will they choose to end it.

Dr. Shlomo Swirski, the academic director of the Adva Center and one of the most prominent Israeli sociologists, argue that the BDS advocates are wrong. Indeed, some in Israel profit, but such profits are dwarfed by the damage wrought to the Israeli economy as a whole due to the contraction of economic activity. Moreover, the money diverted to settlements is taken out of the budgets of development towns, the education and health systems. Israelis are suffering everyday the cost of the occupation.

So what is the cost of the occupation to Israel’s economy? And if it’s so heavy, why do Israelis continue voting for the Right?

Listen to our conversation with Dr. Shlomo Swirski

Benjamin Netanyahu vs. Vicki Knafo and the Israeli poor [ssba]

Benjamin Netanyahu vs. Vicki Knafo and the Israeli poor

In 2003, Vicki Knafo, a single mother from Mitzpe Ramon, marched 109 miles to Jerusalem protesting the economic policies of then Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s • On Tuesday in a briefing to reporters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about Knafo: “Go to work! If you have the ability to march, you can go to work”

Netanyahu’s argument might sound reasonable, but as Israel’s Prime Minister for the last 10 years and three years before that as finance minister, he has created a reality in which a job does not guarantee getting out of poverty.

Fact: in the 13 years since Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut welfare payments the proportion of single mothers who work has risen by about 15 percentage points – but the proportion of single-parent families below the poverty line has remained unchanged.

Another fact: In 2015, 81 percent of single mothers worked. But just as in 2002, a quarter of them were poor.

Single mothers are not the only ones to suffer – hundreds of thousands of workers and their families earn less than the poverty threshold. According to the latest National Insurance Institute poverty report – 277 thousand workers live below the poverty threshold.

So how come a job in Israel doesn’t guarantee a life with dignity? Well, it’s a combination of several things:

First, half of Israel employees earn less than 6700 NIS ($1783 a month, or $21,396 annually)

Second and equally important, Israel’s real wages have been frozen for over 15 years. According to the Bank of Israel between 2000 and 2015 our wages increased by 0.6%

While wages remain low, we experienced a dramatic rise in the cost of living. Today Israel is second only to Japan in its cost of living. While Israelis earn on average the same as workers in Spain and Korea, our cost of living is 20% higher than in Spain and 30% higher than in Korea.

So Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the socio-economic reality in Israel. Considering the fact that you are the responsible for it, it’s puzzling that you are so disconnected from it.

[The original text – Project Sixty-One; Translation: Maya Haber]

The following graphs were taken from the OECD Economic Surveys ISRAEL, 2016

Poverty

 

Israel is second only to Mexico in the highest poverty rates among the 35 member states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Employment ratesPoverty in Israel is not directly connected to unemployment. While employment rates grew significantly since 2004, poverty rates grew alongside them.

House pricesWhile wages stagnated, prices and specifically housing prices grew by 60%. 

 

 

Dany Gutwein, The Elor Azaria Affair is the Struggle of the Black Peon [ssba]

Dany Gutwein, The Elor Azaria Affair is the Struggle of the Black Peon

Four months ago Sgt. Elor Azaria killed a wounded Palestinian terrorist, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif as al-Sharif laid supine in Hebron. Azaria is on trial for manslaughter. But the trial of Elor Azaria has long since become the ‘Azaria Affair.’ Right-wing politicians are divided between those who condemn his action and those who unconditionally support him. Thousands have rallied for his release. The public debate, for the most part, doesn’t focus on whether Azaria should or shouldn’t have shot al-Sharif . Rather Israelis discuss the extent to which Azaria’s ethnicity and place of residence played a role in the IDF’s response to his action. “Is Elor Azaria punished (also) because he is Mizrahi?” reads Haaretz headline. And a father of another soldier remarked “If Azria was a Fishman [typical Ashkenazi family name] from Tel Aviv, it would have been different.”

Azaria’s case was preceded by ‘David the Nahlawi Affair.’ In April 2014, David Adamov, a soldier resident of one of the poorer neighborhoods in Be’er Sheva, was caught on camera cursing and cocking his assault rifle at an unarmed Palestinian kid in Hebron. Like Azaria, Adamov too won massive public support. Itamar Tehar Lev, a Hebrew University sociologist, wrote then that Adamov was receiving the support of the mostly Mizrahi ‘Border Patrol Army’ (which is just as Mizrahi as it is Russian, Ethiopian and lower-class Ashkenazi). Tehar Lev contrasted the ‘Border Patrol Army’ with the upper class Ashkenazi ‘Strategic IDF’ which manages the wars from a distance.

