Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vote Hadash -- Vote the Palestinian-Jewish Partnership

Before the 1992 elections for the Israeli Knesset I attended a "hug bayit" (parlour meeting) of religious Jews with Naomi Chazan, of the Meretz party. Just the idea that religious Zionist Jews would possibly vote for the "anti-religious" Meretz seemed astounding in those days. Each one us stared with surprise at the unexpected participants. "What is he doing here?" I said to my wife. "Who would have thought?" She replied.

After the election, the host of the evening came up to me and say, "You think you are such a hotshot for voting Meretz. So-and-so voted Hadash."

"So-and-so" was a distinguished Hebrew University professor of classical Jewish literature (I won't say more than that), a "3-minyan-a-day" Jew who had served in the army, and whose children attended rightwing national religous schools (Horev, and that is the last I am saying.) I went up to So-and-so, and I asked him -- the first Jew I personally knew who voted for Hadash -- why, how, he could have done it?

He said, "Two reasons. First, the Arab sector in this country is by far the most underprivileged, and in this country, political power gets translated into support for your sector. The gaps between the Jewish and Arab sectors are growing, and it is a scandal that stikes at the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Second, Tamar Gozansky is a brilliant parliamentarian who achieves much of her legislative agenda, which is socially progressive."

"But," I said, "the party is communist, and you are not a communist."

"I look at what the party does in parliament -- and it does very well, both supporting its sector, and reaching out to others for socially progressive legislation."

Ever since then I have supported Hadash for the same reasons. And now that Dov Khenin, the brilliant Tel-Aviv law professor (from 2004-2006; see comment section below), human rights activist, and enviromental advocate, is prominent in the list, supporting Hadash is a no-brainer for any progressive Jew.

Here are my additional reasons for supporting Hadash -- and for abandoning Meretz, at least until it gets its act together.

1. The Palestinian-Jewish partnership is the only hope for the peoples of the region. Magnes said it, and he was right. It is time for progressive Jews, including Zionists, to climb down the tribalist tree. We have a state, power, and achievements -- and there will always be enough tribalist Jews out there, trust me.

2. The status of Palestinian Israelis in society is even more a scandal. For sixty years they have been excluded from all Israeli governments, "left", "center", and "right" (i.e., center, right, and to the right of Ghengis Khan). They will still be excluded, but the more seats they have, the more their voices will be heard. (This means that Jews can and should vote for other Palestinian Israeli parties as well.)

3. Hadash has the most progressive agenda of any political party in Israel. Enough said about that.

4. The Jews in Hadash know their place. There is no chance that Jews will try to take over Hadash, because Jewish supporters of Hadash know that this is first and foremost and Arab party. There is no room for the "benign paternalism" of liberal Jews, as in the Sixties.

5. Meretz lacks energy; it should be renamed "Viagra". It exists as a club for some Tel-Aviv secularists and some kibbutznikim who became dinosaurs long ago. If more proof were needed, just witness its pussyfooting on the Gaza war (with some very important exceptions, who should be praised for coming out against the spirit of their aging party, e.g., Zahava Gal-On.)

6. Hadash and not Meretz realizes that Israel's problems began in 1948 (if not earlier) and not in 1967 -- with the founding of the "Ethno-democratic State of Israel" by Russian Jews. Hadash wants the State of Israel to become a Western-style democracy, and not another Putinocracy. That probably won't happen for a long time, given the fact that there are so many Russians in Israel. But Israel's decline in the West, at least among the Western democracies, is not too long off.

7. An electoral defeat for Meretz is what it needs to get its house in order, to let the old cattle out to pasture, and to join the 21st century.

Sure Hadash is a political party, and it is not perfect, by any mean. Sometimes it seems to me to be a little too moderate (Part of that is due to the personality of Mohammad Barakeh, its respected leader.) I will say nothing against anybody voting for other Arab political parties either, though the Balad-Hadash rivalry is strong.

But this is a golden opportunity for people sick of the situation to go for Hadash. Whatever government will be formed, Meretz won't be a part of it. So even the old argument that a vote for Hadash is a wasted vote doesn't fly.

