Israel, Politics

There is a New Left in town

Here is the full text of the speech given by Sarah Beninga representing the Israeli activists at the weekly demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah on March 6. Yes, it is a few weeks old, but with everything happening in that insane corner of the world and in DC, it is nice to have a moment of hope. (Translation from the Sheikh Jarrah site. Hat tip to The Magnes Zionist.)
There is a New Left, and it is not a left that is content with peace talks; it is a left of struggle. There is a New Left that knows that there are things you have to fight against even when they are identified with the state and even when they are sanctioned by law. There’s a New Left that knows that this struggle will not be decided on paper, but on the ground, on the hills, in the vineyards, in the olive groves. There’s a New Left that is not afraid of settlers – even when they come down on us from the hills, masked and armed. This left does not succumb to political oppression by the police, nor does it care what Ma’ariv writes about it.

Sarah Beninga at Sheikh Jarrah demonstration
Sarah Beninga at Sheikh Jarrah demonstration
There is a New Left in town. This left does not want to be loved, does not dream of filling town squares and does not bask in the memories of 400,000 demonstrators. This left is a partnership of Palestinians who understand that the occupation will not be stopped by missiles and bombs, and of Israelis who understand that the Palestinian struggle is their own.
The New Left links arms with Palestinians in a cloud of tear-gas in Bili’in, and with them, bears the brunt of settler violence in the South Hebron Hills. This left stands by refugees and work immigrants in Tel-Aviv and fights the Wisconsin Project [privatized “welfare-to-work” program]. This New Left is us, all of us.
All those who came here tonight; all those who dared to cross the imaginary line separating West and East Jerusalem despite the threats and intimidation – we are all the New Left that is rising in Israel and Palestine. We are not fighting for a peace agreement; we are fighting for justice. But we believe that injustice is the main obstacle to peace. Until the Ghawis, the Hanouns and the El-Kurds return to their homes, there will be no peace; because peace will not take root where discrimination, oppression, and plunder exist. There is a New Left in town and this left stands with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah tonight, and it will continue standing with them until justice overcomes fanaticism.
But there is also a New Right in town. A Right filled with envy and racism that seduces the masses with its jingoistic rhetoric. The New Right has no interest in the well-being and the welfare of human beings. The New Right is only interested in a narrow ethnic and tribal loyalty a la Avigdor Liberman. For the New Right only the Jewish poor deserve attention. And what makes someone Jewish is that they’re not Arab. The New Right has nothing to offer but never-ending war. The New Right has nothing to offer bur hate for the other: Arabs, refugees and leftists.
This New Right creates the fanatic settlers against whom we are demonstrating tonight. These settlers hate Jerusalem. They have no love for Israel and no love for humankind – they love only themselves. There are many amongst the settlers who we can and should carry out a dialogue with. But the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah who sing songs of praise to Baruch Goldstein – must be defeated.
The New Right created the mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat. He is a technocrat who doesn’t understand or care about Jerusalem. He is a mayor who uses administrative terror against the residents of East Jerusalem and neglects the residents of West Jerusalem, while mouthing empty clichés. If Jerusalem is a powder keg, then Nir Barkat is the one who is striking the match. But Barkat doesn’t scare us and neither do the settlers or Liberman.
We will continue coming to Sheikh Jarrah and everywhere that justice is crushed by the forces of occupation and oppression. Take a look around you; we are not as few as we thought we were! And we will prevail!

12 thoughts on “There is a New Left in town

  1. The New Right may have indeed created Nir Barkat. And as I recall, no left (or even center), be it new, old, or otherwise, put up a candidate for mayor of Jerusalem.

  2. I’ll say the same thing here that I said on their site:
    On this day, in this communique, the “New Left” has abandoned its commitment to achieve peace for the Jews of Israel. The “New Left” no longer cares for peace talks, nor peace agreements. It is a movement forged in the desperation of its circumstances – its core ideology, that peace is attainable for an acceptable price, has been discredited. The “New Left” is out of big ideas, emptied of pragmatic solutions; it has lost the will and intent to fight for Israel’s geopolitical future, to work within the state for the security and prosperity it once promised Israel’s inhabitants. On this day, the “New Left” has declared its intention to fight for the ideological vanity of its members, for the admiration of international elites, for the cameras, for a bleak nothing.
    On this day, the “New Left” went mad from a nervous breakdown and was committed in Sheikh Jarah. Life will go on.

