The reports of the demise of the Zionist left in Israel were not at all greatly exaggerated. The Left, which sold its soul to the "Peace Process," could not survive its death (or, which is the same, thing, its adoption by the rightwing Kadima and Likud parties).
The Zionist left "gave peace a chance at Camp David", and the Palestinians responded "by waging an Intifada of suicide bombers." It "gave peace a chance when the IDF withdrew from Gaza," and the Palestinians responded "by firing thousands of Kassam rockets." Frustrated by the Palestinians, hating the settlers (and the Russians, and the foreign workers, and the Mizrahiyim, and the "Dosim") the Zionist left – with a few important exceptions – escaped into its Gush Dan cocoon and its Tel-Aviv culture. The more socially-minded took on the problems such as the Environment, discrimination against Gays, the Sudanese refugees, etc., and forgot about the Palestinians. When the Israeli bombing of Gaza started, the Zionist left rallied around the flag, giving much-needed cover to the atrocities of the first few days of the war. And when those atrocities were documented by the world media, and Israeli NGOs, the majority of the Zionist left remained silent, only calling for an investigation after it had criticized, in harsh and intemperate tones, the report of an internationally respected Jewish jurist.
Who would have thought that the resurrection of the Zionist left – well, if not its actual redemption , then the beginning of its redemption – would have been caused by the displacement of a handful of Arabs in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, itself an old Israeli tradition? After all, while the Zionist left has consistently opposed many of the settlements (especially those whose founders were not of their own tribe), and while for years Peace Now's only raison d'être is its Settlement Watch, the anti-settlement activities of the Zionist Left have always been motivated by the desire to give peace a chance. For how could there be a "viable Palestinian state" with all those settlements preventing its creation?
It took the sickening injustice of Sheikh Jarrah – where the lawful Palestinian owners were evicted from their homes to make room for Jews on the basis of a principle that, if applied fairly, would evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes to make room for Palestinians – to rouse the Zionist left. Not all of it, of course, but the numbers are growing at the weekly demonstrations. And these demonstrations, unlike the ones at Bil'in and Nil'in, have a good number of Zionist left demonstrators.
The police's violent suppression of the protests have brought the protestors support from unsuspected quarters. Amnon Rubinstein, who has behaved in recent years like an Israeli Alan Dershowitz, has criticized the police for their harsh treatment of protestors. Even the rightwing Yehuda Glick, the head of the Temple Mount faction, has defended their rights to non-violent demonstration.
But for me, the important issue is the protestors actions – especially the identity of the protesters and not the police's reactions.
In today's YNET article here, two of the protestors identified at Friday's protest are Prof. Moshe Halbertal of the Hebrew University, and Avner Inbar, a doctoral student in philosophy. (Note, as a reader's request, the link is to the English report, which does not mention Halbertal. In the Hebrew version here, Halbertal is quoted as saying the following:)
I came here because I oppose settlements in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jeursalem. I think they harm the coexistence in the city and constitute an obstacle to its partition.
For those of my readers with short memories, Inbar was one of Halbertal's students, and an author of the letter criticizing Halbertal's article against the Goldstone report. See below or here
Perhaps I am a sentimentalist, but there is something stirring when professor and student, rav and talmid, who have widely diverging views on the Gaza Offensive, stand together to protest against such a blatant injustice as the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. True, Halbertal's own comment is more pragmatic than principled, more consequentialist than deontological, to use the philosophy jargon. Still, I would like to think that the student turned to his teacher and recited Victor Laslo's classic line to Rick at the end of Casablanca:
"Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."
Let's hope that the Zionist left, and especially its intellectuals, are coming back to the fight. Not the fight over some elusive Peace Process which always, and only serves the interest of the Israeli Occupation. But the fight against rank and blatant injustice, theft of land, deprivation of liberty and resources, abuse of power, tyranny of the weak, the whole litany of complaints of the brutal and lengthy Occupation.
For as long as the Palestinian people cannot live as free people in their land, how can any decent person support the aspiration of Jews to live as free people in their own land?
Is one people's hope and freedom inferior to the other's?