Henin challenges Left to adopt radical change

Red and green agendas are 'inseparable,' socialist MK claims.

Characterizing the Israeli political scene as frozen and very conservative, Hadash MK and City4all head Dov Henin challenged the Left on Wednesday to start thinking more broadly and radically. Henin described his City4all list's impressive gains in the Tel Aviv municipal elections as a "very small but interesting contribution to reinventing the Left," during a briefing to the foreign press at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem. Henin walked away with a surprising 35 percent of the vote in the race for Tel Aviv mayor earlier this month, and his list, City4all, won five seats, the same as Mayor Ron Huldai's One Tel Aviv list. The socialist-environmentalist MK pointed out that several of those on the Left had antiquated ideas about what being left-wing really meant. Henin specifically singled out Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich and Yael Dayan who had aided campaigns against him in the Tel Aviv race. Yacimovich, he said, was "ancient left" with a conservative understanding of what it means socially and nationally to be on the left. "She speaks of green as if it is something shameful," he commented. Henin also expressed reservations whether his Tel Aviv supporters would coalesce behind the new left-wing movement that Meretz, green groups, and other bodies are establishing. He called the new movement a reinvented Meretz rather than something genuinely new. For Henin, however, "green" (environmentalism) and "red" (socialism) are the biggest change agents around in Israel today. "I do believe in revolution," he said, "Revolution is the understanding that we should change society." "Sustainability is revolution," he said. Red and green are also inseparable, he claimed. "When green matures, it is red. There is no separation. Environmental problems are social problems. Pollution is about interests - specifically economic interests. To fight pollution is to fight those interests," he said. Sustainability is about totally changing how we organize society, according to Henin, and that's what City4all was about. "What is a city all about? A city is and should be the arena of environmental change. Without proper and progressive ideas of what a city is, there can be no solution for the world. "A good city is where you can walk... People must be liberated from their dependence on the private car. That's why we championed public transportation over parking lots. "That's an unpopular thing to say in Israeli politics because the accepted wisdom is that the Israeli is in love with his car," he said. His party also championed affordable housing, as both a green and red issue, he said. Nevertheless, City4all managed to dominate the agenda at the end of the election campaign, he said. "Everyone talked about public transport, green and affordable housing. We became a hegemonic force in the discourse and that's a kind of achievement," he noted. Rather than staying as the official head of the list, Henin will be running for Knesset again with Hadash. He will remain the unofficial head of the list, however, and hopes his status as an MK will actually strengthen the list's power in the opposition. "I hope to be a sort of shadow mayor - a Tel Aviv MK. The opposition in municipalities has historically been considered very weak. So I hope this will strengthen us, but it needs to be tested. It is a complex situation," he said. Henin has no intention of joining any other new or old political configurations. "Hadash is the last project attempting to build joint Jewish-Arab politics," he claimed, "It may not be very successful but it's brave."