Israel's Left Now Has a Chance to Awaken the Public
Were Shelly Yachimovich the only one to raise the banner of selective justice, there would be no need to state here that the settlements are no sin in exactly the same way that traffic in women is no crime and concentrating Jews from Arab lands in weakened towns on the periphery is no injustice. There would be no reason to recall that once, there was a consensus over slavery, and that there is ever only one Master; he merely changes his name from time to time: men in a patriarchal society, whites in South Africa, Jews in the state for Jews-above-all.
Unfortunately, however, many activists in and supporters of the Israeli protest movement accept the logic of social-nationalist justice. Were Yachimovich in the minority, at least 10 percent of the quarter-million demonstrators would have protested against the wall of sin in Walaja, Bil'in, Na'alin and Ma'asara. They would have marched en masse to the stolen Nebi Saleh spring and liberated it. Then, they would have returned home with the soldiers, together prevented the destruction of houses in Lod and demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry until its bureaucrats were ordered to immediately prepare a master plan for every unrecognized village, starting with Al-Araqib. It's so simple.
Because Yachimovich represents the many, does that mean that leftists (both Jewish and Palestinian) ought to desist from their internal debate over whether to participate in a protest movement whose justice is selective and simply walk away? If this new social movement were a final paper awaiting a grade, the answer would be "Yes. This is a movement that launders the dispossession of Palestinians both past and present with superficial yuppie charm. We do not belong in it, so we'll return to the tear gas, the rubber-coated steel bullets and the arrests."
But the social movement that sprung up in Israel this summer is not a final paper. Nor is it a political party. It is a process, a new and developing situation that reinvents itself frequently, an intensive course in developing political understanding. It must not be left to the new-old social right.
In effect, the challenge goes much deeper than merely conflicting opinions. Yachimovich frankly enunciated our position as Israeli Jews: We are profiting from the occupation even as we groan under regressive taxation. Whether our families came from Katrielevka or Baghdad, we are profiting from the structural discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and from the very fact that they have become a minority in their own land.
So is the solution to this troubling existential dilemma simply to leave? To emigrate to countries free of injustice and dispossession, like the United States of America, Germany or South Africa, in which apartheid based on class is competing successfully with its predecessor, apartheid based on race?
Internal contradictions are the daily fare of liberation struggles, and purist excuses for not
participating don't resolve them. As the female activists of every national liberation struggle know quite well, patriarchy is not a secondary, negligible mechanism of oppression compared to colonialism. Sexism was present in the Solidarity Movement in Poland and the African National Congress in South Africa. Nevertheless, women joined these movements and were active in their ranks.
The role of the left - for whom the value of equality is its Ten Commandments - is not to look on from the sidelines and make do with handing out grades. The left must try to influence this new, dynamic process. Its role is to learn from other people's struggles and to teach, without lowering itself, while abandoning the arrogance of the past and bearing in mind the terrible wrongs committed in its name.
Leftist activists are educated to make use of their excess privileges insofar as possible to fight the whole system of privileges. Now, when there is a collective awakening from long years of apathy, the left can and must use the experience, knowledge and human and cultural capital it has accumulated. For there is now a great chance of proving to at least parts of this awakening public that the benefits of occupation today are the strategic danger of tomorrow.