Left-Right: Beyond the stereotypes

Most Israelis who do not identify ethnically with Palestinians or Arabs, identify themselves as Zionists.

June 8, 2013 23:23
4 minute read.
Palestinian men walk by Qalandiya checkpoint.

Separation Wall (R370). (photo credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

Everyone knows that human rights is the province of the Left and that Zionism and nationalism belong to the Right – right? The Institute for Zionist Strategies has been labelled by dogmatic elements of the establishment as a rightist organization. But why then has such an outfit set up the Blue-White Human Rights Organization? If one listens to Dr. Ruhama Marton, the founder of Physicians for Human Rights, or to Yariv Oppenheimer from Peace Now, it is a cynical maneuver to hijack the cause of human rights and camouflage the evils of the occupation.

But if one listens to the young Blue-White volunteers at Kalandiya, Beit Lehem, and other checkpoints, one gets a true insight into the incredible Zionist resurgence among our youth. For these volunteers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, get up in the middle of the night and travel tens of kilometers to make our state a better place, a more humane and responsible society.

They do not come to confront the security forces.

They know that this work saves life and limb. They come to help – to help them perform as efficiently and humanely as possible. And they come to help Palestinians cross the checkpoints, to help the sick and infirm, to help those who show up without the requisite passes, to help the elderly who seem confused, to help all these and many others.

To the great surprise of some of the Palestinians, among those who come to help them are volunteers from the same side of the fence – from Judea and Samaria. Many volunteers wear kippot, most of the men serve in the reserves. While their political views differ dramatically from one another, they are all Zionists who believe in the state, in its Jewish ideals and in its historic mission. And they all come to do good.

The Blue-White Human Rights Program also strengthens “purity of arms” by teaching current and future soldiers (now in high schools) about the IDF code of ethics, and by providing soldiers with an address to report violations. The BW team has worked out procedures for alerting responsible officers about problems and for following up to make sure they have been corrected.

What distinguishes all these activities from those of other human rights organizations is the desire to contribute constructively. The volunteers do not come with angry dispositions and hostile goals. They know first-hand that the IDF answers to high moral standards – standards generated from within, not imposed from without – a code of behavior that is a source of pride and a badge of self-esteem.

The BW teams thus seek only to help the IDF live up to its own high ideals. When, for example, abuses at checkpoints occur, they are reported, corrected and prevented from reoccurring. But the BW teams do not seek to embarrass, demean or undermine Israel or its security forces. Unlike many of the others, they work in Hebrew here – not in French, Spanish and English on websites specially designed to gain international support for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Indeed, if anyone needs affirmation of Israel’s high standard of “purity of arms,” he would do well to see how other democratic countries meet similar, though dramatically less severe challenges. One should listen very carefully to President Barack Obama’s May 23 address about the problems of US drone attacks. As commented on by The New York Times the next day, “ ...From now on, the [US] will no longer target individuals or groups of people... based merely on the suspicion that their location or actions link them to al- Qaida or other groups allied with the terrorist network.

Those attacks, referred to as ‘signature strikes,’ have slaughtered an untold number of civilians and have become as damaging a symbol of American overreach....

” So, if human rights does not belong exclusively to the Left, maybe Jewish-Zionist identity doesn’t belong exclusively to the Right.

Most Israelis who do not identify ethnically with Palestinians or Arabs, identify themselves as Zionists.

They want Israel to be a Jewish state. Democratic, certainly, but decidedly Jewish culturally, ethnically, and religiously in some measure (ranging from negligible to pronounced). People with Left or liberal views can, and should, pursue their political goals without sacrificing or diluting their Zionist loyalties. Democracy, civil rights, economic fairness are all fully consistent with a Jewish state.

The Institute for Zionist Strategies always understood that the great center of gravity was solidly Zionist. The main issue dividing us has been the Palestinian conflict arising from the ’67 war and the areas liberated or captured during it (reader’s choice), and this is why the IZS chooses to avoid this divisive issue. People on both sides of the great divide support our activities.

The recent election was the first in memory which was not fought on the peace-security issue. True, a decision by the government related to renewed negotiations can rekindle division and passions. But most people now believe that these negotiations have to be conducted with the Palestinians – not internally, among ourselves. This presents an opportunity for the great center to come together and reinforce our Zionist identity and strength. This is why the Institute for Zionist Strategies is encouraging the passage of the “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People.”

The Jewish-Zionist vision is not the property of the Right any more than championing human rights belongs to the Left.

The author, an attorney in Israel and the US, is the founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.

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