February 21, 2006

From Left to ‘wrong’

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:52 pm by yisraelmedad

October 17, 2004
The Jerusalem Post

A political life on the Right has its disadvantages

I admit that in joining the Betar Zionist youth movement
when I was 16 I was not aware I was becoming a member of
yet another minority within a minority.

The move to Betar was borderline heresy in the black yarmulke
world to which I belonged, despite my having only joined it
three years previously. I was leaving my childhood friends
behind and aligning with the political Right just when the
civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam protest movement was
about to burst on to the scene.

While the ethos of the New Left beguiled much of my generation,
I went down a different road. At Zionist youth council meetings
and joint kumzitz evenings as well as at the annual folk dance
festival at Madison Square Garden, “fascist” was the epithet
hurled at those of us in Betar by members of the pioneering
youth movements.

It was they who came to control the Zionist apparatus and its
budget within the World Zionist Organization. The pioneers were
ostensibly nonpolitical youth groups. In practice, they were
partisan and left-wing.

Our movement’s ideology, our reading of history, left us convinced
that Hashomer Hatza’ir or Habonim were wrong. Our take on the
communist threat to Israel and to the Jews of the Soviet Union
left us enthused about the value of linking up with progressive

Four decades later I have the sense that I am still part of a
much-maligned minority, and that left-wing ideas shape the
political orientation and cultural landscape of Israel’s
civil society.

Gene Sharp is the doyen of nonviolent direct action strategy
at the Albert Einstein Institute in Boston. Recently I wrote
him about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for unilateral
disengagement from Gaza and northern Samaria.

I drew his attention to the draconian elements of the new
Disengagement Law being prepared for legislation.
Paragraph 27(A) [2-3] decrees up to three years’ imprisonment
– five years if a policeman is endangered – for those who
refuse to leave their homes. Thus employing the tactic of
passive resistance, such as a sit-in, is outlawed.

Sharp’s reaction was striking. “Such an extreme law against
explicitly nonviolent opposition may drive people who prefer
to use nonviolent methods instead to use violent methods.”

But Israel’s Left, in the media, Knesset and other corridors
of power seem almost oblivious.

From where I sit, it seems that the Right is a particular
target of free-speech restrictions. For example, any national
camp figure employing the phrase “Oslo criminals” is excoriated.
But when Yossi Sarid wrote in the September 23 edition of
Haaretz that “the time has come to admit that the crime of
the settlements is the greatest crime in the history of the
country” – inflammatory and inciteful from our point of view
– nary a criticism was leveled.

And what are we to make of Yahad MK Avshalom Vilan’s August 20
interview in Haaretz in which the Peace Now founder said,
“I am telling you that the goal of the extreme Right is to
create Jewish shaheeds.

“… In the end a situation is liable to be created in which
the trigger will have to be squeezed slowly, responsibly,
coolly and intelligently.”

But when Ofra’s Uri Elitzur talks about having anti-disengagement
demonstrators shoving soldiers trying to remove them, he is
targeted as a seditionist.

And what are we to make of the sympathetic treatment Tali Fahima
has been getting – at least judging by the advertisements
that have appeared in the prestige press, and the talk radio

She’s the activist who was placed in administrative detention
for allegedly intending to carry out a terrorist attack inside
Israel in conjunction with a Jenin-based terror cell.

Contrast her case with that of far-Right activist Noam Federman,
who failed to garner expressions of concern about his eight
months in administrative detention from progressive voices
concerned with civil liberties.

More recently, rabbis who urge their pupils to talk to their
commanders about not taking part in the disengagement plan
have been pilloried. But soldiers who refuse to serve in the
territories are upheld as paragons of morality.

Haifa University philosopher Ilan Gur-Ze’ev is within his
rights in advocating that Israelis embrace an exile-oriented
education. But, then, why should talk on the theological Right
about a Messianic Zionist education be denigrated?

In September 2003 former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg wrote
in Yediot Aharanot that ” The Israeli nation today rests on
a scaffolding of corruption, and on the foundations of
oppression and injustice… [a state] run by an amoral
clique of corrupt lawmakers who are deaf both to their
citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice .”

Harsh words. Perhaps as harsh as the words of Nadia Matar,
who compared disengagement head Yonatan Bassi to a Judenrat
official. The difference is that Matar’s remarks landed her
an appointment with the police, while Burg’s didn’t.

Despite all the years that have passed since my decision
to align myself with the Zionist Right, I have still not
become inured to the sense that my progressive opponents
enjoy an unfair advantage.

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