Enough with the self-imposed disengagement
Bottom line, all the parties on the Zionist spectrum operate under the assumption of democracy for Jews and accept civil inequality and discrimination as a given situation, not to mention the normalisation of the Occupation and the creation of a racist Apartheid regime. ■ However, you can’t be a democrat and accept this assumption; and no matter what story we try to tell, civil inequality and democracy are not in the same company.
By Karen Haber • (Translated by Sol Salbe)
The tendency to look specifically at the here and now is very human, especially when facing a dangerous situation, or one perceived as such. In Israel, where one incident follows another, everyone: the public, the politicians and the media are constantly focused on what is happening at the very moment. So usually no one considers the underlying processes or attempts to broaden the perspective. Commentators and advisers drive the immediate responses telling us how to think, a bit like marketers who look at numbers and trends without considering substance, or consequences.
When the matter at hand is specific, there is no difficulty in focusing on [Jewish Power politician Itamar] Ben Gvir without noticing that there are so many other politicians who are not really far from him but are completely in the mainstream. Ben Gvir may speak more bluntly, but in terms of policy there is really no difference between a government formed with Ben Gvir and the last government formed with Shaked, Sa’ar and Lieberman, it may be the tone that makes the music, but they all have the same music score in front of them.
In fact, and the outgoing government is but a wonderful example (with Zehava Galon’s promises that Meretz will be in the next government being the icing on the cake) that all the Jewish parties have proven that Jewish-Zionist interest outweighs any democratic value for them. The only Arab party that agreed to these clearly undemocratic rules of the game is Ra’am [United Arab List], the other Arab parties seek civil equality and are therefore illegitimate from the point of view of the Jewish public. Anywhere else, this inequality would be outrageous, in Israel it has become an accepted reality for the Jewish public and is accepted by the Arab citizens who understand that this is the best they will get given the “no democracy”. But, what do you know, the real problem is Ben Gvir.
When the focus is so pin pointed, it is impossible to see the big picture, simply because at the distance from which we observe, it is impossible to get a perspective, but that does not mean that there are not even bigger problems. Therefore, it is possible to act as if only Netanyahu endangers democracy and not understand that there are actually quite a few other risk factors that must be addressed, as well as that climate change, urban and rural planning problems, or vital systems that are starved of resources and should not be ignored. But seeing everything in isolation does actually best serve the interest of politicians who do not have the courage to face the required necessary changes of this magnitude.
When looking at everything on a point-by-point basis, it is often difficult to connect the dots. If we take for example the “practical insight” that the public is moving to the right and therefore it is smart to wink at the Centre and not to express Leftist positions, its result is the nullifying of the Left. Today, left-wing voters in Israel do not have a social-democratic party, certainly not a common one, to vote for, and they are forced to look for other, not surprisingly, “strategic” solutions. Are they strategic? I don’t think so, after all, a strategy is designed to achieve goals and if the goals are left-wing values, voting for someone who does not express them will not lead to them — and that is a problem.
It is clear that the situation is much more complex and the reasons for the nullifying of the left are much more numerous, some are related to the Left and some to the general public, some are structural, and some are fundamental. The shift of the left-wing parties to the centre and the dimming of left-wing values conveyed quite a few other negative messages, such as self-imposed withdrawal from politics, but also to a certain extent confirmed the process of delegitimisation of the Left led by Netanyahu. The Left has to begin to fight for its very existence and try to justify it, instead of continuing to fight for its values that provided a meaning and the justification for its existence.
The expected low voting rates within the Arab community have received a lot of attention, not because the political views of the Arab citizens of the country are of interest to anyone, but because they can tip the scales one way or the other. But the truly substantial issues, such as inherent discrimination of non-Jewish citizens, inequality, equanimity in relation to the dramatic increase in the crime rate within the Arab community and the drying up of budgets within the boundaries of the Green Line are not counted at all, as if they were not related to anything at all, when in fact, needless to say, they are the main reasons for the reluctance to go out and vote.
Bottom line, all the parties on the Zionist spectrum operate under the assumption of democracy for Jews and accept civil inequality as a given, either from the assumption that it is somehow logical or from the “hope” of envisaging future change, but one way or another they all cooperate with it. However, you can’t be a democrat and accept this assumption, it just doesn’t work together and no matter what story we try to tell, civil inequality and democracy are not in the same company.
My grandmother used to say that as long as there are people willing to buy bollocks, there will always be someone willing to sell it. In the end, we are all comfortable thinking that the upcoming elections are a choice between Netanyahu and Ben Gvir or the anti-Netanyahu bloc, but that is not really the question. Democracy can be destroyed through various means, through corruption, through degrading the gatekeepers, degrading the separation of powers, reducing the powers of the legislative authority, increasing the power of the executive authority, degrading the independence of the judiciary, but also through accepting civil inequality and discrimination as a given situation, not to mention the normalisation of the Occupation and the creation a racist Apartheid regime. To preserve democracy, you have to fight on all these fronts and not just on some. That’s exactly the point, observing the disengagement, leaves us disengaged. The advantage of examining things in isolation holds as long as it is limited, certainly not for everything and all the time, because in reality everything is connected, even if it is more convenient for us to disconnect.