Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two for the Road

Some of the best op-eds in Haaretz are left untranslated – don't ask me why. Today Haaretz's print edition had two. The first, by Prof. Yehuda Kahana and Yoel Hecht, let the real demographic demon out of the bottle: No, it's not the ratio of Arabs to Jews; it's the ration of both of them to territory. By 2050 population projections forecast 18-20 million people between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. That will place an enormous burden on infrastructure, resources, and – unmentioned by the authors – the quality of life for Jews and Arab. Even if there is a slowing of the birth rate, the number will be high. Heck, it's overcrowded here now, as anybody living in Israel can attest. The authors go on to note that the percentage of laborers in the workforce is going to shrink, unless efforts are made to boost employment among Haredi men, and Israeli Arab women. They do not recommend taking steps to try to lower the birthrate, thought I don't know why. Who knows, maybe if it gets that bad, even more Israelis will leave.

The second, by Haim Baram, one of the most perceptive columnists in Israel, takes issue with the claim that the Labour Party is now, or ever was, leftwing. It has always belonged to what he calls, memorably, the "chauvinistic center". He points out that the Labour Party was in governments that initiated most of Israel's wars; during its tenure, the three most serious incidents against Israel's Arab citizens occurred: the Kfar Kassem massacre in 1956, the violent suppression of protests on Land Day in 1976, and the murder of 13 Arab citizens in October 2000. The destruction of the Histadrut Labour Union, the close cooperation with apartheid South Africa and French colonialism in Algeria, the adoption of the settlement project in the Occupied Territories, the building of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, not to mention Shimon Peres' support of Margaret Thatcher and Yitzhak Rabin's support of Richard Nixon – all these "achievements" of Labour governments can hardly be squared with leftwing social democracy. At best, some of the left-leaning members of Labour like Yossi Beilin, can be considered liberals, but not leftists.

Baram is mainly correct, although had he more space, he would have done well to distinguish between the Labour Party before the 1990s, when it was a tad more socialist (especially for ashkenazi Jews), and the Labor Party from the 1990s onward, when it abandoned socialism for neoliberalism, privatization, and American-style capitalism. I suppose the same sort of people who consider Obama to be a "socialist" would consider some of the Labour party leaders to be socialist. In point of fact, there is a Left in Israel – it consists of Hadash and some elements of Meretz. There is no extreme left in Israel, and hasn't been for some time. Those who talk about the "extreme left" are akin to those people, who, according to Maimonides, taste the bitter as sweet and the sweet as bitter. The judgment that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel is an "extreme left organization" can only be made by somebody like West Bank settler, Israel Harel, himself an extreme rightist – who, naturally, is considered by most Israelis to be a moderate.



Unknown said...

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,...And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Ariel to be born

pabelmont said...

The full population of Israel (10,000 sq mi with OPTs) is something like the full population of New York City (all 5 boros), which occupies 300 sq mi. If Israel is crowded today * * *.

However, Israel uses the same water NYC uses, and that is way too much in a water-starved region. And let us not forget: NO WATER, NO PEACE.

Population control? Yes. And also for the Palestinians. But chosen, not imposed. Part of a peace deal.