If you can't bring yourself to vote for Hadash, then please vote for Bibi or Avigdor, or somebody on the right. I have been hoping for a rightwing landslide in the coming election. That will be pure gold for progressives.


Anonymous said...

Two comments:
1. as far as I know, Dov Khanin has a Ph.D. in political science, and not in law. In addition, I don't think he ever held any academic position.
2. While at some times I sympathize with your wish for a right-wing landslide, and I certainly understand it, I'm having problems with it. I found a bit problematic for such a statement to be made by a person that has a very strong base in a different, much more liberal country (though I know part of you immediate family lives here). It will be us who will have to deal with the really bad mess that will be here (and yes - I aware of the fact that today already there is quite a mess, and that a right-wing landslide might make this mess evident to moderate jews. But still).
Other than that - great post, as always. Loved the translation of the Israeli political map (left=center, center=right etc.) though today, I think, with Barak leading the "Left", a new translation is needed...

Anonymous said...

I no longer live in Israel, but have voted Hadash in the past - for precisely the reasons you cite. I've always wondered what the polling station committee in my "to the right of Genghis Khan" religious neighbourhood made of my lone vote for Hadash (ok, I'm making assumptions). They must have figured it was some kind of mistake. A 'vav' (symbol of Hadash) can look awfully like a "bet" (symbol of the NRP) if you've been up late reading Orot Hakodesh. Were I living in Israel today I would certainly vote Hadash

Jerry Haber said...


Thanks. Both you and I are wrong. From 2004-6 Khenin directed the Environmental Justice project at the Tel-Aviv University Law School. (check out his Knesset webpage). I remembered that, and I thought he was still there. I also called him "professor," which is probably not the best title according to Israeli academic practices, but in the US, the director of a project like that is given the title as a courtesy.

For what it's worth, I live around 5 months a year in Israel, and all my children and grandchildren are there permanently. Every few years I am there on sabbatical.

Whether Labor, Kadima, or Likud rules, makes little difference to me or my family on a personal level.

There are indeed degrees of evil; perhaps the Palestinians will suffer worse under Bibi than under Livnat. But, frankly, I don't think that the difference will be qualitative.

Remember, as Y. Ben-David likes to point out, Bibi's right-wing government saw less of a settlement boom than did Barak's.

Anyway, can anybody seriously say that there is much difference between a government with Kadima and one without?

Jerry Haber said...


I remember the first time I voted in Israel. I lived then in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Jewish Quarter. I had decided to vote for Lova Eliav in 1984, whose party just missed getting in.

Anyway, when I got to my polling place, I went behind the curtain and saw that there were no ballots for him. I didn't know what to do. So I went out to the election supervisors and told them that my guy's ballot wasn't there. The supervisor quite nicely said, "Which one is that?" When I said that this was not his business, he said, "Don't worry, you can write whomever you want on a blank ballot." I insisted that they check things out. Sure enough, some wag had covered Eliav's ballots with the Kahane party.

I think it was that election, when somebody caught a haredi election supervisor in Ramot Polin stuffing the ballot box when they had taken a break "for lunch."

The only confession I have to make is that I worked to get out the vote in 1997 for Ehud Barak. Oy, was I mistaken!

Mad Zionist said...

From the perspective of a right wing nationalist, let me tell you that Likud has been absolute poison. It was Likud who gave away the Sinai (Begin), it was Likud who gave away Hebron (Bibi), and it was Likud that gave away Gaza (Sharon).

Labor, Kadima, Israel our Home and Likud are virtually indistinguishable parties today. All four favor compromising land and creating a Palestinian State, and all will end up sitting together in an overwhelming majority government. What's the difference if it's Livni, Barak, Lieberman or Netanyahu in charge? Answer: NOTHING.

Now only a single, tiny party exists that completely opposes land concessions: National Union, led by Yaakov Katz. They are going to maybe get 3 or 4 seats, and will nave no impact on policy whatsoever.

Hadash? Makes no real difference, the Zionist parties have thrown in the towel anyways.

Jerry Haber said...

Mad Zionist,

Don't you think there is a consensus among the center parties around the Sharon plan -- a withdrawal from around 50% of the West Bank and the formation of pockets of Palestinian autonomy that we can enter at will?

