"WE": THE MENTAL BLOCK OF THE LEFT

by P. David Hornik

October 31, 2003

"We are being attacked." On the face of it, there's nothing so notable about that statement; it's a well-known human phenomenon. Yet, particularly in Israel, where the Left-Right divide refers mainly to security issues, it's the one thing the Left is unable to say, and that inability defines its leftism more than anything else.

By now, the great majority of Israelis understand that we are simply being attacked by the Palestinian Authority (backed by much of the Arab world and Iran) through no fault of our own. Some understood this as far back as the fall of 1993, when the new wave of Oslo terror began soon after the PA was established; some needed until the suicidally "generous" Ehud Barak offers at Camp David in the summer of 2000, and the even more reckless Barak-plus offers at Taba the following winter, to understand that the PA was an unappeasable aggressor. But the Left -- what's left of it -- still doesn't get it; and it can't, because saying the words "we are being attacked" would mean abandoning its identity.

The Left, to be sure, has shrunk in recent years. The membership of Peace Now and other appeasement groups has declined substantially; the last elections saw Meretz's mandates plummet from 12 to 6, as many of its former voters shifted to the centrist Shinui and other parties; gone are the huge, ecstatic "peace" demonstrations in Tel Aviv heralding the new, messianic age of Arab-Israeli amity. But events of recent weeks have underlined the fact that a hard-core Left — small in size, but still concentrated in the country's elites — remains. First, there was the news about the Geneva Initiative, Yossi Beilin & Co.'s latest back-channel (read: back-stabbing) venture in selling the store for promises from terrorists. Then, on Saturday evening, Peace Now was able to muster a few thousand people to demonstrate outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, having been re-energized, it said, by Beilin's latest escapade.

Why is this small but influential segment of the population still unable to call naked aggression what it is and grasp that the whole diplomatic process was a sham? Why does it cling to its symmetries about "moderates" and "extremists" on both sides -- thereby implicitly equating the majority of the Israeli population, which does not believe in peace with the PA, at least as currently constituted, with fundamentalist terror organizations? Why does it treat a Jewish democracy and a Third World dictatorship, which systematically indoctrinates its children in racist hatred, as equal players in a game aimed at peace? Why does it ignore a steady stream of poll data showing that overwhelming majorities of the Palestinians share the views of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Fatah Tanzim, et al. and applaud their acts of massacre?

Although there is no single answer to these questions, I think the main answer is: the reason the Left perseveres in its attitudes and behavior, and cannot change, is that doing so would mean saying, "We are being attacked" -- i.e., joining the general Israeli population, renouncing its sense of being separate and superior. Put differently, it would mean acknowledging that the conflict is one between two nationalities, an uncivilized, aggressing one and a civilized, self-defending one, and that one is part of a national struggle, rather than a quest for peace based on universal principles.

The implications of viewing the situation that way -- as it is -- are unbearable for the true Left. Anybody who knows Israeli leftists knows that much of their emotional life, their socializing, and their identity revolves around expressions of hatred toward right-wing prime ministers and politicians and toward right-wing and religious parts of the population (not all leftists are like this, but most are). Predominantly college-educated products of intensive Marxist and postmodern indoctrination at Israeli and foreign universities, they view themselves as an enlightened, rational elite with a sophisticated grasp of politics that is beyond the reach of their benighted countrymen.

Yet, once you say, "These bloody bastards are attacking us, even though we bent over backwards to make peace with them" all that is lost. At that moment, your basic grasp of the situation becomes no different from that of a taxi driver, of segments of the population that you disdain and despise. At that point, too, a wall goes up between you and most of the visiting professors, the foreign journalists, the various international luminaries you consort with. Instead of acquiescing in their derogations of Israel and its leaders, you would have to defend your country, stand up for it -- and thus dissolve, before their eyes, into the rabble.

This -- unequivocally saying "We" -- is the Rubicon that the Left cannot cross. Leftists do not hate war and violence, fear for the safety of themselves and their loved ones, more than other Israelis do. What they do fear is losing their identity, wholeheartedly joining the nation, becoming a nationalist. It doesn't matter how many times the Islamofascists make chillingly clear that their genocidal target is all Israeli Jews -- "settlers" and kibbutzniks, haredim and Tel Avivites -- everyone and his brother and his children. The leftist will go on insisting that we are in a peace process, that the government is not being "creative" enough in pursuing diplomatic solutions, that "both sides" have noble goals, but are hampered by "extremists."

After these last three years, we've learned who the true leftists are, how deep-seated their anti-nationalist pathology, their resistance to reality, really is. True Israeli leftists are people who cannot be bombed and massacred into changing their way of viewing things.

What is to be done? Yes, the Left has shrunk, but, as we see in the recent Geneva Initiative, it still has the capacity to do great damage -- undercutting Israel's political position, sowing doubt and discord, playing straight into the hands of our deadliest enemies. All we can do is, through democratic means, fight the Left hard; expose its flouting of facts, logic, and experience, its inability to adopt the normal, sane perceptions of people under a brutal siege. Everyone must do his utmost to keep the Left's political parties small, confront its voices in the media, try -- when at all possible -- to counter leftism in everyday life by opening civil, constructive arguments with leftists or people tempted in that direction.

Other democracies, too, have their leftists who cannot say "We," or view enemies as enemies, or refrain from treasonous shenanigans in wartime. But in our situation, the need to combat leftism is more acute; our future depends on it.



HOME Maccabean comments