In search of the Israeli left

Zochrot is an Israeli organization that attempts to change Israeli culture by asserting that before Israel was a Hebraized nation of mostly Jews, it was mostly a nation of farming Palestinians. It makes this assertion by raising consciousness both of what Israel was before it was Israel, and what had to happen to make Israel be Israel: Nakba, catastrophe, “the central trauma of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” It adds that the Nakba’s “legacy continues to unfold today – in the institutionalization of inequality and violence, in the erasure of the past, and in the deteriorating plight of the Palestinian refugees.
We hope that by talking about the Nakba in Hebrew, the language spoken by the Jewish majority in Israel, we can engage the public in learning about and taking responsibility for the Nakba and its enduring consequences.” Best to start young, before children’s minds and morality are warped by soul-rending brainwashing, before they are brutalized into racist killers. So Zochrot has been trying to insert the Nakba into the Israeli school curriculum, in which the events of 1947-1948 are usually presented as part of the process of Jewish national self-liberation.
You can imagine that this has not gone over well with rightist education minister Gideon Saar. According to Jonathan Cook, government officials have warned Israeli teachers not to cooperate with Zochrot. The government doesn’t want Israeli Jews to know how Palestinians see the loss of their homeland and the foundation of Israel. As one right-wing Zionist Zochrot correspondent commented, “I find your activities scandalous. Their effect will be to destroy Israel as a Jewish state and distort history, and they are filled with self-hatred toward the Zionist enterprise.”
More than 300 primary school teachers expressed interest in the materials. According to Eitan Bronstein, Zochrot’s director, “A small but growing number of teachers are curious about the nakba and want to find out more…The problem is that the education authorities see this development as threatening and are prepared to intimidate teachers to stop them from getting involved.” Righter-wing Zionists—“left-wing Zionist” is a chimera—may be correct. They see things differently from the other right-wing Zionists that indulgently and delusionally describe themselves as left-wing Zionists.
These left-wing Zionists permitted ’48 Palestinians to learn about the Nakba in their textbooks, a permission that Saar later rescinded. The rightist Zionists want either no mention, or outright celebration, of the Nakba. The leftist-rightist Zionists allow the natives to know what was done to them—liberal pluralism allows a little space for the truth—commiserate with them—it allows a little space for hand-wringing sympathy—and then continue consenting to colonization.
What’s doubly indulgent is the spectacle of expatriate leftist-rightist Zionists writing agonized non-sense about the marginalization of the “Israeli left,” and foreign “complicity” in this marginalization.
As Keith Kahn Harris and Joel Schalit—the latter of whom knows better—write, “the diaspora left has no difficulty in viewing Israel as being intrinsically rightwing, precisely because of the great distance of Israel’s left from the country’s political establishment,” and its intellectual establishment, and its cultural establishment, and its social establishment, and in fact its marginalization from practically the entire country’s social life and communal imaginary. Israel as a settler-colonial state is “inherently right-wing” anyway, until its inhabitants, one way or another, turn it into something else. If the Schalits of the world don’t want to see that done by the sword, they better get their act together.
So does Joel really know better or is it better to not know better? Less-than-clear. It’s definitely convenient to not know better. The co-authors write of “Israel’s progressive roots,” as compared to nincompoop global Leftists, silly Chomsky-bots and Hamasniks who think that “Israel is a monocultural, repressive entity, invoking Judaism to mystify its fundamentally western, colonial character”—by way of caricature Schalit edges close to truth.  Zionism is inherently politicidal, and leftist-rightist Zionists—much like Obamanuts and the Democratic Party in America—block the emergence of a real Israeli left by replicating the racist thoughtlessness that prevents any left-liberal sentiment from winding its way to an outright rejection of Zionism.
That replication doesn’t require the state to intervene to determine Truth on the fascist model, the fad in Jerusalem. It relies on intellectuals like Kahn-Harris and Schalit to onanistically daydream about the “progressive roots” that Israeli sabras sunk into land soaked with the memory of ethnic cleansing and genocide, about anarchist-socialist kibbutzim founded on stolen land. Without a recognition of and recompense for Nakba, there can be no Israeli left.
And without a social movement that is willing to recognize the Nakba, there can be no recognition. For that reason the Israeli left begs for outside intervention—BDS. And some groups bore away from within. Zochrot attempts to create the cultural substrate for such a social movement. Hard work. One teacher says, “There are many other ways for the school to make sure that an atmosphere of fear prevails towards Palestinians. It’s easy to insert a nationalistic and religious agenda into the classroom – and, after all, I am just one teacher.” 
That work is one reason, among others, the Israeli left isn’t the New Israel Fund (at which Schalit and J Street endearingly pant), but is made up of practically invisible organizations like the Alternative Information Center, or in the past, the Israeli Black Panthers—institutions and groups which reject Zionism and know that a pre-lapsarian Israel exists only in Martin Buber’s notebooks, institutions to whose marginalization equivocating, mendacious intellectuals actually contribute.  “In Search of an Israeli Left” is the ridiculously pregnant title of Schalit and Kahn-Harris’s piece. Who doesn’t know where is the Israeli left? Schalit and Kahn–Harris? Israelis? If foreigners don’t, we need precise, accurate maps, unlike what they have here chosen to provide.
They could try that next time (would Open Democracy publish it?). Or they could continue creating a tremendous pile of rhetorical bullshit about post-Zionism and the hope that soul-searching dialogue amongst cosmopolitan expatriate Zionists can stop the occupation cold—as though they really care about stopping it; what they care about is articulate hand-wringing and the baubles that go with it. But maybe they do. Surprise me guys.
Technorati Tags: ethnic cleansing, fascism, Israel, Joel Schalit, Jonathan Cook, Keith Kanh-Harris, Nakba, Palestine, Zionism, Zionist left, Zochrot
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