Henriette Dahan Kalev, a political scientist and gender studies professor at Ben Gurion University, writes that “the IDF today consists of elite units (like intelligence, technology and IDF Radio) staffed mostly by Ashkenazim. […] Elite soldiers prefer to see themselves as moral and defenders of human dignity. It’s easier to attribute a lack of morality to those who fighting on the ground. By publicly making a case against Azaria, the IDF is attempting to demonstrate that it has not lost its values—including as IDF chief Gadi Eizenkot put it the “purity of arms.”

The following article is Prof. Dany Gutwein’s attempt to explain some of the perplexing phenomena surrounding the Azaria Affair. Why did the settler Religious Zionist community condemn Azaria while so many others on the Right support him? Why do Leftists demonstrate discomfort discussing the case? And why is he receiving such massive support? Have Israelis all gone mad?

—-

 

The trial of Elor Azaria is becoming a watershed moment in the Israeli civil war. “The Azaria trial” has long turned into “The Azaria Affair.” It left the legal system and is happening in the court of public opinion. Increasingly, as the trial throws oil into the political fire, the public dimension overshadows its criminal dimension. The intensity of “the Azaria affair” is demonstrated by the fact that the IDF is one of its main casualties. For many, the IDF has become the target of sharp criticism and intrudes on the broad support it has so far enjoyed.

The IDF was correct to denounce the killing of the terrorist, put Azaria on trial, and allow a court decide whether or not his behaviour was a criminal offense. The following comment, however, relates to the “Azaria Affair”; that is, not to the shooting in Hebron or the trial in Jaffa, but to the causes for the public earthquake it has reverberated throughout Israel.

What makes the Azaria Affair so explosive? Why do so many Israelis identified with it? This question remains unanswered despite the lively public debate. And yet, answering this question is necessary for dealing with the fissures it has unearthed in Israeli society.

The common—yet false—explanation for the waves the Azaria trial has created is that the trial has become symbolic of gaping divisions in Israeli society and has carved a new space for their continuation. Indeed, the Azaria affair has quickly become a site for the toxic battles between the Right and the Left. The Left denounced the “shooting soldier” while presenting him as another victim of the Occupation. The Right, more broadly, has stood by Azaria and presented the trial as political persecution, a surrender to terrorism, the abandonment of IDF soldiers, and other charges the Right lobs against “Lefties.” Moreover, the Right has claimed the Left has sacrificed Azaria on the altar of political correctness, and that there wouldn’t be a trial if Azaria wasn’t right wing, Mizrahi, and from the periphery.

And yet, Israeli society doesn’t need new symbols for old divisions, especially after Netanyahu’s performance in the 2015 election. Indeed, it seems these divisions alone cannot explain the schism the Azaria affair has caused, and moreover, this explanation in itself exposes the failures of using the concept of division to analyse Israeli society.

For example, not only can’t the “Right-Left” division explain the public response, but “the Azaria affair” itself fractures the “Right-wing”: Ya’alon, the defrocked Right-wing Minister for Security, firmly denounced “the shooting soldier” while Avigdor Lieberman, the new Right-wing Foreign Minister, stood by him. The usual analysis explained inner contradictions within the Right as tensions between the “old” liberal Right and the “new” nationalistic Right, and yet this case rattled this distinction too revealing divisions within the “new” Right.

On April 19, there was a rally in support of Azaria in Rabin Square. In reference to the rally on the radio, Kalman Liebskind, a leading Right-wing journalists, attacked “the religious-nationalist public for not showing up to the rally.” He accused them of being “disdainful of Mizrahi Israelis and residents of the periphery.” Liebskind criticized the religious-nationalist public and the settlers using the same language the Right uses against the pretentious Ashkenazi Left. He said:

“The symbols and models Bnei Akiva teaches us to follow are always, or almost always, our own. They live in the settlements, graduate pre-military academies, and the best Yeshiva high schools. “The brave and beautiful.” No one ever speaks to us about the soldiers from Kiryat Gat or Be’er Sheva, who were killed in battle next to them. We never recognize the Elor Azarias from Ramleh who were carried away on stretchers.”

Liebskind’s harsh words stand in sharp contrast to Charlie Azaria’s (Elor’s father) expressed desire to unite the Israeli public around the support of his son, and continue looking to the IDF as a symbol of a common Israeli destiny. The elder Azaria stressed:

“We all have relatives in the IDF. I want everyone to know that we have their back. We are a strong people. We won’t let anyone harm us. The level headed people, everyone here, I love you. I love our nation. We are strong. Only together we will win and get to where we need to be.”

