Menachem Begin’s campaign against German reparations, which culminated in the ugly scene of tear gas being used against protesting Holocaust survivors, was a fundamental political moment. It was the type of the moment that the left would have loved to have owned. As did a speech by an Israeli entertainer at a Labor election rally in which he used a slur to refer to Middle Eastern Jews while linking them to the right, which allowed Begin to deliver a widely publicized statement of solidarity with them.
The modern Israeli left is an oddball fusion of Tel Aviv hipsters and the angry old men who resent the Orthodox, the Russians and the Middle Eastern Jews who upset their ideal society. The hipsters write up manifestos which call for the left to reach out to the Orthodox, the Russian and Middle Eastern Jews, but they have no idea how to go about doing it. The left had its chance and blew it.
That’s not to say that the left isn’t willing to capitalize on immigrants. Its new cause is fighting for migrant workers, mainly the African equivalent of Mexican illegal aliens, who commit most of the same crimes. The Israeli left has finally figured out that it needs the right kind of immigrants. The kind who don’t care about the country but are just there for social benefits. But the left had those immigrants all along.
The dirty little secret of the left is that it is heavily dependent on Muslim votes. A sizable number of those votes are paid for, not just in the usual way that rewards are doled out, but paid for in a cash on the barrel sort of way. The more the left began to lose touch with Jewish voters, the more it became dependent on Arab voters. From internal party primaries to national elections, the left would not exist without the Muslim vote.
The inability of the left to connect with mainstream Israeli voters has led it to become more and more dependent on disguises, from third parties to the disintegration of Labor and the reemergence of much of its cadre in the Kadima Party, which was until recently the political opposition.
The Israeli left today does not exist as a movement, so much as it exists as a set of policies that are implemented by the bureaucracy, invested in an activist Supreme Court and that passes into the DNA of parties like Kadima. Its ventures appear as social protests, which it also disguises as populist rallies that are supposedly in no way connected to it, even though they are organized by its NGO’s.
The old Israeli left did not need foreign-funded NGO’s to conduct its political activity, but the new Israeli left is beginning to take on the air of a foreign-funded venture. Like the American Communist Party in the 1950’s, the Israeli left is underground, emerging in front groups and policy programs, but not even making a serious effort to get the Israeli public to accept it as a movement. The political parties associated with it are a laughingstock and its grip on power is invisible, but still ruthless.
The two bugbears of Israeli demographics are also its two most controversial populations, Arabs and Orthodox Jews. Both groups have a high fertility rate and a mixed view of participating in the state. And that combination makes for some sharp edged studies and worrisome statistics. The right has been concerned about Arab demographics, and the left with Orthodox demographics.
While even non-Orthodox Israelis have a high birth rate compared to most of the West, it’s not enough to compete with either group. Straight-line long-term projections paint the future as caught between an Arab and Orthodox majority, but the alarm bells are somewhat cynical.
The left has used the general disinterest of Arab and Orthodox votes to stay in power. It made deals with both Arab and Orthodox leaders, employing them as a blank voter base for a blank check in its own politics. Barring the National Religious, the Orthodox have mainly stayed disinterested, and the Shas Party has even successfully funneled away nationalist votes into its own community party built on the model of its Ashkenazi Haredi counterparts. But the Arabs have not stayed disinterested.