Jerusalem Diary: 16 February By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem
THE LEFT, SLAUGHTERED
"The thing about Israelis," said Oron - and then paused, as he searched for the
He was helping pack the wine that I had just bought from his shop close to the
It was two days after the election. Oron had voted Labour. His vote had
helped the Labour party to limp to 13 seats - barely one-in-10 of the
He picked up: "The thing about Israelis is: they like to slaughter sacred
Labour used to be one of Israel's most sacred cows. When it was a group
known as Mapai, it won every election from Israel's establishment until
In this election, it was knocked into fourth place, behind the hard-right
Yisrael Beiteinu party.
But the numbers do not tell the entire story. Some Israelis are questioning
whether the left exists at all.
Labour's leader, Ehud Barak, prosecuted the war in Gaza, as defence
minister. He is reported to have offered to build a large new
settlement in occupied territory to house settlers from Migron, the
biggest unauthorised outpost (illegal even under Israeli law) in the
“ I think there is some historical process that we can't change... I'm
not sure we have anyone brave enough to challenge the stupidity ”
Talia Sasson, Meretz party
It was four years ago next month that Talia Sasson wrote her report on
unauthorised outposts. She was a government lawyer, and was
commissioned to investigate the issue by the then Prime Minister, Ariel
Her report detailed how Israel's officials actively
colluded in the establishment of dozens of outposts across the West
We met for a coffee, on a bright morning, in a cafe across the street from the
prime minister's residence in Jerusalem.
It was three days after the election. Talia Sasson, no longer a civil
servant, had stood for the small left-wing Meretz party.
She had not been elected: she was seventh on the list, and Meretz had ended up
with a measly three seats.
Was there a way for the left to clamber out of the hole? Or had Israel simply
moved on, and away?
Time and again, Talia Sasson took refuge in what she believed was the
iron logic of removing settlements from the occupied territories.
"I think that the one which is not Zionist is the right-wing," she insisted.
"Because where they take Israel to is to a single bi-national state."
But how does the left end up not just talking to itself? There was a
long pause. Listening back to my recording of our conversation, the
silence lasted for a painful 12 seconds.
Eventually: "I think there is some historical process
that we can't change," she said, quietly. And then, later: "I'm not
sure we have anyone brave enough to challenge the stupidity."
Talia Sasson said she did not know whether she was cut out for politics.
This was her first campaign, at the age of 57. As it is, she is still
living with the threats and the intimidation which followed the
publication of her report into outposts. But she says she also fears
that time is running out for Israel.
A couple of miles away, in the wine shop, Oron takes a
more relaxed approach, perhaps built on the patience of someone used to
leaving bottles in a cellar.
"Israel will come to its senses," he says. "Maybe in about 200 years."
Politics here in Israel, on both sides of the divide, are profoundly
influenced by the non-negotiable demands of the prevailing religions:
Islam and Judaism. That explains Sasson's perceptive remark, after 12
seconds of silence, that "there is some historical process that we
can't change". Perhaps this also explains why, to those who live in the
UK, where 'religion' has almost disappeared from the public realm, the
situation here is so unfathomable. Only by paying attention to the
end-time beliefs of Judaism and Islam will the spiritual tensions be
understood and the limits of politics become clear.
Yochanan Ben-Daniel, Jerusalem
After Israel disengaged from Gaza in August 2005 making 9,000 Jews
homeless, Hamas and its followers transformed Gaza from an agricultural
paradise, where the best herbs and flowers were grown and exported, to
a launch pad for Qassam missiles. The people of Sderot, Israel have
been living in their air raid shelters for years and people are sick of
it. That prompted the war in Gaza. Because of all this Israelis are
leaning away from left wing policies and are seeking a government who
will lead the way in keeping the Israeli people safe and secure.
Nicolette, NW London/Tel Aviv
Ms. Sasson is correct in understanding that Zionism cannot be right
wing. The question of security rests in mutual need not mutual hate.