Michael Asraf, father of a soldier serving with Azaria, perfectly framed the contradiction between Azaria’s father’s craving “the wonderful nation” who are “all here” and Libeskind’s claim that “(the settlement of) Kdumim and Ramleh share nothing in common.” It is important to listen to Asraf. He stands with Azaria but his main concern is the divisions the “Azaria affair” revealed in Israeli society. He says:

“A while ago I said to my son: Come home. Leave the IDF. And it wasn’t easy for me to say this. I’m a paratrooper. But this isn’t the IDF we knew. There’s nothing left if commanders don’t back their soldiers. In my parachuting unit, I was told you don’t leave a soldier behind on the battlefield. I hear all the Greats talk about brutalization. What brutalization? Who are those brutes we’re talking about? These are our children . . . the best children. They joined the IDF unit they did because they love the flag and the national anthem. And what do we want in return? That the state loves us as much as we love it.”

Asraf’s claims can be summarized with the following: “I feel betrayed for Elor and the other soldiers.” Asraf finds the focus for this betrayal in the difference between the IDF he knew in the early 1980s, when he served as a paratrooper, the “commanders knew everything,” but still gave us full support, and “We weren’t left alone” and now when there is a sense that commanders don’t support their soldiers. Even if some think Elor violated orders, they should still back him up.”

Asraf claims that the discrepancy between “support” and “betrayal” is the framework through which we shouldn’t just think about the IDF, but Israeli society as a whole. This betrayal has a significant class character, even if, as is customary in Israel, he confuses it with identity politics:

“They threw him to the wolves. And do you want me to tell you why it was easy? I will put it in the simplest terms. It’s because Elor is from Ramle. If he was a Fishman from Tel Aviv, it would have been handled quietly. If it was a settler who studied in one of those pre-military academies, they would all be by his side supporting him. But this isn’t the case. It’s “Kfir” Brigade. [The brigade is part of the Judea and Samaria Division and conducts more Occupation duties than any otherץ] Everyone is an Elor Azaria there. A quarter of the guys are Ethiopians. Do you want me to put it more explicitly? It is a Black Peon unit.” [Translation comment: Asraf uses the term ‘Black Laborers’ (פועלים שחורים) which refers simultaneously to the soldiers’ ethnicity and their peon status]

And in a logic that resembles Bertold Brecht’s “Questions from a Worker who Reads,” Asraf states:

“Look at the IDF’s entire illustrious history. All the battles discussed in history books. Who gets featured in these histories? Who gets honorific mention? Who gets the accolades? Only the commanders. They always get the glory. No one remembers their soldiers, the Black labourers, without whom those commanders are nothing. Without whom no mission can succeed. Do you know when we remember them, the Black peons? When a disaster happens. When the army thinks mistakes occurred. Then the IDF finds the Elor Azaria of the day and goes to war against him. Then the commanders are nowhere to be found. The commanders are only there when there are victories.”

Asraf’s feeling of “betrayal” explains, so it seems, the public’s support for Azaria. From his comment, we learn that Azaria gets widespread support not because of the hate speech against Arabs and Leftists which are used as instruments of political manipulation. According to Asraf, the support for Azaria is a reflection of the betrayal the “Black Peons” feel.

Indeed, Azaria has become symbolic of the Israeli lower classes which the state has left behind during the intense processes of privatization. The feeling of betrayal is the experience of the Israeli lower classes which asks for “support” from the diminishing welfare state which has less and less responsibility for their life and welfare. This is the feeling of those contract employees who are pushed to the end of the line when their bosses rob them. This is the feeling of those who are pushed to the end of the line of the health system because they can’t pay for private medicine. This is the feeling of those who can’t pay for decent education for their children and hopelessly condemns them to a future of “Black peon.” This is the feeling of those for whom the legal system personifies the state after they had failed in the impossible rat race privatization has put them in.

The Azaria case has become a symbol because in all other cases the state cloaked its betrayal of the weak and privatized it: The exploitation of workers was handed over to contractors. Private health insurance companies that rationalize deserting the vulnerable. Private schools use the rationale that certain kids lack talent to mask the marginalization of poor children. In contrast, in the Azaria affair, state institution for the first time explicitly articulated their betrayal: the IDF is the symbol of the state, and therefore it has become the target for the outraged of the betrayed.

Addressing the public element of the “Azaria affair” means dealing with the feeling of the betrayal among the lower classes. It’s a process that can only be resolved by creating Israeli solidarity by way of a universal welfare state that supports the weak. Only neutralizing that feeling of betrayal will allow Israeli society to come to terms with the shot Azaria fired and not as the class symbol his trial has created.

This analysis may explain why the religious-nationalist, settlement based, Right-wing is missing from the support rallies for Azaria. Leibskind argued that this is caused by the fact that “religious Zionism proved once again . . . that it only cares about Religious Zionism.” But why? Over the past few decades the religious-nationalist Right wing—not the imagined elitist “Lefties”—has become the cornerstone of the establishment that betrays the lower classes. Therefore it can’t be part of protests aimed at itself. Class analysis of Israeli politics is the only way to overcome the false façade created by analysis based in identity and culture .

The Azaria affair is a challenge for the Israeli left. Not just in regard to denouncing Azaria, but in creating a new social reality that doesn’t require him as a symbol. This is also a path towards creating the Left as a politically significant player. But the Left refuses to acknowledge that the lower classes are its allies. It keeps returning to the cultural-identity playbook and the irreconcilable contradictions between the Right and the Left. Thus the Left prefers to deal with the lower classes’ nationalist bluster and lack of democracy rather than addressing the regime’s privatization induced inequality as to not infuriate this regime’s upper crust supporters. Once again the “Azaria affair” lays the Israeli Left’s failure in class politics bare. And the clarity of its righteousness, as the Left likes telling itself, is but more proof of the depth of its blindness.

Dany Gutwein is a Professor of Jewish history at Haifa University.

The original article was published in the Hottest Place in Hell.

Translation: Dana Mills, Visiting Scholar at the Hannah Arendt Centre at Bard College

Editor: Sean Guillory, blogger and podcaster at SRB

Introduction: Maya Haber, Partners for Progressive Israel

Ayala Panievsky, Leftists Despair [ssba]

Ayala Panievsky, Leftists Despair

B. Michael published an op-ed titled Why Israelis Are Stampeding to the Right. Ayala Panievsky, a Molad editor and researcher, explains where he was wrong.

“For 50 years (at least), Israel has been experiencing the existence of occupation, a brutal, wicked, unrestrained existence. […] But they don’t want to know that’s the way they are. They want to know – they want to believe – that they are good, decent, honest people, and mainly, victims and unfortunates. […] Voters, who are at the end of the day just human beings, need their consciousness to be escapist. Comforting. They need a leader, a stand-in parent, a super-ego in an armor-plated car to stroke their heads and say, “You’re perfectly fine, my darling. You’re a good boy. They’re the shits. Not you.” […] And therefore, there is only one way to heal: to stop the occupation. All of it. At once.” […] But it’s not going to happen, though. […] Because that is the fate of every occupying society.”

B. Michael has a strange logic: the public is stampeding to the Right because of the Occupation, and it will continue voting for the Right as long as the Occupation persists. So what can we do about it? End the Occupation. But who exactly is supposed to end the occupation? The Right that will forever rule the country? Unlikely. Therefore, the only possible conclusion is that the Occupation will never end, and Israel is finished. Over and out.

This logic is false:

1) The Occupation dangerous to Israeli society and politics. Just as dangerous as those who give up on ending it. The best way to ensure that we will continue to lose is to despair.

2) But the crux of the matter: the public isn’t “turning right”. The Israel Democracy Institute published just last week a survey showing that most Israelis support a two-state solution, and 70 percent oppose settlement annexation, a solution most right-wing ministers advocate.

3) So why don’t Israelis vote for the Left? Despite of years of Rightwing rule and unbridled propaganda against the Left, the Israeli public has not given up on Leftist positions. It is simply fed up with Leftist parties. And it’s understandable. For years Leftwing leaders seem confused, awkward, stuttering, meek and cowardly. It’s indeed very frustrating. But the fact that people have a hard time voting for Labor leader Buji Herzog (BTW the Zionist Camp won 24 seats that’s not a catastrophe) – there is no reason to conclude that the Israeli public is stupid or stampeding to the Right.

4) Many people holding Leftwing positions don’t want to identify as Leftists. Given the political atmosphere, it makes sense. The Left in recent years has been the target of ongoing aggressive demonization. And its political leadership (the Labor Party) refuse to fight back. On the contrary – Center-Left leaders denied the Left and joined the chorus turning it into a national punching bag. Why would anyone vote the for such a Left?

