The Decline and Fall of the Israeli Left

Neil Rogachevsky
pick
May 21 2020
About Neil

Neil Rogachevsky teaches at the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and writes a monthly column for Mosaic.

From 1948 until 1977, the Labor party led every one of the Jewish state’s governments. The most recent election, however, has left Labor on its deathbed, having failed in several consecutive elections to unseat the now-dominant Likud. Instead it is the former IDF chief Benny Gantz who—leading an array of centrist parties—has established himself as Benjamin Netanyahu’s main rival. Neil Rogachevsky writes:

[A]lthough the (now broken) bloc of parties that Gantz had assembled, called Blue and White, was sometimes described as centrist or even center-left in the foreign media, Gantz’s opposition to Netanyahu has been anything but ideological. Indeed, anywhere else in the world, Blue and White would have been thought of as a classic right-wing party. Gantz’s platform consisted of calling Netanyahu “soft” for insufficiently bombarding or invading Gaza; he enlisted two other generals of the same persuasion as running mates to show he was serious. At campaign rallies and on TV, Blue and White leaders literally and figuratively draped themselves in Israel’s blue and white flag. The not particularly eloquent generals repeated the slogan “Israel before everything” and offered little else.

Gantz defended the “independent judiciary” and public services: he was an advocate of the civil servants and, so to speak, Israel’s “deep state” of prosecutors, judges, military officers, etc. His lone social issue was the country’s comparatively impressive healthcare system, which, because of population growth, has shown signs of strain in recent years; Gantz wanted to spend a bit more money on it.

But there was no class warfare at all in the Blue and White campaign. Most surprisingly, the attacks on the industrial families that control Israel’s major enterprises—the typical targets of left-of-center reformists—were nowhere to be heard. Instead, Gantz castigated Netanyahu for alleged (and likely exaggerated) corruption. He mainly sought to benefit from voters’ growing dislike of Netanyahu or at least fatigue—Netanyahu has now been prime minister for eleven years straight, after an earlier stint in that office from 1996 to 1999.

The single most important factor in the decline of Israel’s Labor party (as opposed, perhaps, to the labor movement) was the failure of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s.

Yet, Rogachevsky goes on to argue, the eventual collapse of Labor Zionism was in some ways an inevitable consequence of the movement from its very beginning.

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Read more at American Affairs

More about: Benny Gantz, David Ben-Gurion, Israeli history, Labor Party, Labor Zionism

 

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion