Monday, March 8, 2010

“There is a New Left in Town”

I started translating the address delivered at the Sheikh Jarrah demonstration Saturday Night by activist Sarah Beninga, but I was beaten to the punch by the Sheikh Jarrah website here. (And Didi Remez published his own translation here at his indispensable Coteret site)

The rousing speech, which does not have a single author, articulates a vision of the Israeli New Left. It will be very easy for old folks to dismiss them; in the Middle East, cynicism and a "been-there-done-that" mentality prevails. And yes, there are already important groups to which some of the Sheikh Jarrah activists belong, like Ta'ayush and others. But this manifesto captures something new, which, if it develops, will be an important moral and political force in Israel/Palestine --now and as long as the struggle lasts.

Even the consciousness, or the recognition that there is a new left, is important.

I hope that it is widely circulated throughout the world.

There is a New Left in Town

There is a New Left, and it is not a left that is content with peace talks; it is a left of struggle. There is a New Left that knows that there are things you have to fight against even when they are identified with the state and even when they are sanctioned by law. There's a New Left that knows that this struggle will not be decided on paper, but on the ground, on the hills, in the vineyards, in the olive groves. There's a New Left that is not afraid of settlers – even when they come down on us from the hills, masked and armed. This left does not succumb to political oppression by the police, nor does it care what Ma'ariv writes about it.

There is a New Left in town. This left does not want to be loved, does not dream of filling town squares and does not bask in the memories of 400,000 demonstrators. This left is a partnership of Palestinians who understand that the occupation will not be stopped by missiles and bombs, and of Israelis who understand that the Palestinian struggle is their own.

The New Left links arms with Palestinians in a cloud of tear-gas in Bili'in, and with them, bears the brunt of settler violence in the South Hebron Hills. This left stands by refugees and work immigrants in Tel-Aviv and fights the Wisconsin Project [privatized "welfare-to-work" program]. This New Left is us, all of us.

All those who came here tonight; all those who dared to cross the imaginary line separating West and East Jerusalem despite the threats and intimidation  -  we are all the New Left that is rising in Israel and Palestine. We are not fighting for a peace agreement; we are fighting for justice. But we believe that injustice is the main obstacle to peace. Until the Ghawis, the Hanouns and the El-Kurds return to their homes, there will be no peace; because peace will not take root where discrimination, oppression, and plunder exist. There is a New Left in town and this left stands with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah tonight, and it will continue standing with them until justice overcomes fanaticism.

But there is also a New Right in town. A Right filled with envy and racism that seduces the masses with its jingoistic rhetoric. The New Right has no interest in the well-being and the welfare of human beings. The New Right is only interested in a narrow ethnic and tribal loyalty a la Avigdor Liberman.  For the New Right only the Jewish poor deserve attention. And what makes someone Jewish is that they're not Arabic. The New Right has nothing to offer but never-ending war. The New Right has nothing to offer bur hate for the other: Arabs, refugees and leftists.

This New Right creates the fanatic settlers against whom we are demonstrating tonight. These settlers hate Jerusalem. They have no love for Israel and no love for humankind – they love only themselves. There are many amongst the settlers who can and should carry out a dialogue with. But the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah who sing songs of praise to Baruch Goldstein – must be defeated.

The New Right created the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat. He is a technocrat who doesn't understand or care about Jerusalem. He is a mayor who uses administrative terror against the residents of East Jerusalem and neglects the residents of West Jerusalem, while mouthing empty clichés.  If Jerusalem is a powder keg, then Nir Barkat is the one who is striking the match. But Barkat doesn't scare us and neither do the settlers or Liberman.

We will continue coming to Sheikh Jarrah and everywhere that justice is crushed by the forces of occupation and oppression. Take a look around you; we are not as few as we thought we were! And we will prevail!


Michael W. said...

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Gideon Levy's recent column on that there was never a peace camp. He says every Israeli was lying during before, during, and after Oslo.


Or what are your thoughts on him in general?

Jerry Haber said...

When I read the piece, I wrote my friends, "Mostly correct." Why only mostly? Because the term "peace camp" was invented to differentiate from those Greater Land of Israel types who were not prepared to cede an inch of territory to Arabs. And there were, and are, certainly many Israelis who would be willing, in the name of a peace, to make concessions -- if they thought their security was assured.

So in that sense, there was a peace camp.

But the phrase even then was stupid.

For one thing, it annoyed rightwingers who also wanted peace, and who would work to bring peace, but not at the expense of what they took to be core Zionist values, such as a Jewish state at least to the Jordan, and no recognition of other people's national claims.

I will go out on a limb and say that somebody like Y. Ben David, who leaves comments on this blog, also wants peace. I mean, who doesn't want peace?

The problem is that if the conflict should not be framed in terms of peace, because that already accepts the Zionist narrative that says the Zionist came with peaceful intentions towards the Arabs, and they were met with violence. Whereas, I have written before, Zionism from the outset, and inevitably, would have to clash with Arab nationalism. From the Palestinian Arab perspective, the peace camp could be likened to a guy who takes over your house, throws you out of it, and then says, "I will give you the basement to live in if you let me live in peace. Wouldn't you rather live in the basement than outside?"

Levy had another point -- and here I agree -- that the big crowds at those demonstrations in the 1980s were partly because demonstrations were tribal happenings. By the way,I could say the same thing of the rightwing demonstrations against Oslo in the 90s, many of which had a carnival atmosphere (at one in Jerusalem there were hot-dog vendors!)

