The most dramatic and important political change in Israel over the past 20 years has been the transformation of the Israeli Left from a movement of political naivet? to one of, in an increasing number of instances, political sedition.
For most of its history, the Israeli Left was a well-meaning if rather clueless political camp. Its core belief was that a more accommodationist set of policies could buy Israel peace with the Arab world.
Throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s, the Israeli Left insisted that endless Israeli “goodwill gestures” would prove to the Arabs that Israel’s intentions were benign, and as a result the Arabs would be persuaded to come to terms with the Jewish state.
The Left insisted that Israel’s turning the other cheek in response to Arab terrorist atrocities was the most effective method to end them. It argued that Israeli retaliatory acts were actually causing Arab terror attacks. (Leftists everywhere have long been fond of Orwellian inversions of cause and effect.)
The Israeli Left dismissed the genocidal agenda of Arab terrorist groups as empty rhetoric. It believed Israeli self-abasement could buy friendship and goodwill from the very terrorists who hailed Hitler as their role model, who libeled Jews with the claim that they drink the blood of gentile children on Passover, and who denied there had ever been a Holocaust.
The Israeli Left of yesteryear – the Israeli Left pre-Oslo, pre-1993 – was wrong but for the most part not malevolent or self-hating. However misguided its policy prescriptions, its motivations were essentially pro-Israel.
Back in 1993 most Israeli leftists believed the Left’s ideas would benefit Israel and the Jewish people. (Today, all too many leftists support those same ideas whether or not they harm Israel and Jews.)
In 1993 most Israeli leftists believed Israeli concessions would lead to Arab moderation. (Today’s leftists know – but seemingly don’t care – that concessions are seen as signs of weakness that only inspire greater Arab violence.)
In 1993 most Israeli leftists believed in Israeli restraint because they thought it would stimulate Palestinian goodwill and most leftists thought Israel would emerge stronger if the Oslo accords were implemented. (Today’s leftists demand endless restraint even after witnessing the bloody results.)
In other words, the Israeli Left of 1993 was by and large a Left that could, if properly provoked, be awakened from its delusions. And in fact, many longtime leftists would move to the center and even to the right in the decade immediately following Oslo as Palestinian atrocities, endless violations of PLO commitments, and increasingly Nazi-like rhetoric from both Palestinians and Israeli Arabs continued to mount.
This is not to in any way excuse the old Israeli Left for its disastrous policies – policies originating out of fear and weariness rather than hard-headed realism.
Ultimately, the old Israeli Left got to implement its agenda in the great Oslo “peace process” experiment, with successive Israeli governments under Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert agreeing in principle to eventually abandon all or almost all of the “occupied territories,” even to divide Jerusalem and restore the Golan Heights to Syria’s ruling clique.
The result was escalated terrorism and a global campaign of delegitimization against Israel.
The Oslo policy of Israel’s old Left was based on a total loss of the ability to think rationally. It was a loss of historic proportions, a relinquishment of reality for a make-pretend universe, and a complete loss of the Jewish determination to survive as a nation.
How else to explain thespectacle of Israeli leaders meeting, back-slapping and kissing the same Arab fascists who murdered Jewish children and only yesterday denied there had ever been a Holocaust while at the same time insisting that if there had been one, the Jews deserved it?
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Now, less than 20 years after the beginning of the Oslo “peace process,” Israel’s very continuation as a Jewish state is regarded as a legitimate topic of conversation in polite company. Even worse, it is the Israeli Left that more and more is leading the assault against its country’s legitimacy and very survival.
The “peace process” experiment proved beyond doubt that the Israeli Left’s perception of the problems of the Middle East had always been distorted. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which served to convert all of Gaza into a Hamas terror base rather than the tranquil oasis the Left was convinced would follow.
The Gaza withdrawal produced a torrent of thousands of rockets from terrorists in Gaza on Jewish civilians in the Israeli Negev, which of course is located well within Israel’s pre-1967 “Green Line” border.
And thanks to Israel’s unilateral capitulation in Southern Lebanon in 2000, there was a barrage of thousands of Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into Northern Israel in the summer of 2006 as well as the seizure of much of Lebanon by genocidal Hizbullah terrorists. The Palestinian Authority of the “moderate” PLO entered into an open competition with Hamas and Islamic Jihad over which group could launch the most terrorism against the Jews.
The Oslo disaster also triggered a global upsurge in anti-Semitism and support for Arab demands around the world.
Israel’s endless self-restraint in the face of terrorism and its countless capitulations won Israel no friends. Even the White House responded to such displays of weakness by demanding that Israel agree to turn its holiest shrines over to terrorist control. The more Israel exhibited restraint, the more the world denounced it for its “violations of human rights” and “apartheid racism.”
Israeli displays of weakness have not only convinced the Arab world the Jews are on the run, they have resulted in a worldwide campaign of demonization against Jews, including – but not limited to – medieval-style tales of Jews trafficking in the body parts of dead Palestinians and Israelis engaging in Nazi-like war crimes.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have yet to comply with a single punctuation mark in any of the “accords” and agreements they have signed, yet the world insists in rare unison that Israel is the only obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
The failures of the “peace process” have also had interesting domestic political ramifications inside Israel. The de facto implementation of leftist thinking by the various governments of the Labor Party, Kadima and Likud has ultimately served to undermine the very survivability of the country. As a result, more and more Israelis have experienced a “dropping of the token,” as Hebrew slang describes a rude awakening.
As noted above, large numbers of Israelis abandoned the political Left as it became ever more difficult to deny that leftist-inspired policies had simply made the situation far worse and far more dangerous. The Meretz Party lost 75 percent of its electoral support within just a few years. Leftist organizations Peace Now and Dor Shalem are largely defunct.
