Israeli Left? Left Europe For Palestine
Born In SinBy Gideon Levy
The Israeli peace camp was born in sin and died because of a lie: It was born as the legitimate son of the sin of occupation, and died the illegitimate son of the lie that "there is no partner" with whom to negotiate on the other side. Between September 1967 and October 2000, it spent 33 years waging the brave and determined struggle of a minority against a majority, "traitors" against "patriots," "defilers of Israel" against "lovers of Israel," David against Goliath. Today, we must painfully admit that it was struggle that did not produce much.
The peace camp was born of a small ad - a statement bearing only a dozen mostly unknown signatures - addressed to the general public, and then began to die a pathetic death, which is lamented by no one. Since then, its body has laid in public squares that are void of protesters, in streets empty of struggle and in public discourse free of ideas. On occasion, it lets out a desperate and dying gasp from the direction of a group of determined but marginalized groups, near the separation fence in Na'alin or in Gush Shalom's advertisements in the Friday paper.
On occasion, it wraps itself in the guise of a mass demonstration, mostly at deceptive memorial rallies for Yitzhak Rabin - also featuring pop stars Aviv Geffen and Ninet - and in public opinion polls in which the majority claims to adopt its positions. But the interim balance sheet of history is clear and razor sharp: The occupation, the settlements, the police thugs and the brutality have been victorious over everything else. Never have so many people said we need to put a stop to things, and never have so few done anything about it.
The Israeli occupation enterprise has never been so prosperous, sweeping up in its whirlpool all of Israeli society and a vast army of settlers, secret agents, soldiers, prosecutors, journalists, politicians, judges, doctors, engineers, builders, architects, industrialists, artists, archaeologists and average apathetic citizens. Everyone, absolutely everyone, is implicated. They speak peace, but make war; oppose the settlements, but take part in their construction; say "two states," but vote Likud; close their eyes, hide their faces and wrap themselves in the most dangerous of blankets: blankets of apathy.
I am flipping through the yellowing pages of Haaretz from September 1967. The announcement concerning the establishment of the peace camp is hidden between an advertisement for a car that costs 10,849 liras and a guaranteed "original key chain" for anyone who purchases a pack of Diplomat razor blades, just next to the death announcement paid for by a neuro-psychiatric society mourning one of its members. A dozen members of the Matzpen movement, who were outcast, excommunicated and persecuted, placed the ad three months after the end of the Six-Day War. At the peak of the nationalist orgy and the religious celebrations that dominated us then, came the first call: "Leave the occupied territories immediately!"
Everything the advertisement predicted about messianic occupation, and the terror and oppression that would be born of it, and the fact that we would become a "nation of murderers and murdered," is a common truth shared by the masses, the mainstream, the warm and fuzzy consensus. Even Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon would concur. But surprisingly and catastrophically, here we are today, as the famous Chaim Nahman Bialik poem goes: The sun is shining, the acacia is blooming and the slaughterer is still slaughtering.
At the end of Camp David, when he told us "there's no partner," Ehud Barak propagated an even bigger lie: that we have a peace camp. How pleasant it is to delude ourselves that we have one, and how depressing it is to know that we don't. There is no left - just empty words. When the only demonstration in town is over student tuition, when the only discourse in city and village alike concerns the "Big Brother" TV show, and the loudest cries are over "corruption" and Olmert's frequent-flier miles instead of over the jailed Palestinian who is bleeding and beaten, who hasn't had a normal day in his life - then we know for sure that there is no peace camp in Israel in 2008.
Maybe there never was? Maybe a camp that is defeated with such intolerable ease just needs to be told there is no partner in order to simply disappear. The moment this camp witnesses terrorism - that means of struggle for all those who seek liberation - it shuts itself down at home, planning the next package tour and watching a reality show, in fear, silence, betrayal and sick apathy, while half an hour away, the cruel occupation lives on. It's much crueler today than it was back then, when a dozen Matzpen members printed that public appeal, a voice crying in the wilderness, the barren desert wilderness of the Israeli left and of Israeli society as a whole.
The term "left" and the expression "peace camp" need to be removed from the dictionary of Hebrew terms. We no longer have the right to make use of them. Any use whatsoever.