I would have been happier had Levy written that there was never a Zionist left. Because I have come to believe that Zionist left is ideologically an oxymoron; at any rate, it has always been more nationalistic than left.

I have written before that the struggle between left and right in this country has been a struggle more of tactics than of values. Both agree on the justice and the need for a Jewish ethnocracy. Both see no real problems with what happened in 1948. Both want the control of maximum land with control of a minimum number of Palestinians. Where they disagree on is whether it is better to get rid of Arabs by getting rid of the land on which they sit (yet keeping effective control of it), or by keeping the land and continuing to deprive them of rights.

But after the breakdown of the Oslo process, it is abundantly clear that there is no peace camp vs. nationalist camp; there is rather the large "chauvinistic center" with a real left made up of some (but not all) leftwing Meretz types and folks to their left, and a real right made up of Uzi Landau and folks to the right of him.

What do I think of Gideon? I thank Hashem that He has sent us prophets like him, even when I don't always agree with everything they say.

Michael W. said...


I think your views are well beyond mainstream Israeli positions.

Can you please direct me to your post on the inevitable clash between Zionism and Arab nationalism?

I think the Zionist response, as accepted by most Israelis, to the analogy about the Palestinian kicked out of the house, is that the only reason they got kicked out is because they tried to kill the rising Jewish presence, and ultimately any Jewish power.

How do you reconcile that no Jews were allowed in the West Bank after 1948 and the Israeli Arab community was growing with increasing rights, and the position that it was the Zionist intent to ethnically cleanse Israel of Arabs and that it was the Arabs that welcomed Jews? (if that is your position)

I think your basic position (from what I've read) is so fundementally non-Zionist, if not anti-Zionist. What's wrong with the Lefty position to get rid of land with Arabs on it like the West Bank? The Right wants to get rid of Arabs on land they claim. How are these tactics/positions not based on fundemental values? True, both wish to not rule over Arabs, but withdrawing (the Lefty position) does not harm the Arabs. What moral code says that we should conquer humanity so we can all be equal?

From the recent Haaretz article about the Israeli Arab, it seems some of them only accept Israel because they have no choice, they just want recognition of the Nakba. But then why would it matter if Israel withdrew control over that Arab's land? It seems like there is very little interest in ruling each other. At least Israel has done some things to aid Israeli Arabs.

Y. Ben-David said...

An excellent summary of the political make-up of the country, Jerry. As I have stated, I believe the ONLY chance for peace is for Israel to hold the territories and to continue Jewish settlement project there, while trying to reach an UNOFFICIAL modus-vivendi with the Palestinian population there. The "peace process" and Israeli concessions only strengthen the extremists in the Arab (Palestinian and others) world by showing that the Jews are weak, as Muhammed said, and all they have to do in order to get rid of Israel completely is to keep up the pressure with never ending demands and grievances. This is what happened when Israel pulled out unilaterally from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and when it made the Olso Agreements. All three actions brought bloody wars, NOT peace. A solid Israeli stand against political and territorial (as opposed to economic and social policies) will prove to the Arab world that Israel is here to stay. Of course, they won't like it, but the reality of the situation will eventually sink in, partricularly when radical political Islam goes into disrepute, as I am certain will happen, just as did Nasserite Pan-Arabism in the past.

This is my "ani ma'amin" (my beliefs) about the political situation. I think a sigificant part of the Israeli population agrees with me, I would guess, around one-third to 40%.

Yuval said...

And now we hear that several protesters were arrested in today's peaceful demonstration. I think it is a sign that these demonstrations are becoming effective - there is a real concern about it and an attempt to quell this phenomena. Just like In Biliin and NaAlin.
Kudos to the organizers and the devoted young people who keep on coming.

Avigdor said...

Y. Ben-David, you hit the nail on the head. This "New Left" can talk all it wants, but this new memorandum they've created only says one thing of substance - we can no longer promise peace.

The evacuations from Gaza and WB were designed to achieve peace, with or without Palestinian cooperation. They were masterminded by the left, which felt betrayed by the Arabs after 2000. Their response was to continue the evacuations, as if agreement with the Arabs had been reached, hoping that afterward, the Jews would be left alone.

The left can no longer talk of peace, because it has realized they have no way to coerce peace from the Arabs - certainly not by giving up land.

So, they launch a protest over a few families that got kicked out of their home by the High Court for not paying rent to the owners of the land. Had they paid rent, they would still be in the homes.

That's not thinking big - the left has no idea how to solve any problems for Israel. They're out of ideas. Their numbers are thinning out, as proven in the last elections. This "new left" is maybe 5% of the population. Normal people want to go on with their lives, make a living, raise their children in peace, not start a revolution and destroy their own country.

The "new left" will be loud, they will scream at and smear their opponents, but ultimately they've become irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

"The evacuations from Gaza and WB were designed to achieve peace, with or without Palestinian cooperation. They were masterminded by the left, which felt betrayed by the Arabs after 2000. Their response was to continue the evacuations, as if agreement with the Arabs had been reached, hoping that afterward, the Jews would be left alone."

That would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. It says a lot about the Zionist character that you can say that and expect to be taken seriously, given what has happened since than - though what happened before Israel 'disengaged'(moved the check points out of Gaza and locked the door, basically. But that was for 'peace'?? IDIOT.)was more than enough to demonstrate to anyone watching that Israel was never interested in peace. It took me a less than a year - previously having absolutely nil for knowledge about the conflict - to be able to see clearly that Israel was NEVER looking for peace. Ever.