When the canons roar, the Israeli Left remains silent

It appears not much has changed since Operation Cast Lead, when opposition leader Haim Oron tragically decided to support the military offensive. Rather than apologizing and giving evasive answers to the media, the Left, led by the failed opposition leader, should be standing up to yell ‘enough!’

By Elinor Davidov

It took seven days of “Operation Brother’s Keeper” for the leaders of the Israeli Left in the opposition to say, sofly, that there is a problem with the current military operation, with its goals and with its implementation.

For the first time, a week of collective punishment, a closure on the southern West Bank, assassinations in Gaza, violent house searches and the killing of five Palestinians, we read the words of Meretz leader Zehava Galon and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz. Their statements were not delivered forcefully at rallies organized by leftist parties, nor were they made clearly and unequivocally in numerous media outlets. Instead, they were written on Facebook, as if it was about just another message to their constituents aimed at winning another vote or two come election time.

Their criticism followed an obligatory disclaimer, in which they stated they do not intend to justify the kidnapping or side with the Palestinians. After all, any statement critical of the state and the army necessitates an apologetic introduction, as if the Knesset members feel they are “traitors” themselves – the same way their friends on the right see them.

Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon and opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog of Labor (Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)
Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon and opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog of Labor (Photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The weak Left has lost its ability to express an unequivocal and clear position – one that opposes military operations whose goals are fabricated and whose results are disastrous, not only for the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza, but also for the possibility (which was destroyed long ago by Israel) to negotiate with the government that represents the Palestinian public. Even Meretz and Hadash, openly left-wing parties, did not release proper statements, did not clearly call to refrain from going forward with the operation, did not bother to do a thing aside from write a few hollow sentences on their personal Facebook profiles.

From ‘Cast Lead’ until today

As if we haven’t learned the lesson, and as if ingratiating ourselves with the Right will bring the Left to power, the left-wing MKs bury their heads in the sand, roll their eyes at the evil terrorism coming from Hebron, and refuse to point at the real problem: the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

It seems water hasn’t passed under the bridge of the most prominent leftist party in the Knesset, Meretz. As if we don’t remember the disgraceful decision by then-chairman Haim Oron to support the disastrous Operation Cast Lead, which claimed the lives of over 1,000 Palestinians, many of them civilians. Needless to say that Hamas recovered, and residents of Israel’s south are still suffering from rocket fire from Gaza.

Like its predecessors, the current Israeli government is acting all the more forcefully against those with whom it must sit and negotiate the end of the conflict. It has become pointless to repeat the ways in which successive Israeli governments acted against the PLO for many years, singlehandedly destroying the moderate, secular Palestinian Left, all while aiding and abetting the religious radicalization of Palestinian society. Now, when Israel is trying to dismantle the new Palestinian government, to sabotage the agreement ending internal Palestinian rifts and to destroy Hamas, do not be surprised when more radical organizations set the tone in the coming years.

Read +972’s full coverage of the kidnappings

Rather than apologizing and giving evasive answers to the media, rather than visiting the families in order to be seen as an integral part of the Israeli people and rather than spending all day condemning MK Haneen Zoabi’s comments in order to draw a thick, red line between us and her, the Left, lead by the failed opposition leader, should have stood up to yell “enough!” What’s the point of torturing millions? What is the point of depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of work? Which military goals were achieved by searching 1,000 homes in one night while harassing a civilian population? What will we achieve by shooting live bullets at stone throwers? What is Israel’s interest in arresting hundreds of past or present Hamas members with no trial?

The government ministers approved an additional NIS 5 million for local settlement councils in the West Bank on Sunday. The reason given for the special supplement was the “the security situation that has been created against the background of the abduction of the three youths.” Next week they will decide on an additional budget increase. Now children, guess who already openly announced that he would support any supplement whose goal is to protect Israelis in the West Bank? That’s right! The honorable opposition leader, Isaac Herzog (Labor).

When military analysts are the ones writing the most critical articles against the operation, something is deeply wrong with the Israeli Left. And perhaps this is nothing new, but we are evermore insulted as time goes on. Just like we marched together during Cast Lead (another failed, cruel attempt at destroying Hamas), now we must raise our voices at every possible chance: in the media, in the Knesset and in the streets. We must say no to unnecessary violence, no the political cynicism of right-wing politicians, no to settlement growth and no to the occupation.

But it seems to me that left-wing members of Knesset are not interested in their voters, and that the winds of war still blow among and between them. When the cannons roar, leftists bow their heads in silence.

Elinor Davidov is a journalist and editor for London at Kirschenbaum. Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

More on the kidnappings:
What happens when the IDF embeds Israeli reporters
Rights groups say IDF response to kidnapping is collective punishment
Photos: After kidnapping, West Bank cities under lockdown