What Is Left Of The Israeli Left

Ha’aretz reports that Israel’s largest refusenik group Courage To Refuse just shut down its offices. Courage To Refuse represented the Zionist and militarist left (only men combat soldiers could sign their refusenik letter), and while I don’t agree with their politics it is a sad thing to lose such an important part of a diverse movement.
During the four years of the Intifada the movement (when I say movement I am referring to all the various refusenik groups as a whole) had several minor successes, for instance the introduction of high school educational programs dealing with the right to refuse illegal orders. Sadly the biggest success of the movement was its ability to lend support to refuseniks. In other words, the refusenik groups became support groups for jailed conscientious objectors. If we have come to a point where the the act of refusal is reduced to a personal right, why not just get out of the army in other ways and avoid the whole martyrdom of prisonhood? Indeed, many people choose this path, also known as grey refusal.
Besides the refusenik movement there are Ta’ayush, Gush Shalom, Anarchist Againsts The Fence and other small groups that work with Palestinians in grassroot political activities. Unfortunately all these groups are completely marginal.
So what has been missing in the Israeli left? The left of course. While Netanyahu is pushing his radical economic reforms and privatization drive, the anarchists are busy demonstrating in Bil’in and the refusenik groups are demonstrating in supprot of a jailed high school graduate. The fact that the anti-disengagement protests are taking place in the streets of Sderot and Ofakim demonstrates the lack of a serious leftist opposition to the right wing on all fronts. As in the United States, the so-called liberal Ha’aretz-reading elites are located in or around a very limited and privileged metropolitan area, and they are completely isolated from the economic hardship suffered by large segments of the population. Ha’aretz was always considered to be the voice of the Oslo ‘peace camp’ (Meretz, Labor, Peace Now and so on), while at the same time being the economically most right wing major newspaper in Israel.
As the recent Dahaf Institute poll shows, “Sixty-seven percent of the public believes the Knesset does not deal with social matters, and 62 percent said it deals too much with security matters.” Groups such as Courage To Refuse will keep on failing if they try to reach the heart of the mainstream through ridiculous slogans such as “Israeli. Zionist. Combatant. Refusenik.” The bottom line is that the Israeli public is striving for a real alternative, but this alternative must be economic as well. The refusenik movement, like all other anti-occupation left movements before it, does not make a direct connection between the undemocratic nature of the military occupation and the right wing radical attack on lower and middle class Israeli society. Until this connection is made, we’ll continue to see the heritage of the Likud’s 1977 elections victory (instead of that of the Israeli Black Panthers) dominate the streets of Ofakim and Israel in general for many years to come.

4 thoughts on “What Is Left Of The Israeli Left

  1. Courage to Refuse was always a vocally Zionist officers’ group (along with Yesh Gvul, and unlike the Shministim and New Profile). Its demise was inevitable given its opportunism and the basic contradiction in its position.
    “a direct connection between the undemocratic nature of the military occupation and the right wing radical attack on lower and middle class Israeli society.” – this connection is made, very explicitly, by the grassroots direct action groups in Israel.
    Instead of dismissing us as “completely marginal”, ask yourself what you can do to help us.
    Shabat Shalom,

  2. Darth Bob,
    “this connection is made, very explicitly, by the grassroots direct action groups in Israel.” – really? where, on fliers? except for groups that are explicitly “social” such as Ma’an, kav la’oved, show me where New Profile, anarchists against the fence or whatever othre organization go down to the ayarot pituach and help organize the communities. that doesn’t exist at all.

  3. Groups like Mahapach and Green Action (who everybody knows AAW grew out of) are definitely doing that kind of work. There’s also a dozen or so of the new urban kibbutzim whose members are clearly against the occupation. There are strong anti-occupation opinions in the movements of the unemployed.
    What I’m saying is – you’re definitely right that this connection is essential, and that there’s not enough of it. And I’d argue that in the long run that’s more important than running away from tear gas in Budrus, though people always make their own short-term priorities. I’d just argue that positive thinking about what can be done to help this trend is more useful than complaining.
    Any ideas?

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