So, yes, from your perspective, that is giving up more of Eretz Yisrael, and really, doesn't advance anybody's interests, and from my perspective, it is just shafting the Palestinians more.

In short, we are in agreement that the future sucks; where we disagree is that in your opinion it could be worse (less E.Y., less settlements) and I think it could be better (ditto) But both of us see no possibility of a fundamental change.

In a sense, that is good. Because if the center were able to help create a Palestinian "state", it would be a disaster for the Jews and for the Palestinians.

Thanks for writing!

Mad Zionist said...

Jerry, yes we do agree that a two state solution is going to be grossly insufficient for both Arabs and Jews. This means that we have a starting point of discussion. The 4 leading parties have zero ideas beyond status quo, which can only result in total failure and misery for everyone.

You and I both know chopping up this tiny parcel of land will never work, so the question is how can a single state solution best work for all sides, with the safety of the Jews being top priority?

My idea is to have a single Israel, final borders to include all the land currently comprising Green Line Israel and the Territories of Judea, Samaria, Golan, and Gaza. Then, we allot the entire Sinai Peninsula to the arabs as a Palestinian State where they can enjoy self determination and an abundance of natural resources. Israel would help facilitate this in conjunction with Egypt.

Arabs who remain in Israel would be granted citizenship in the nation of New Palestine, and resettled with generous compensation.

If they wished to stay, they would need to either legally convert to Judaism, or apply for a "Blue Card", allowing them to remain with human rights but not citizenship so long as they can demonstrate loyalty to Israel and have no criminal or terrorist history against the state.

My intentions are sincerely to achieve peace, and I do believe it can be done with my solution in a way that's humane and allows all sides win. Unfortunately, nobody in positions of power will even approach the concept.

Jerry Haber said...

Mad Zionist,

Some agreement and some disagreement.

The Sinai business is a non-starter. How many people live in the Sinai? Natural resources? You mean oil? By the way, last time I saw, it belonged to Egypt, not to the Palestinians.

So let's just talk about One State from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.

OK, we can do one of two things:

Declare Israel to be the Jewish State, and make citizenship a function of being Jewish. You can be a Jewish Jew, a Moslem Jew, or a Christian Jew. Conversion will be a civil ceremony.

The above sounds odd, but something like it was suggested before; in the late 18th century, the Berlin businessman David Friedlaender said that for the Jews to become citizens of Prussia, they should all convert to Christianity, but an enlightened Christianity without the belief in the divinity of Jesus, and in which they retained their Jewish customs.

OK, the above still sounds odd...even the enlightened Christians were not wild about the scheme.

The other possibility is One State of Israel, in which Palestinian Jews, Christians, and Muslims would have Israeli citizenship. If you like, the constitution of this state could guarantee the centrality of various cultures, including the Jewish one, of course.

The Jewish people would find their national expression within the State of Israel, and the Palestinian Muslims and Christians would find their national expression also within the State of Israel.

In such a state, there would be no demographic problem, since the state would be 100% Israeli.

You can read a little about it in my post, Zionism Without a Jewish State. But you could even call Israel a Jewish state, not just because of its name, but because of its founding culture.

Mad Zionist said...

The Sinai business is a non-starter. How many people live in the Sinai? Natural resources? You mean oil? By the way, last time I saw, it belonged to Egypt, not to the Palestinians.

Jerry, it would be easy to call any solution a non-starter for any number of reasons, so let's not just dismiss based on an outside the box thought process.

The fact that Sinai is virtually unpopulated only adds to the reasons why it makes sense.

Regarding resources, oil is a pretty big natural resource, Jerry, to go along with a substantial coastline and an opportunity to develop fertile greenhouse crops like the Israelis had done so beautifully in Gaza's "barren wasteland".

As far as it being technically Egyptian territory for now, well, we've already seen how that can easily change hands back and forth for the right price, so let's let the dialogue begin!

Anonymous said...

How do you propose that we get there from here? And what would you propose that Jews in the U.S. do to move our institutions to be advocates of this position?

Jerry Haber said...