5) Truth be told, we need better political leadership. A leadership that knows its agenda and is willing to fight for it. The Left shouldn’t apologize for the Mapai’s sins, crawl to the right, hide, or beg the world to save us. The Left should convince the public that we have a plan and it’s better. This is politics.

6) How do we know it’s possible? Take the example of settlers. They have been doing it for 20 years and more vigorously since the disengagement from Gaza. The settlers are about five percent of the population, but in a coordinated effort they injected themselves into the centers of power and decision-making (police, army, education system, media, and public sector) and built a powerful political lobby. Today five percent of the citizens are dictating the agenda of the Right and the country.

7) The Rightwing rule is not the result of some force majeure. The question is what can we do to end it. The first answer: don’t give up. Both because it’s divorced from reality and because it’s not effective. This is the time for every leftist to decide if s/he would rather decry the horrors of the Occupation, or do whatever it takes – even getting your hands dirty in politics – to end it.

The original Hebrew text.

Translation: Maya Haber

Tomer Persico, Ariel Sharon is Smiling in Hell [ssba]

Tomer Persico, Ariel Sharon is Smiling in Hell

It’s the month of Av again, and we again “remember” the Gaza evacuation and the destruction of Gush Katif. Why “remember”? Because memories are always selective. They tell us now that the “disengagement” was a leftist idea, supported by leftists, and implemented by other leftists. They tell us that though Leftists claim to oppose the violation of human rights violations, the left did not prevent it.

So let’s put speak truth to the lies.

Disengagement?

It was not a “disengagement,” which is a nice name for a horrible deed. It was a military withdrawal from an occupied territory, the evacuation of over 8,000 people from their homes and the destruction of twenty-one settlements. The process included directing the state’s resources—the military, police, judiciary and media—to suppress and silence any opposition. The entire state apparatus was mobilized to carry out a controversial operation while violently silencing—yes, violently—opposing voices. The settlers, and occasionally the entire religious Zionist, became public enemies, “threats to democracy,” and the media, the legal system, and the politicians treated them as such. Read More »

Bar Heffetz, The 2014 Gaza-War was Netanyahu’s Soft Underbelly [ssba]

Bar Heffetz, The 2014 Gaza-War was Netanyahu’s Soft Underbelly

It’s been two years since the end of Operation Protective Edge (2014 Israel–Gaza War) and we must admit that we failed.

Israel’s government didn’t fail. It was actually quite successful. It’s easy to be successful if your only goal is to survive, live through another month, and make it to the next election without a war. In the period between elections, the government can ramble on about the construction of dangerous tunnels, checkpoints, the Turks, and occasionally play “who has the bigger cock” with Hamas.

The media also met its goals: everyone knows that Gaza isn’t sexy, the Gaza envelope is far away, and people don’t want to know or understand. At least until there’s a war. And wars are good for ratings. Next time we’ll also all unite around our screens, declare “Quiet, we’re at war,” and fake collectivism.

The IDF might have failed a little. But there’s a new Chief of Staff, and there’s new tech to deal with the tunnels . . . So what if a few residents on the Gaza border no longer believe a word the army says?

So who really failed? Read More »

Daniel Ben Simon on the Rift between Mizrahim and the Israeli Left [ssba]

Daniel Ben Simon on the Rift between Mizrahim and the Israeli Left

In 1997 Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak asked Mizrahi Jews to forgive the party for its treatment of the 1950s North African immigration. He got the idea from Daniel Ben-Simon’s book Another Country which tells the story of Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996 victory. Ben Simon recalled a conversation between Shimon Peres and Shas’ leader, Aryeh Deri. Dari told Peres that “The Moroccans don’t like you. They don’t forgive the Labor Movement for its treatment of them in the 1950s” and advised him to ask for forgiveness. “Mind you, he told Peres, they are not in the Likud’s pocket. On the contrary. They are moderate and tolerant people.” Barak called Ben Simon the night he decided to apologize. Ben Simon thought it might work

I asked him why Barak’s apology was did not help heal the wound. “Barak wanted to steal the oriental vote from the Likud,” he said, “and he won the election. He won the election because the Orientals voted from him in 1999. He had a huge victory. But after the election he went back to being Barak, the Israeli army general who promised change of priorities and did nothing for it. […] He was busy with the Palestinian issue and eventually those orientals saw him as a person who couldn’t keep to his word.” Ben Simon argues that what had to be done then and still hasn’t been done is “a Marshal Plan for the development towns.” Read More »

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