If the Left cannot even admit to the theoretical possibility that its position might be refuted, that position is no longer a rational political perspective but an article of “religious faith. They [the kidnappers] are not terrorists… They’re people who don’t see any way to change their reality and are forced to use these means until Israel wakes up a little, until Israeli citizens and society wake up and feel the suffering of the other.
– MK Haneen Zoabi on Radio Tel Aviv, June 17.
The only way still open for the Palestinians to remind the Israelis of…their plight is the way of violent struggle. All other paths have been blocked. If the Gaza Strip doesn’t fire Qassam rockets at Israel, the Gaza Strip doesn’t exist.
And if, in the West Bank, yeshiva students aren’t abducted, then the West Bank disappears from Israel’s consciousness. Abductions or murders are aimed at puncturing Israel’s intolerable complacency.
– Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, June 15.
Compare the substance of the sentiments conveyed by the vitriolic anti-Zionist Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi of the Balad list (more on its roots later), with those conveyed by well-known columnist, Gideon Levy of the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz.
Apologists for abductors
Fair-minded readers would be hard pressed to detect any substantive differences between the two. Indeed the message they both articulate is, for all intents and purposes, identical.
They both portray the recent abduction of three Israeli teenagers as a justifiable act of desperation. They both condone acts of Judeocidal terror as the last remaining resort to jolt the awareness of an apathetic Israeli public into recognizing the collective pain of the “Palestinian people”.
This is, of course, a staggering “misrepresentation” of reality.
Since signing the Oslo agreement in 1993, Israel has made a series of astounding concessions, which did nothing but produce further Palestinian demands for even more far-reaching concessions.
Indeed, as Jonathan Tobin rightly points out (Commentary, June, 16), the claim that “Israelis have blocked all other paths for the Palestinians except violence…is, to put it bluntly, a lie. It is the Palestinian Arabs who have consistently and repeatedly rejected offers of peace and statehood…” In an opinion piece “Terror apologists blame Israel for abduction”, Yedioth Aharonot’s Ben Dror Yemini, echoed Tobin’s assessment. With biting sarcasm, he writes “Not a day has passed since the kidnapping incident, and experts on Middle Eastern affairs and peace on earth have already informed us that it had actually happened because of us…We were wrong not to agree to release thousands of additional prisoners.
We were wrong not to welcome the hand extended in peace by Hamas…In short, Israel is to blame for the abduction”.
Aiding and abetting the enemy
Not only is it difficult to identify any tangible divergence between the positions espoused by Levy and by Zoabi, but in light of the naked mendacity of their accusations, we would be equally hard pressed to understand how their proclamations deviate in any significant way from what Israel’s current legal system stipulates as the grave offense of aiding and abetting the enemy.
Clause 99 (Aiding the Enemy) in Section 7 (b) of today’s Penal Code dealing with “State Security, Foreign Relations and Official Secrets: Treason” states: A person who, with the intent of aiding the enemy in its war against Israel, commits any act to so assist it in this objective – is liable to the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Clause 91 provides the following definitions: Enemy – Anyone who is at war with, or maintains a state of war against Israel; or who declares themselves to be one of these, whether or not war has actually been declared, whether or not there are ongoing military actions; and a terrorist organization.
Terrorist organization – an organization whose aims or activities are directed at the destruction of the State, or at harming the security of the State or the security of its residents or harming Jews in other countries.
Accordingly, it seems impossible not to interpret the proclamations of both Levy and Zoabi as conforming precisely to the specified offense.
After all, given their endeavor to provide a demonstrably fallacious rationale for justifying/ defending/endorsing actions that are clearly aimed “at harming the security of the State or the security of its residents”, and perpetrated by what is, by law, indisputably an “enemy”, there seems no other way to construe their conduct but as acting “with the intent of aiding the enemy in its war against Israel.”
The Zoabi-Levy nexus
So, whether or not one feels that Zoabi and Levy should be punished to the full extent stipulated by law, there can be little doubt as to the gravity of their egregious actions.
Indeed, as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman remarked “not only are the kidnappers terrorists, Hanin Zoabi is a terrorist too. The fate of the kidnappers and the fate of the inciter who encourages kidnapping Haneen Zoabi should be the same,” But while Zoabi’s vehement opposition to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is undisguised, the case of Levy is far more invidious—and insidious.
After all, Zoabi, an Arab resident of Nazareth, has “impeccable” anti-Zionist credentials.
Her party, Balad, founded in 1995 by Azmi Bashari, later forced to flee the country under a cloud of suspicion of treason for aiding Hezbollah in the 2006-Lebanon War, openly opposes the founding rationale of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. Yet, in the profoundly perverse and promiscuous political system in Israel, Balad is allowed to compete in national elections and participate in its parliament.
Zoabi herself, has overtly shown her identification with Israel’s enemies, arguably most vividly illustated by her 2010 presence on aboard the Mavi Marmara, in support of the frenzied Judeophobic mob, chanting calls to kill Jews, and their attempt to break the maritime quarantine of the Hamasruled Gaza.
However, while it is possible (albeit not prudent) to dismiss Zoabi as representing a marginal—and thus tolerably minor—constituency in Israeli society, this cannot be said of Levy. Indeed, it would be a serious error to dismiss the essence of the views expressed by him as unrepresentative of large swathes of Israel’s left-of-center so-called “intelligentsia”. The fact that he espoused the same venomous anti-Israeli invective as Zoabi, has particularly grave implications.
Revered, not reviled?
For while Zoabi’s political doctrine openly prescribes ending Israel’s status as a Jewish state, Levy purports to be striving to make it a better Jewish state.
Indeed, the Haaretz columnist is hardly a figure who is shunned by mainstream society.
