The Israeli Summer is dividing the Israeli left….
Yesterday, The Guardian reported that Israeli social justice activists are planning a lightning campaign of squatting unoccupied buildings at protest at rising rents in Israel. All this follows hot on the heels of a 250,000-strong anti-government rally earlier in the month as Israelis, like the rest of world, start to feel the economic pinch. Not that you would necessarily know any of this with courage of these events being minimal in the Western media. However, regardless, it seems the Arab Spring, which is running into trouble elsewhere is finding its echo in an Israeli Summer.
It is this, as much as external moves to grant the Palestinians formal recognition of the right to statehood and continuing instability in Syria etc, that is driving Israel in its outbursts of aggression. However, this movement while being an undoubted welcome development is also leading to serious tensions on the Israeli left. Some, like Shelly Yachimovich, for example, argues the strength of the new movement is that they skirt round issues such as Israel’s entirely illegal (under international law) settlement programme:
“I am familiar with that well-known equation: that if there were no settlements there would be a welfare state within Israel’s borders. I am familiar with the worldview that maintains that if we cut the defense budget in half there will be money for education. It’s a worldview with no connection to reality.
It seems this view is in danger of becoming the majority view on the Israeli-left, no doubt encouraged by the spontaneous growth of the movement. Thankfully, some still hold to the more traditional view:
The Israeli left – Jews and Arabs, members of the middle class and below – in other words, all those who will join the “million-person march” – need a leadership that can lead them with two legs: one of peace, and one of social welfare.
The first view is a dangerous one which blinds Israel’s left not just potentially to the plight of Palestinians beyond its normative borders but also Israeli Arabs who suffer gross inequality and discrimination within those borders. Israel’s Summer is unquestionably a welcome development, however, it will be tragic if this advance blinds the Israeli left to its responsibilities beyond its own borders and the damaging effect that the oppression of the Palestinians has on social justice within Israel itself.