Sunday, February 15, 2009

After Israel's lurch to the Right...

AFTER Israel's lurch to the Right, which has brought a close finish between Tzippi Livneh's Kadima and Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud, leaving out-and-out fascist Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitainu in position to act as kingmaker, and Labour a humiliating fourth, is there any chance the pendulum could swing back; or that there can be any resumption of the so-called "peace process"?

Having suffered continued occupation and settlement expansion, seen what's left of their homeland carved into shrinking enclaves behind the encroaching separation Wall, been blockaded, and undergone two cruel blitzkeieg wars, Palestinians feel they have been processed enough. Many may sigh with relief that Netanyahu and his allies make no pretence of talking about peace. Some, including Israeli peaceniks, are finding what consolation they can in the hope that the more blatantly aggressive the Israeli government's swagger, the less excuse President Barack Obama will have for not putting America's dangerous rotweiler on the lead.

That will plainly require campaigners in the United States, and in Europe, to step up efforts for solidarity with the Palestinians, and to put the Zionist Lobby in its place. This is not easy. The longstanding lobbyists like AIPAC have been considerably reinforced in recent years by the rallying of neo cons and Christian fundamentalists behind Zionism at its worst. The BBC's stubborn refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for Gaza (in which not surprisingly it was joined by Murdoch's Sky) is a reminder of the media forces we are against. Yet there are straws blowing the other way. The students waging occupations across Britain in support of the Palestinians have been cheered by the news that Hampshire College in Masachusetts has voted to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation. At Cambridge (the UK Cambrdge that is) academics have signed a letter saying the varsity should have listened to student occupiers rather than moving to discipline them. In the European parliament moves to upgrade Israel's status with the EU have been put on hold, and the Socialist group of MEPs say Israel's privileges must be conditional on ending its blockade and other measures in Palestine. This was even before the Israeli election result.

What of possibilities for change for the better in Israel itself? There are some on the 'Left' here who won't differentiate between Israelis, right or left, and dropped any class analysis in time of war to become the fiercest Arab patriots and jihadis (so long as it only means shouting crude slogans from the back of a crowd). Others , not just in the labour movement bureaucracy but in some so-called "Marxist Tendencies", talked glibly of workers solidarity and would have us believe that "the Israeli labour movement could lead the struggle against this war". It seemed no one had told them of the Histadrut's historic part in building the Zionist state, or that in this war as previously with Lebanon, it was a Labour leader as Minister of Defence conducting the war (and with similar predictable results).

Even Labour Zionists, or erstwhile Labour Zionists, had no illusions on that score. I recognised a few in the audience at a Jewish Socialists' Group meeting the other night, nodding and applauding when Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, spoke scathingly of how Israel Labour's Barak had been left with ten Knesset seats - "one for every hundred Palestinians killed".

There was opposition in Israel, even in Sderot, which the IDF made its frontline media spot. Thousands marched around the country.Ten thousand marched in downtown Tel Aviv, where mounted police were ot, and carried the Palestinian flag through Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Young people refused to serve in the forces. But can this brave minority become more? Uri Avnery, the founder of Gush Shalom, is a veteran journalist and former Knesset member who was among the first Israelis to meet with the PLO. His background and outlook are not of the traditional, even Zionist, Left, but in his readiness to confront political issues as well as, on occasion, armed police, this octagenarian dissident has earned respect. The following is the last part of a longer article he wrote on the elections and their aftermath:

CAN ISRAEL change course? Can a real peace-oriented alternative arise? The two “Zionist Left” parties have been decisively beaten. Both Labor and Meretz have collapsed. Their two leaders who called for the Gaza War and supported it – Ehud Barak of Labor and Haim Oron of Meretz – have received the punishment they richly deserve. In a normal democracy, both would have resigned the day after the elections. But our democracy is not normal, and both leaders insist on staying on and leading their party to the next disaster.

Labor is a walking corpse – the only “social-democratic” party in the world whose leader’s sole aim is to stay on as war minister. When Barak spread the mantra “there is no one to talk with” he overlooked the logical conclusion “therefore we don’t need anyone to talk with them”.

The Labor Party has no party, no members, no political program, no alternative leadership. It will fail in opposition as it failed in government. Barring a miracle, it will end up in the junkyard of history. It will find Meretz already there. A socialist party that lost its way a long time ago: a party without any roots in the classes at the foot of the socioeconomic ladder, a party that has supported all our wars.

Some believe in easy solutions: a union of Labor and Meretz, for example. That is a union of the lame and the blind. No reason to expect that they would win the race.

THE REAL task is far more difficult. A completely new building must be erected in place of the one which has collapsed.

The need is for a new Left that will include new leaders from the sectors that have been discriminated against: the Orientals, the Russians and the Arabs. A new Left that will express the ideals of a new generation, people of peace, advocates of social change, feminists and greens, who will all understand that one cannot realize one ideal without realizing all of them. There can be no social justice in a military state; no one is interested in the environment while the cannons are roaring, feminism is incompatible with a society of machos riding on tanks, there can be no respect for Oriental Jews in a society that despises the culture of the Orient.

The Arab citizens will have to leave the ghetto in which they are confined and start to talk with the Jewish public, and the Jewish public must talk with the Arabs on equal terms. The Liberman slogan “No Citizenship Without Loyalty” must be turned around: “No Loyalty Without Real Citizenship”.

As Obama has done in the US, a new language, a new lexicon must be created, to replace the old and tired phrases. Much, much must be changed if we want to save the state.

for more info. and full Avnery article visit:

March 8: Uri Avnery and Miri Weingarten
Plus: Book launch & 2nd aniversary of IJV

2pm - 7 pm: Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London, WC1

Veteran Israeli dissident Uri Avnery in conversation with the Guardian's Ian Black, and Miri Weingarten from Physicians for Human Rights, who have struggled to get medical relief supplies to Gaza.

organised by Independent Jewish Voices. For more information and to register for this meeting, visit:



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