Quite the opposite, he is a welcome and frequent guest on radio and television, given roles in widely viewed docu-dramas and feted by many for his alleged “journalistic courage.” He has been hailed by New York Times’ Tom Friedman as “a powerful liberal voice”.
Unsurprisingly therefore, “Commentary’s” Tobin cautions against “dismissing Levy as an outlier”, lamenting that “his callous dismissal of Palestinian terror as merely Israel’s due is very much representative of much of the commentary that is published internationally about the peace process.”
Worse, as Tobin correctly observes, “Levy’s arguments are the foundation of much of the criticism of Israel and its policies even by those who are too fastidious to justify terrorism.”
Dramatically corroborating Tobin’s diagnosis, Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of “Peace Now” published an opinion piece on Wednesday, in which, after perfunctorily condemning the kidnapping, heartily condoned it.
Echoing precisely the Zoabi-Levy rationale, he wrote: “It was clear that the despair…and anger on the Palestinian side would find their way out…. But in order to understand how to deal with the problem and prevent escalation, we must examine reality from the Palestinian viewpoint as well. The loss of hope on the other side, the Israeli arrogance and the unwillingness to compromise are blowing up in our faces”.
The Levy-Livni-Lapid nexus
Of course many in the mainstream Left in Israel would howl in protest at any suggestion that their worldview/ political agenda is in anyway comparable to Gideon Levy’s.
While such protest might be entirely sincere subjectively,it would be entirely wrong objectively. For although there might be differences in style, semantics and sentiment in the expression of their political perspectives, there is very little—if any— difference in the substance in the political credo they promote.
Both Gideon Levy on the one hand, and Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, on the other, essentially allege that the Jewish presence across the pre-1967 lines (a.k.a. “The settlement enterprise)” is the source of virtually all iniquity in Israeli society.
Thus, at last week’s Herzliya Conference, Livni accused the Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria of being “a security, economic and moral burden”, hinting darkly that they comprise a fiendishly cunning scheme “aimed at preventing us from ever coming to an arrangement” with the Palestinians.
At the same conference Yair Lapid, who immediately following the elections sought to distance himself from the “Hanin Zoabis of the world”, railed against the Jewish presence across the 1967 Green Line, alleging that, if only it were removed, Israel would “end its international isolation, increase the personal security of every citizen, create an economic boom, dramatically raise the standard of living in Israel”.
There can be little doubt that Levy (and Zoabi) would warmly embrace/endorse this “mainstream” excoriation of the Jewish communities and their residence as the root of all evil in the Israel-Palestine conflict, as a common core to their respective political agendas.
Religion of retreat
The proponents of Jewish retreat seem to be totally impervious to facts—clinging forlornly, if ferociously, to a failed doctrine that, time after time, has brought nothing but predictable (and predicted) disaster.
Yet, undeterred, they refuse not only to admit error but even the very possibility of error.
At last week’s Herzliya Conference, I had a brief encounter with one of the most prominent proponents of Jewish retreat (a.k.a. the two-state paradigm), Prof. Alan Dershowitz. Although Dershowitz is undoubtedly a stalwart defender of Israel as a Jewish state, he seems oblivious to the fact that his support for the two-state idea obviates the possibility of a Jewish state.
In this regard, I asked him if he could imagine, theoretically, some scenario, which if it occurred, would persuade him that his support of the two-state principle was mistaken, and thus bring him to retract his call for a significant Jewish retreat from much of Judea-Samaria.
His response was that he could not conceive of any such theoretical scenario, and since he wanted to maintain Israel as a Jewish democratic state, nothing could induce him to admit error.
In the past, I have had similar responses from other well-known two-staters, including Gershon Baskin and Alon Liel. (If I have misrepresented/misunderstood them or if they have since revised their position on the theoretical possibility of error, I would be happy to be corrected.) Clearly, if one cannot even admit to the theoretical possibility that one’s position might be refuted, that position is no longer a rational political perspective founded on fact and logic but an article of “religious faith” held irrespective of prevailing realities and impervious to any changes that might occur therein.
The irrelevance of Palestinian goodwill
The two-state paradigm has always been afflicted by “tunnel vision”, and its validity predicated on the alleged existence of a Palestinian partner of good faith, who could be trusted not to take advantage of the far-reaching Israeli concessions that would be required for its implementation.
As I have pointed out, repeatedly, in the past, the alleged sincerity of any Palestinian “peace partner” is largely irrelevant. For whatever deal may be struck, its durability cannot be assured.
Even in the unlikely event of some Palestinian with the requisite authority and sincerity to conclude a binding deal with Israel did emerge, he clearly could be removed from power as the Gaza precedent demonstrates.
All the perilous concessions made, on the assumption of “sincerity”, would then accrue to a far more inimical successor, whose political credo is based on reneging on commitments made to the “Zionist entity.”
Even this caveat is being overtaken by on-going events in the Mid-East, with the sweeping victories of the ultra-extremist Islamists (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, now threatening to destabilize Jordan… Would an ISIS take-over of Jordan induce Levy or Livni, Lapid or Deshowitz, Baskin or Liel to recant their “religion of retreat”? Or would they still hold fast to their loony and potentially lethal dogma?
‘There used to be a Zionist Left’
I believe that is was the Arab-Israeli poet, Aton Shammas who once wrote that one cannot be both a Zionist and a Leftist.
It would appear that even left-of-center columnist, Ben Dror Yemini, is coming to a similar conclusion. Echoing Shammas’s sentiments , he writes with evident despair and anguish: “There used to be a national left. There used to be a responsible left. There used to be a Zionist left. All of them are disappearing.”
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.