March 07, 2010

Gideon Levy almost gets it

The Israeli left wing "peace camp" never existed, so says now Gideon Levy:
Above all, however, the problem was rooted in the left's impossible adherence to Zionism in its historical sense. In precisely the way there cannot be a democratic and Jewish state in one breath, one has to first define what comes before what - there cannot be a left wing committed to the old-fashioned Zionism that built the state but has run its course. This illusory left wing never managed to ultimately understand the Palestinian problem - which was created in 1948, not 1967 - never understanding that it can't be solved while ignoring the injustice caused from the beginning. A left wing unwilling to dare to deal with 1948 is not a genuine left wing. (Ha'aretz)
A good place to start. But Levy, who lives in Tel-Aviv and admitted voting for Tel-Aviv's neo-liberal, people hating, lover of real-estate-developers mayor, is himself exhibit A in the story of the non-existent Israeli left, and precisely so because his sympathy for the Palestinian suffering is heartfelt and his hatred of the occupation genuine and uncompromising. Levy still doesn't get that a Ben Gurion, even a dead and outdated Ben Gurion, can never be a foundation for a left-wing movement. It is not enough to note that an "old fashioned Zionism" has "run its course." There can be no left without the understanding that that course, building in Palestine a European bourgeois capitalist Jewish nation state according to Zionism's idea of normality, a state with "a Jewish thief and a Jewish whore," namely, with a purely Jewish, yet complete and "normal" class structure, a state that, having indeed run its course, now imports thieves from Russia and traffics in women from the Balkan, and is epitomized today by the slick and corporate mayor of Tel Aviv, for whom urban renewal means getting rid of poor residents, was never, and could never have been, a left-wing project.

Levy's fantasy is still that the residents of the affluent suburbs of the Israeli coast, those whose vote vacillate between Meretz and Kadima, hope to see their children go to the business schools of Columbia and Harvard, and expect them to find managerial jobs in Bank Discount and Intel when they--if they--return, will, by virtue of their better education, European culture and worldliness, rebel against the cruelty and sadism of the occupation. It is a vain hope, as these people are the mercenaries of a global neo-liberal order, and are driven by the requirements of maintaining their social position and identity, even in the unlikely event that they grasp their predicament, to be the "rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization opposed to barbarism" that Herzl already imagined for them. Thus, no matter how much they hate the occupation, they hate the proximity of the Arab even more. Exceptional individuals who can transcend their class always exist, and these, bless their hearts, will continue to feed the dwindling ranks of Jewish-Israeli radicalism and will continue to define, tragically, its hopeless character. A social movement however cannot exist without expressing a life experience, and there is little in the experience of the affluent suburbs of Tel-Aviv and Herzliya that can be an incubator for the spirit of sacrifice whose absence Levy bemoans. Nor are the poor and marginalized communities of Israeli Jews, in particular orthodox and Mizrahi Jews, likely to form the social basis for an Israeli left, because, being less oppressed then Palestinians and often employed or otherwise invested in that oppression, their outlook is constrained by the need to separate themselves from Palestinians and defend their gains against them. Thus, maintaining allegiance to the "Jewish state," which excludes Palestinians in thought while including them as an oppressed group in practice, makes genocide a precondition of left Israeli politics. That is why it was the "socialist" Zionists, with their concern for filling up the lowest social rungs with Jews, that led the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. There is no escape cause to these fundamental facts of settler colonialism, which make hoping for a revival of the Zionist left in Israel effectively a longing for genocide. The precondition for a true left in Israel is the dissolution of the idea of Israel on the left, that is the idea of a Jewish state based on a Jewish nation complete with its separate class structure, in both thought and practice. There is not going to be a left in Israel except through a complete rejection of Zionism, not just as a movement that "run its course" but as a project that was always on the wrong track. Israeli Jews who want to be in the left have one choice only. To join the Palestinian struggle or forever hold their peace.

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