Where do you want to go? I don't think I have given a real vision of where I would like to go, because I am agnostic on specific political configurations. Or to say this differently, I don't see how we can get to where I want to go, which is a place where both communities are roughly equal in power and security.

Well, I guess it follows from my desire for parity, or equality, that the Israelis be weakened and the Palestinians strengthened. So anything that can do to further those aims, and in such a way that human rights are preserved, will be fine in my book.

Anonymous said...

@ Mad Zionist. What you propose is a soft form of ethnic cleansing, isn’t ? A soft sort of purification ? My question is : do jews need that kind of solution ? Do they need to live in such an extreme form of social and ethnic purity ? Is it what Herzl had originally in mind ? I always thought that in his book "Der Judenstaat" he promoted a state for the jews, meaning a state where the jews could live unharmed but not necessarely a jewish state, made solely for the jews. In my view, Herzl project was a way to enhance and protect jewish rights but not jewish purity, religious wise.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jerry, for a great post, well-argued and impassioned. I still share some of the first Anonymous' concerns about a right-wing landslide, especially after recent events in Gaza, but I know you believe it will be better for the Palestinians and progressive positions, or at least no worse than Livni or Barak would be. I suppose we will see.

Also, though I recognize my views and those of Mad Zionist are irreconcilable and I appreciate that you always engage people constructively, even those you disagree with (one of the best things about your blog, in my opinion), I can't let that preposterous Sinai idea pass without more scathing remarks than yours, mostly because it exhibits the same sort of imperial arrogance and ultimately racist ignorance that characterized early and much contemporary political Zionism. A "virtually unpopulated" area that could be made to bloom and prosper, if only the few indigenous residents/owners could be bought off or somehow spirited away across the border? Gee, where have I heard that before? If I recall a nation-state was created in the region in 1948 based on a similar proposition, and that's worked out so well for everyone concerned, hasn't it? Why on earth would you think, Mad Zionist, that the Egyptian people or the Egyptian government could be bribed into turning a huge chunk of their country into a Palestinian state? Why on earth do you imagine that a Palestinian in the Galilee or Ramallah or Hebron would willingly uproot their lives and leave their homeland to go live in a strange place if the price is right? Would you leave Israel and relocate to Brooklyn, Paris, Warsaw, Fez, or wherever else you happen to have cultural connections for a generous compensation package, say something along the lines of that given to the residents of Gush Katif? This isn't 1917, or even 1947, and neither you, Israel, the US, nor the UN have the right to dispense with another nation's sovereign territory or destiny as you see fit. That's why your idea is a non-starter: it has nothing to do with not being able to think outside the box, it's just that you can't even conceive of "Arabs"--Egyptians or Palestinians--as actual people with their own desires and ambitions, and the same attachment to home, family, land, nation, dignity, and other values that you yourself undoubtedly hold dear.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that real dialogue between Jews and Arabs must take place, but HADASH is not really the one to do it. I realize many Arabs vote for HADASH because they may feel that they are the most effective in representing their interests, but I don't believe the party's Communist ideology (and the word "Communist" is still part of their name and identity) represents more than a tiny fraction of the Israeli Arab population. The fact is that many of the party's leaders were Christians who felt more comfortable with the secular nature of the party than with the more "pure" Arab parties which have a strong Islamist influence.

Having said that, I believe the only Israeli camp that can really, truly carry out a dialogue OF EQUALS between Jews and Arabs is what you would call "The Far Right" or the Jewish Nationalist/Religious camp. You may be aware that in the early years of the Judea/Samaria settlement movement, there was great effort placed in making good relations between the Jews in the settlements and the neighboring Arab population. It even was having success with not a few joint economic projects. The thing that killed it was the Israeli gov'ts decision to support Arafat's PLO which intimidated all the local Arabs. Recently, contacts have been renewed in Hevron, at least, due to the growing deterioration of the FATAH/Palestinian Authority.