The outposts do not represent mutual need. When Israelis no longer
receives unfettered support from the US, their attitude will change. To
drop 40,000 lbs of munitions on the Gaza Strip in a week is not cheap.
Carl Maas, Seattle, WA, USA
Since 1977 Israeli governments have built more and more settlements and
- crucially - have humiliated the "moderate" Palestinian leadership.
This was a cynical strategy to achieve the result that we all now see,
namely, an enraged, Islamicist Palestinian leadership that really DOES
want to exterminate Israel.
So now, Yisrael Beitanu, "Bibi" Netanyahu and the
settlers can smile and say "See? We don't have anyone reasonable to
negotiate with". But they never WANTED to negotiate seriously, in the
first place. They wanted dominance by force and settlements, all
financed by the US. As a friend of a democratic, Jewish Israel, I
despair for what has become of the country I once knew.
The Angry Left, Toronto, Canada
A few generations lived with the illusion that Zionism could be
conciliated with humanism and progressive ideals. Time has passed, and
the truth is obvious. Zionism is a variation of colonialism, mixed with
racism, and religious intolerance. Through a "God given" justification,
a religious group claimed the right to conquer a territory and expel
the majority of its inhabitants. The bet was that Palestinians would
merge with populations in surrounding Arab countries. Zionism has lost
that bet, and can only survive now through ongoing military oppression.
Israeli voters are right: the survival of the Jewish state in Palestine
requires iron fist and state terror.
Aristide Atlass, Brussels, Belgium
The reason the Left has become irrelevant in Israel is that time has
proven their strategies to be wrong. It's all very well to have a
desire for "peace", and the theory of "land for peace" works with
certain other countries (e.g., it's worked with Egypt). However, with
the Palestinians, all compromises and withdrawals have led to only more
terrorism. Gaza has proven that. Unfortunately, Israel can only depend
on force to survive in this uncompromising hostile environment, just as
has always been the case in 1948.
David Sherman, Toronto, Canada
Zionism itself should be in question. The practice of taking someone
else's land, removing the indigenous population and replacing them with
immigrant settlers is not one we should be supporting. The people who
have been forced out of their homes must be allowed to return. It is
not the left nor the right wing that are keeping out these people, it
is Zionists who want a Jewish state whatever the cost, even if the cost
is morality and international law.
The ideas peddled by Ms. Sasson and the Israeli left have been given
20+ years to work. Sadly, they have only led to more conflict. It seems
to be endemic to Israel's left to carp about democracy only when it
suits their needs. When the democratic will of the Israeli electorate
is expressed, it's chalked up to "stupidity". What, exactly, are you
saying Ms. Sasson? Perhaps Israel should be run by a small group of
enlightened leftists who know better than us stupid Israelis what is
good for our country?
David Scott, Jerusalem, Israel
The people here encountered endless violence as a response to peace.
Israel withdrew from Gush Katif (in Gaza area) and yet Terror followed.
Israel compromised on many principals down the years but the
Palestinian side is still demanding the same thing: the elimination of
Tal Kopel, Shoam, Israel
Compromise , Concession and Dialogue have been the mantra of the left,
and it's Labour party. It sounds noble and all, but in the face of
aggressive dogma and murderous ideologues, it is supremely naive, and
finally the majority of Jews are returning to the realities of Ben
Gurion and Golda, with the cries of "No More".
Thomas Watkins, Benton, Illinois, USA
There is a saying in the US: "Better to be tried by 12 (jury members)
than carried by 6 (pall bearers)". I do not think that that is a stupid
attitude. That is what the Israel voters have chosen. Leftist policies
from Oslo on have resulted in far more dead Israelis (and Arabs, by the
way), by giving the terrorists the ability to strike from close up
instead of from Tunis. Leftist policies promoted by the international
community have been shown to be dangerously flawed in the extreme. I
think it is the Israeli Left that is stupid or suicidal. Instead of
trying to defeat the terrorists, they give them or their brothers
lethal weapons and the chance to use them!
Israel Dalven, Emanuel, Israel
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/16 10:03:04 GMT
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