The Recent Election Is a Nail in the Coffin of Israel’s Labor Party

April 12 2019

Surveying the results of the Tuesday’s election, Liel Leibovitz draws several lessons, including one about the demise of the country’s left:

In 1992, the year before the Oslo Accords were introduced with much fanfare, Labor and Meretz, the twin pillars of the Zionist left, won a staggering 66 seats in the Knesset, giving them a strong mandate to pursue their peace plans. This week, Labor and Meretz eked out a combined ten seats, far less than the ḥaredi parties, which won sixteen, and exactly the same as the two Arab parties, Ḥadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad. Considering the fact that Benny Gantz’s party, Blue-and-White, had very few, if any, substantive disagreements with Netanyahu’s Likud, the meaning of this is stark and simple: the left, as it has existed for generations, is thoroughly, unequivocally, and irreversibly dead.

Having run for decades on poses rather than policies, [the Israeli left] failed to produce a coherent answer to the question that was foremost in most Israelis’ minds, namely, what to do when the so-called partner for peace, the Palestinian Authority, giddily and unabashedly cheered on and paid for the murder of innocent Israelis. Instead, the left talked about identity politics—a favorite of Meretz’s new leader, Tamar Zandberg—and invested more and more of its communal resources in addressing audiences in Berlin, London, and New York but not in Netanya, Petaḥ Tikvah, and Beersheva.

It’s likely that the slew of nongovernmental organizations that make up the contemporary left’s beating heart—many with robust funding from European governments and other foreign sources like George Soros’s Open Society Foundation—will continue to campaign anywhere but at home, with the political parties that support them continuing to pay the price.

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More about: Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics, Labor Party, Meretz

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat