Thursday, September 6, 2018

Left, Right - What’s the Difference?

Salman Masalha ||

Left, Right - 

What’s the Difference? 

Arab MKs have always sat in the opposition, but theirs is a simulated opposition, and will never be a real part of Israel’s democracy. This is an ostracized opposition – even the 'left' isn’t ready to count it

Time and again, the so-called left fails the civil test. This left seems to be stuck in the same nationalist muck that it claims to oppose. Here and there it presents positions that have the appearance of opposition to the right-wing Netanyahu government, but then it unwittingly reveals the depth of its attachment to the same ethnocentricity that the right expounds.

A prominent example of this can be seen in the type of views that Professor Zeev Sternhell expresses from time to time in this newspaper. In his most recent column, Professor Sternhell sought to delineate the opposition in the Knesset, which is supposed to constitute an alternative to the Netanyahu government. In theory, he says, “The opposition stretches from the social-democratic wing of Meretz to what’s left of Labor to Yesh Atid voters.” Professor Sternhell also calculates the potential Knesset seats that such an opposition could amass: “On paper, we’re talking a potential of 40 seats.” Though he then qualifies that estimate by saying that some of those he is counting as potential members of the opposition “are close to being radical nationalists and would refuse to join forces with the Arabs.”

It is precisely in this theory where the inherent problem of the Israeli “left” is found – the opposition in Israel is always reserved just for Jews. This theory is part of a deeply rooted philosophy within the left’s political discourse.
In despair over the bleak state of the opposition, in May of last year Professor Sternhell called upon the leaders of the “center-left” to look in the mirror and think about who is the leader that could save Israel: “Everyone in Yesh Atid and Zionist Union should look in the mirror,” he urged, insisting that they need to recognize that Ehud Barak is “their best chance, perhaps their only one” to gain power and save the country from an apartheid government.

It’s as if only on paper are there 120 Knesset seats, for in the Israeli political discourse, on the right and the left, the 13 MKs from the Joint List are never counted. They essentially sit in the Knesset as a fig leaf to adorn the Jewish state with the look of democracy.

Sternhell’s leftist theory of the opposition ascribes a separate category – Arabs -- to a fifth of the country’s citizens. Into this basket are poured all the “Arabs,” with no differentiation whatsoever, as if their number did not contain a mix of social-democratic, secular, traditional, nationalist, leftist and rightist voters. All are assigned a single label: Arabs.

Arab MKs have always sat in the opposition, but theirs is a simulated opposition, and will never be a real part of Israel’s democracy. This is an ostracized opposition – even the “left” isn’t ready to count it.

Instead of talking about Israeli parties in the Knesset that represent citizens from different social and political streams, the left also uses the generalizing term “Arabs” that perpetuates the built-in exclusion. Therefore this left, which purports to present an alternative to the current government, repeatedly falls into the trap set for it by the nationalist right under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is not how you break down walls between citizens in the name of equality and replace the government. Quite the opposite. Instead, it looks like this kind of opposition theory from the left essentially embodies the spirit of the recently passed nation-state law.
Haaretz, Sep 06, 2018

For Hebrew, press here

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

From Rabin's Assassination to The Druze protest

The nation-state law basically gave a constitutional stamp of approval to that same campaign of divisiveness and racist spirit that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Salman Masalha ||

From Rabin's Assassination to The Druze protest

The Old, Familiar Evil Wafting Through the Clauses of the Nation-state Law
In the city square, to which tens of thousands of citizens streamed Saturday night in solidarity with the Druze protest against the nation-state law, a new Israeliness was born. This was the same square, Malchei Yisrael Square, that due to events on a different Saturday night, November 4, 1995, changed its name to Rabin Square.

Everyone who seeks to live in a sane and egalitarian country must thank the Druze community for spearheading the public protest against the nation-state law, and putting the debate about it and its destructive consequences on the public agenda. The Knesset, which voted for this despicable law that distinguishes between citizens on the basis of ethnic affiliation, basically gave a constitutional stamp of approval to that same campaign of divisiveness and racist spirit that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yigal Amir, who shot the prime minister in the back, was merely an emissary of the same ideological spirit that envelops the house on Balfour Street these days.

It’s important to remind those who are trying to forget or make others forget, that it was this prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who led those people who incited against Rabin. The evil of those days was the same evil that wafts among the clauses of the nation-state law. In those days the land was filled with wild incitement against the prime minister, who with measured steps and with some hesitation, was trying to bring about a historic reconciliation with the Palestinians and lead Israel to a saner place.

We must also recall that the heads of the messianic right, first and foremost the king of inciters who now serves as prime minister, argued at the time against Rabin that he could not make any “fateful” decisions for the simple reason that “he has no Jewish majority.” Rabin’s government at the time rested on a majority that included a bloc of the so-called Arab parties. But Rabin was not deterred by the threats of the right-wing fanatics. A few days before his murder, he spoke with disgust on state television about the unbridled incitement against his policy, and used terms like “racism” and “apartheid.”

With the help of a democratic majority in the Knesset, Rabin tried to broaden the concept of Israeliness to include Arab citizens and their representatives. This was anathema to the zealots of the “Jewish tribe,” which included opportunistic and populist rabbis and politicians who embarked on a crusade of Jewish tribal incitement.

Thus, they paved the way for that inflamed emissary who destroyed the dream of Israeli sanity with three shots. Even then I thought – and even wrote in a piece that appeared in November 1995 under the title “The Israeli soul yearns” – that this assassination was essentially a “family honor” killing. It was murder to defend the honor of the Jewish tribe.

The nation-state law in its current version is a direct continuation of that same incitement. It is aimed at promoting the apartheid cure, from the school of the fanatic right, against the demographic blow that is evolving between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is further evidence that this government, with all its components and under Netanyahu’s leadership, does not intend to seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The messianic right seeks through this law to shackle any future government that might take steps toward resolving the conflict. Should that happen it won’t take long before this right will emerge from its dark holes and shout from the city square that “the government and the one who heads it doesn’t have a Jewish majority.”

The abominable nation-state law that was passed, is, therefore, also the constitutional stamp that the fanatic Jewish right, led by the prime minister and chief inciter, Benjamin Netanyahu, is imprinting on a future pardon for the assassin Yigal Amir. That’s why it must be removed from the law books, and responsibility for that lies with all Israelis.
Haaretz, Aug 07, 2018

For Hebrew, press here

Related article: "Anthym for the tribe of Israel", Nov. 1995

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