Middle East Watch

Middle East Watch
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© تموز (يوليو) 2022

Israeli left needs to wake up before it’s too late


Friday 27 صفر 1431, by Gideon Levy

All the versions of this article:

  • English

Looking at the way the right acts makes one go green with envy and want to learn from them. Four hundred criminal cases opened against opponents of the 2005 Gaza Strip disengagement, people who threw oil, acid, garbage and stones at soldiers and police, were closed last week and their criminal record expunged. Fifty-one MKs voted in favor of the closure, nine against. That is the true map of Israeli politics (and society). Only about seven percent of the lawmakers believed that this was a worthless and dangerous decision. All the rest agreed with it, or did not bother to vote or take an interest.

Neither did anyone think to apply a similar rule to 800 protesters against Operation Cast Lead, who were arrested and charged, perhaps because they are Arabs, nor to the dozens arrested for protesting in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, perhaps because they are leftists. Left-wing demonstrators never acted as violently as the settlers do, but no one thinks about pardoning them. Not even a semblance of equality before the law, not even the appearance of justice for all - that is unnecessary in a place where public shame no longer exists.

This scandalous decision did not appear out of nowhere. It is the fruit of a campaign of pressure and solicitation, bullying and extortion. From now on, settlers and Israeli society will know that they can go as wild as they want: Even if someone dares charge them - another will arise who will know how to extricate them from trouble and penalty. In contrast, left-wing protesters are orphans. They have no public or parliamentary support. Protesters against disengagement and pogromists in Palestinian villages know they will be cleared, while leftist protesters are abandoned to their fate.

From now on the left will know that as long as it continues its winter (and summer) hibernation, its protesters will be thrown into jail and no one will spring them. From now on, Israel will know that its legal system discriminates between right and left - a strong, aggressive and violent right and a left deep in hibernation. That is the way it is when the leftovers of the left are busy with wages for authors, animal rights and useless organizing against Ehud Barak, with exemption from municipal taxes for synagogues and maternity leave for men. Meretz MKs do not even have time for Sheikh Jarrah. That is the way it is when the left wing of the Zionist establishment is dead.

In Israeli society there has for a long time been only one alert and significant group. Except for a few radical leftist groups, which are brave and determined but small and compartmentalized, only the settlers and their fans are still fighting here for matters that are not personal and do not involve money. For that, they are to be admired. The Knesset decision to pardon the settlers should be a wake-up call to the left. If it continues in its complacence, not only will it find the last of its activists thrown into jail, it will not recognize the country in which it lives. There have been worse decisions than the one to pardon the right-wing protesters, but not one that is so revealing of our new face of law, justice and equality.

We may continue to remain silent about all of this. We may see photographs of settler-rioters, their faces exposed, in Haaretz (and only there) on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and not ask where the police are. We may read descriptions of attacks on innocent Palestinians and do nothing either to protect them or to protest against their attackers. We may continue to ignore xenophobia from the establishment, the deportation of international left-wing activists only because of their opinions and of Palestinians only because of their national affiliation, and get people to sign ridiculous petitions. We may continue to create a storm around gossip about Sara Netanyahu and even be shocked out of all proportion at the shoe thrown by an embittered man at the president of the Supreme Court, tsk-tsk and speak in exaggerated flowery terms about the "serious harm" to the rule of law. Hardly a word has been heard about the rude shoe the Knesset threw at the rule of law.

We can continue to remain silent and know that silence means collaboration. But when the left wakes up it will be too late. In fact, it is already too late. Meretz is dead, Labor is dying, Kadima is nonexistent, Peace Now is still deliberating over whether to petition against the pardon, and the right is freely celebrating and going wild. Eyes right: wake up and learn from its methods and the way it fights. In Israeli society, there is apparently no other way.

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