Why do I say only the Jewish Nationalist/Religious/Settler camp can do this. Because we talk the same language as the Arabs, have many of the same values.
The problem is that the Israeli mentality as formed by the Marxist/Socialist Left (MAPAI and MAPAM) is very elitist and this infected all parts of the Israeli political spectrum, viewing most of the population as an ignorant rabble which must be led by an "elite". Of course, they view the Arabs the same way. Thus, it was a lot more fun and profitable for Peres and Rabin to cut a deal with terrorist chief Arafat who, of course, let loose an unprecendented wave of terror than to talk to Palestinians on the ground. You don't get Nobel "Peace" Prizes for really improving the situation, you only get if for having staged media events attended by celebrities like Bill Clinton. To be frank, you yourself, Jerry, expressed this same elitist dismissal of the Arabs with your comment:

The Jews in Hadash know their place. There is no chance that Jews will try to take over Hadash, because Jewish supporters of Hadash know that this is first and foremost and Arab party. There is no room for the "benign paternalism" of liberal Jews, as in the Sixties.

You are, of course, pointing out that the "natural" thing would be for Jews to take over the party, just as Uri Avnery said to Ilan Pappe when he opposed a "single state" because Avnery said it would be natural and inevitable that Jews would dominate it. In other words, you guys are saying that Jews are smarter.

When the Nationalist/Religious/Settler meets the Arab we both have the attitude "this land belongs entirely to us-but since neither of us is strong enough to oust the other, we might as well try to get along". The religiuos Jew has similar values to the Muslim Arab....love of the land, respect for elders and tradition, famiily life, opposition to pornography, homosexuality and sexual permissiveness. The Left has an altogether different agenda. The Left carries a "missionary" agenda to bring "progress" (AS THEY SEE IT) to the "backwards" Arabs. The most eloquent exponenet of this approach is Dr Bernard Avishai and his "Hebrew Republic". He calls for "deJudaizing" Israel (which he says will please the Arabs-which it won't-but it would certainly please him). His Hebrew Republic would not espouse "Jewish" values, which he views as "primitive", but rather "globalized, secular, materialist, consumerist" values which he thinks the Arabs are dying to adopt. In other words, he is a modern Crusader who comes to the country with an alien "religion", just like the medieval Crusaders, and he wants to impose it on "the natives", thinking that simply removing the "Jewish" aspect from the country's identity will make it palatable. The authentic Nationalist/Religious Jew is NOT representing a missionary religion and is much less of a threat to the values and lifestyle fo the Arabs. But the Arabs know that Eretz Israel is part and parcel of Judaism (Eretz Israel, not the whole world Avishai's globalizers are trying to dominate) so when they talk to us they know and understand what we are saying, unlike the mearly mouth Left which says things like "take Jerusalem, we don't want our own holy places" and then who turn around and bomb Gaza. We don't want formal "peace treaties" which they themselves can't agree to because they are humiliating...we instead offer modus-vivendi (maybe somthing like HAMAS long-term truce without Israel giving up the settlements which would be suicide and which undercut the approach I am offering), relaxation of the security system in Judea/Samaria if there is quiet, the Arabs running their own affairs and economy. Again, they can not FORMALLY accept this, it must be done quietly over a long period of time. But this is the only way forward.

I am the first to admit that many on the "Right" don't understand what I am saying, they adopted the elitist attitude of the Israeli Left, but new forces on the Nationalist/Religious Right are appearing and they seem to be willing to break the mold of the old thinking.

Jerry Haber said...

So, Y. Ben David, since I don't have time to respond to all that you say, I will ask you another question:

What do you think of Menachem Forman and his views, which sound a bit like yours?

Jews would take over if they started voting for Hadash in droves. The Arabs are a minority with little power; Jews are a majority with lots of power. It is understandable that there is a danger for those who have power to take over from those who don't.

I have used Avnery's argument many times. But I am becoming less certain that it works. Why is a situation in which one state completely dominates another state preferable to one people dominating another people in one state?

Needless to say, the powerful majority rejects the notion of "parity" -- the Arabs rejected it before 1948; the Jews afterwards. But unless the assymmetry of power is reduced, disaster is assured -- since there is simply no way that the weaker minority will not harbor feelings of resentment.

So whether one state or two states, there has to be some way of formally leveling the playing field, or at least making it a lot more level.

Mad Zionist said...

MM, I understand your sensitivity to the ideas of resettling a population of any size or composition, even if it's only a few miles away and without any suffering, but these are very sensitive issues that run deeper than simply imploring everyone to "just get along" in traditional liberal utopian fashion.

If the past 100 years of modern Zionism has taught us anything, it is that the arabs and Jews cannot cohabit peacefully and happily as countrymen in Israel. Sure, there can be some tepid toleration, but it's filled with too much mistrust, fear, bigotry and anger to be tenable long term. Also, the nationalist and religious ambitions of both the arabs and Jews is too strong and conflicting to reconcile with any permanent stability.

If we are to try and maintain some kind of delicate, equal balance of power and numbers between Jews and arabs that will somehow cancel out both Jewish and Moslem claims to autonomy, we are not living in reality. This recipe will lead to terrible horrors that at some point become unleashed like a powder keg waiting to explode.

I believe both arabs and Jews have the right to self-determination, only not for the same property. Is it ideal to have to resettle Arabs a few miles in order to have peace and prosperity for both Jews and Arabs? No, but it sure beats the alternatives.

Remember, your argument to have a multinational, multicultural state of all peoples is not based on economic, security, religious, or nationalist solutions, but a feel-good story you hope can become a reality. The idea of establishing a viable, peaceful Palestinian homeland just beyond the borders of Israel addresses resolving real conflicts, real problems, and real interests.

A socio-experiment of trying to mush diametrically opposing sides of a deadly conflict together and hope they somehow renounce their profound differences is simply not a solution, it's making a bad situation much, much worse.

Anonymous said...

"Why is a situation in which one state completely dominates another state preferable to one people dominating another people in one state?"

For those, including liberal Zionists like Avnery, who can see self-determination exclusively in the form of a state of their own, and therefore cling tooth and nail to Israel-as-a-Jewish-state, the answer is obvious: even if they don't actually want one state to completely dominate the other, they know very well, given demographics, that one people dominating the other in one state won't last.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Mad Zionist, you are living up to you nick,that's for sure.
Loved that: "resettling a population of any size or composition, even if it's only a few miles away and without any suffering". Here is an idea: if it is without any suffering and just a few miles away, why not resettle Israeli Jews there? (and we love going to Sinai "lehitmastel" in any case! that'll be a permanent "sutul'!) I mean, these Arabs just cannot shut-up and enjoy while we're raping them. Why not just move a few miles away and avoid all the "terrible horrors that at some point become unleashed like a powder keg waiting to explode." Geez!

Anonymous said...

Vote for Alle Yarok!

Mad Zionist said...

Peter, your juvenile use of sarcasm and mockery is not worthy of an intellectual response.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Mad Zionist, it emphasized how stupid what you were saying was, that's all. Palestinians have no more reasons to agree to your genius proposal than Israeli Jews. But in your deluded mind you convince yourself that you are thinking out of the box, present unique solutions... Good luck with that.

Mad Zionist said...

Peter, do you consider the arabs desire for conquering Israel to be stronger than their desire for quality of life?

If I went into the projects of the world and told every person living in poverty that I would give them generous compensation, a new home of their own, security, and jobs if they would be willing to move across town how many do you think would take me up on the offer?

Answer: virtually all of them.

You see, Israelis are not the ones living in refugee camps and slums. They are not humiliated, hungry and broke without a homeland to call their own. The Palestinian arabs are the ones living in urine because they have been persecuted by the surrounding arab countries who've used them like islamist props for over 60 years. It's the Jews who go out of their way to make the untenable lives of the Palestinian Arabs as tolerable as possible without jeopardizing their own safety in the process.

You see, the solution is to help the Palestinians take care of their basic needs of security, prosperity, health, jobs, and hope for a better future. I provide all these things with my plan of arab resettlement. My humanitarian mission is to end the misery and make both sides safe and happy, while you just hope to expose the Jews to more terror, and punish them so their lives are as miserable, poor and displaced the Palestinians you pretend to love.

More suffering for everybody is no solution, Peter.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Mad Zionist, your comment would have made Goebbels proud. Excuse me while I puke.

Mad Zionist said...

Peter, your comments are increasingly nonsensical. You throw out wild statements with no basis on reality. Did you even read my comment?