On the other hand, the people remaining within the ranks of the dwindling Left have become increasingly extreme. Indeed, many of them have emerged as a political Fifth Column. For reasons only psychiatrists might properly fathom, this rump political Left in Israel openly identifies today with the enemies of its own country, supporting all enemy demands without reservation.
The ugly and indisputable reality is that the contemporary Israeli Left consists of people openly calling on the world to impose on Israel sanctions and divestment schemes. It consists of people proclaiming that peace has been blocked because Israel is an evil entity. The Palestinian “right of return” that would annihilate Israel from within is now supported by hundreds of leading Jewish leftists.
The Israeli Left, particularly the academic Left, churns out enormous amounts of anti-Israel hate propaganda for all takers. It was the Israeli Left that invented for world consumption the “apartheid” calumny, as well as fictions about Israeli “war crimes.” (Does it even need to be said that no leftist has ever been indicted for this under Israel’s toothless anti-treason laws?)
The Israeli Left is also increasingly involved in law breaking and violence. The government turns a blind eye to this. Even though the original idea for Israel’s security wall had actually come from the Left (because leftists thought this would calm the situation and lead to Israel’s abandoning most of the West Bank to the Palestinians), week after week Israeli leftists now hold violent demonstrations against that wall, attempt to vandalize it, and physically attack Israeli police and soldiers. They also hold demonstrations demanding that large swaths of Jerusalem be kept judenrein – Jew-free.
To grasp the absurdity of this, try to imagine U.S. civil-rights protesters wearing Klan hoods and demanding that black folks be kept out of neighborhoods “where they do not belong.” Israel is the only country on the planet where domestic leftists lobby to force their country into giving up its capital city.
Most alarming, however, has been the Israeli Left’s adoption of the political positions and agendas of its country’s worst enemies regarding almost everything. Before any audience that will listen, Israeli leftists routinely denounce Israel as essentially a colonialist racist entity with no moral right to exist and certainly no moral right to defend itself.
There is not a single act of self-defense that Israel could undertake today against terrorists that would not be denounced by Israel’s Left as criminal, fascist, or racist (sometimes all three). Israel’s most visible leftists seem to have one position and one position only – total Israeli capitulation to terrorist demands, including “talks with” (meaning capitulation to) Hamas.
The old na?ve Israeli Left may have preferred that Israel seek to resolve its conflict with the Arab world through niceness, but it had no delusions about what ultimately lay at the origins and the heart of that conflict. The old na?ve Left understood that the Middle East conflict was caused by the Arab refusal to accept any manifestation of Jewish self-determination in the Middle East.
The Israeli Left of the 21st century, in stark contrast, believes the conflict stems from the temerity of the Jews in reestablishing sovereignty in their historical homeland. Israel’s very existence, in the eyes of a dismayingly large number of leftists, particularly those in academia and the media, is a crime in itself – the original sin, if you will.
More and more Israeli leftists openly mourn the very creation of Israel, joining together with Islamists in “Nakba Day” commemorations marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s existence.
Israeli leftists routinely join foreign anti-Semites in promoting what they call the One-State Solution – in effect a final solution under which Israel would cease to exist altogether as a Jewish state and simply become absorbed into a larger, predominantly Arab, binational state.
That a growing number of Israeli leftists regard their own country as a paragon of evil is bad enough. Also growing, however, are the manifestations of open anti-Semitism among Jewish Israeli leftists. Their intellectual nexus is Israel’s professoriate (exposed in detail at www.isracampus.org.il).
Israeli tenured academics are the sponsors and initiators of campaigns all over the world to boycott Israel, including boycotts against the very universities that pay their salaries.
Hundreds of Israeli university professors have been involved in organizing mutiny and insurrection among Israeli soldiers, and some have even been arrested for violence. Israeli university authorities wink at such faculty behavior and sometimes condone or promote it.
Israeli students are increasingly complaining about being harassed by leftist faculty members if they dare express dissenting pro-Israel opinions in the classroom, and some claim their grades were lowered as punishment for this felony.
In-classroom anti-Israel indoctrination is becoming more common at Israeli universities. Israeli extremist academics have misused their classroom podiums to force-feed their students anti-Israel libel and anti-Jewish venom. Some courses consist of little more than North-Korean-style one-sided political indoctrination. “Academic” conferences held weekly on Israeli campuses are often anti-academic exercises in one-sided advocacy of leftwing positions.
Faculty hiring and promotion decisions are often subordinated to political bias and gestures of leftist political solidarity. Authors of tracts as openly anti-Jewish as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are granted tenure automatically. Israeli extremists with mediocre academic records are hired and promoted as acts of solidarity by other leftists within the university system. University officials often pretend that anti-Israel political propaganda is serious scholarship and research.
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On the left wing of the Israeli political spectrum, the simple son of the Passover Haggadah has been replaced by the wicked son. This is not to say that every leftist is wicked or has evil intentions, just that the Left as a collective entity no longer has Israel’s best interests at heart.
The Left in Israel is at war with Zionism and Israel’s continuation as a Jewish state. It is also radically opposed to democracy and freedom of speech. For too many leftists, the highest form of democracy means issuing calls for foreign powers to neutralize Israel’s electorate and to impose an outside “solution” on the country – one to the liking of the Arabs – by means of threats and force.
This is a phenomenon that needs to be understood and internalized – and actively fought – by all non-leftist Jews in Israel and throughout the Jewish world if the Jewish state is to survive.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.