The main motivating force behind the American left has always been anti-Americanism,
and this has never been so apparent as during the current war against terrorism. While this is well
recognized, what is far less commonly known is that Israel has its own analogue to these people.
The Israeli left is as anti-Israel and anti-Jewish as the American left is anti-American.
The problem is that while the pro-Iraq American left is a marginal amusement on the U.S.
political scene, the Israeli anti-Israel political left wields enormous power and indeed has dictated the country's policies over much of the past decade.
Israel's left used to be strongly Zionist and patriotic, as strongly devoted to the defense of the nation as anyone else. Leftists everywhere, from the kibbutzim to the yuppie suburbs, enlisted
in the elite units of the military and fought against Arab aggression and fascism. They might have
entertained various naive ideas, but on the bread-and-butter issues of the Middle East conflict,
they differed little from the rest of their countrymen.
At the margins of politics, there were anti-Israel (and anti-American) Stalinists in
Israel's various Communist parties, as well as a handful of pro-terrorist Trotskyite and Maoist
loonies. But the Zionist left always kept a safe distance from these groups.
All this changed following Israel's 1982 “Peace for Galilee” incursion into Lebanon. That
campaign radicalized the Israeli left in ways that recalled the radicalization of U.S. campuses
during the Vietnam War. Suddenly, Israeli leftists hopped aboard the same Israel-bashing
bandwagon pulled by anti-Zionists, anti-Semites, and Arab fascists all over the planet. Suddenly
their country was, in their eyes, an evil, colonialist, militarist monstrosity. With Menachem
Begin and the Likud in power at the time, they did not hesitate to take to the streets,
Berkeley-style, to denounce the “war criminals” and “murderers” running their government.
What had begun as a radicalization of the leftist fringe in Israel quickly metastasized into
the center. Gradually, factions of the Israeli Labor Party joined the leftist assault on the
legitimacy of their own country. Eventually, “Post-Zionist” radicalism engulfed the entire Labor
Party. This assault was led by Shimon Peres, Israel's perennial electoral loser, who convinced his
party that if peace had not yet been achieved, it was merely because Israelis, like Jiminy Cricket,
had failed to wish for it hard enough.
More specifically, Peres insisted that if the PLO were granted its own state, it would use
this state to promote the economic well being and social development of its civilians, and would
never have time for irredentist adventures directed against Israel.
With Rabin as nominal prime minister after Labor?s victory in the 1992 elections, Peres
imposed his delusion on the country, ignoring the fact that Labor had run on a platform pledging
no deals with the PLO and no Palestinian state ? ever.
In the minds of Peres and his leftist followers, the solution to the conflict was for the
Jews to declare a unilateral cease-fire while the PLO continued to commit atrocities against them.
They urged Israeli Jews to fight terror through self-abasement, self-humiliation, national
self-denial, and cowardice. Every atrocity by the PLO was met with new offers of concessions by
Israeli leftists. “Goodwill” gestures by the Israeli government ? ranging from inserting Arab
propaganda into school textbooks to considering de-Judaizing Israel?s flag and national emblems
? abounded. Israelis were lectured incessantly by leftist leaders and the media about how the
conflict was somehow their fault for trying to “rule over” another “people,” for placing land
above peace, and for being insensitive.
Israelis were told over and over that they must choose between land and peace. The only
problem was that it was the Israeli leftist politicians who were telling them this, not the Arabs.
The Palestinians and their supporters had never given Israelis the choice between land and peace.
The real choice Israelis faced was between war while retaining the “occupied territories”
and war after relinquishing them. Peace was simply not an option, despite the desperately naive
hopes of Shimon Peres and his followers.
The Israeli electorate first voted against the pipe dreamers in the 1996 elections,
producing the Netanyahu government. Netanyahu, however, did not take effective measures
to reverse the defeatist drift, whether because of American pressures or because the Likud has
always been short on policy ideas and long on trying to be the Me-Too party.
In response, Israelis elected Ehud Barak in the belief that a genuine Oslo was preferable
to Netanyahu's “Oslo Lite.” When Barak offered Arafat essentially the entire “occupied
territories,” together with East Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and the rest of the PLO's
publicly-delineated wish list, Arafat spat on the outstretched hand and launched endless
When the Israeli electorate finally had enough of the left and its pipe dreams, it elected
Ariel Sharon in 2001, and by a huge margin. But Sharon preferred to govern through a “national
unity government,” meaning that the same Shimon Peres whose disastrous policies had placed
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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