  3. I’d heard of the speech, but this is the first time I’d read it. It’s powerful, and Sarah Beninga seems pretty impressive.
    Still, I disagree with her assertion that the settlers in question “hate Jerusalem. They have no love for Israel and no love for humankind – they love only themselves. ”
    I see how she is trying to reframe the situation from the settlers being the defenders of Jerusalem. And I deeply disagree with many things they’ve done. But who am I (or anyone) to say what another person loves?

  4. “This left is.. of Israelis who understand that the Palestinian struggle is their own.”
    Can someone explain to me why the Palestinian struggle is an Israeli one? Explanations about being critical of Israel because we love her can be skipped.

  5. Uzi– I can’t speak for the author, but I see Israeli well-being and Palestinian well-being as inseparable at this point, since both parties are able to get the other where it hurts.
    My impression is that Beninga and others feel a sense of responsibility for Israel, on both a personal (how it will affect them and their children) and ethical (speaking out when they disagree) level.
    Also, I’m hearing that you aren’t a fan of the “criticize Israel because you love her” argument, although you didn’t explain why not. Could you say more?

  6. @Rebecca M
    I hear what you’re saying about where Beninga is coming from and that makes sense to me.
    As far as, the “criticize Israel because you love her” argument goes, in general I don”t have a problem with it. What I take issue with is when this is a cover for being blatantly anti-Israel. I have seen members of this “new left”, stand side by side with those who are not only pro-Palestinian but blatantly anti-Israel. And i’m not talking about JStreet here. My understanding is that the statement “criticize Israel because you love her” is essentially a pro-Israel position. I struggle with why the expressions of this from the “new left” and others seem to me to be anti-Israel. While I admit that the fate of Israelis and Palestinians is inextricably linked, I struggle with the idea that Jews prefer to support the Palestinians as opposed to Israel instead of in conjunction.

  7. Uzi– So your concern is that some people who use that phrase hold positions that in your experience, are in-congruent with love for Israel or Israel’s best interests?

  8. Close but not exactly. that seems too harsh for what I mean. I”m struggling a lot with these issues and articulating exactly how I fell about them. To be a little suggestive here, bear with me, I kind of feel that every Jewish voice that speaks on behalf of Palestinians INSTEAD of on behalf of Israel, weakens Israel and the Jewish people. If Jews want to speak on behalf of both I have no problem with that. I am searching for if there is an appropriate description of the kind of loyalty that I mean with regards to Jews and the Jewish State. There may not be any.

  9. Yeah, it can be a tough subject to talk about. (Btw, I think this is the most civil and productive online conversation I’ve had about Israel in a while– yay!)
    Let me try again. So you’re concerned and uncomfortable when Jews speak on behalf of Palestinians, without also speaking on behalf of Israel? And disappointed with their loyalties? Is that closer to the mark?

  10. Agreed. Civil and productive is the way to go!
    yes, much closer to the mark. other related questions: Should Jews have a loyalty per se to the State of Israel? How would such a loyalty be expressed? If Jews don’t have such a loyalty, then what? And of course many others.
    I am taking a class this semester on Israel education and our starting point/driving goal/essential question is “What does Israel mean?” From there all educational methods and techniques and content will flow. I’m excited to develop a philosophy of Israel and thus a philosophy of how to teach Israel. In any case, I wonder if the “new left” has an articulated response to the question of “What does Israel mean?” Perhaps if I could tweak out some of the elements of this I might understand more what their position is.

  11. My best guess is that the people who are protesting in Sheikh Jarrah come from a multitude of positions on what Israel is and should be. But it’s hard to say without being there or knowing the people involved.
    chag sameach.

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