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.