Socialism ain’t what it used to be

The ideology I know, the one I was raised on, is nothing like the kind now advocated by some on the European Left, whose automatic mobilization against Israel is astounding.

mashaal 311 (photo credit: AP)
mashaal 311
(photo credit: AP)
As an adviser to President Shimon Peres, I recently participated in a meeting with German politician and leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the object of which was to discuss the position of the European Left vis-à-vis Israel. The exchange between Peres and Schulz (who repeatedly underscored his support of Israel and condemnation of its enemies), made me stop and ask myself some questions on the motive for the antagonism displayed by socialist leaders in Europe against Israel. Questions that I, who had been an active member of Israel’s Labor Party and had joined it on ideological grounds, and who believed the social Left and the political Left were equal, find the progressively deeper schism between sister ideologies very disturbing.
I have always thought of myself as a socialist left-winger, an individual who rejects injustices, fights discrimination, seeks to close gaps, is prepared for compromises for the sake of peace, and belongs to the most moral intra-global movement in the world. At the same time, I admit, I love my country – Israel – and see no contradiction between the two. I look upon the practically automatic mobilization of the European Left against Israel extremely disappointing.
This perplexing situation of quasi-enmity on the part of those who should have been among our most prominent allies has been a source of much food for thought on the situation in the Middle East.
Recently Israel has been facing a new challenge in the fight for its existence – delegitimization. Sixty five years after six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis; 62 years after the establishment of a sovereign Jewish State in the land of its forefathers; 62 years during which we endured seven wars inflicted upon us because of the inability of our Arab neighbors to recognize and accept the UN partition plan. A resolution that we accepted and to which the Palestinians responded with violence; 62 years in which we built a state from its very foundations. A nation who would not shy away from a single day of war, yet would never renounce not even an hour of democracy.
THE QUESTION of the position of the Left in the world vis-a-vis Israel was also broached in the Peres-Schulz discussion.
I listened very attentively to the overview given by Peres, who served as vice president of the Socialist International for many years, and described the development of events that influenced the stance of socialist leaders in Europe over the past 30 years.
The socialist-European romance with the Palestinian issue started in the 1970s. Prominent leaders Willy Brandt, Bruno Kreisky and Olaf Palme instigated the European interest in the PLO and Fatah, headed by Arafat. According to Peres, the threesome worked towards the notion that Fatah and Arafat be accepted into the Socialist International.
They did not take advantage of the clear majority they had in the presidency and conducted long persuasive discussions with Peres – then Labor Party chairman.
Peres’s position was clear: the Socialist International was an organization that served as an umbrella framework for the social-democratic parties in the world. When you are convinced that Arafat has assumed socialist and democratic principles, he had responded, I will join you in your proposal to invite him to the Socialist International.
The three rose to the challenge, and convinced Arafat to accept UN Resolution 242 and declare that the conflict would be settled in a peaceful manner.
This is the path that the socialist and socialist-democratic parties in the world have to follow in regard to Hamas. The pressure from the European Left must be applied to Hamas with the object of radically changing the position of this group, which needs to fall in line with the socialist spirit: accepting the principle of the two-state solution, agreeing to engage in peace negotiations with Israel, recognizing it, abandoning the path of terror and ceasing the firing of rockets at Israel’s citizens.
THE MANY attempts of European socialists to delegitimize Israel in effect legitimize terror, murder, discrimination and tyranny. The socialist critics of Israel legitimize Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime, which kills demonstrators in the streets of Teheran, as well as Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh, who expelled their opponents from Fatah, shot them in the knees and threw them off Gazan roofs, and Hassan Nasrallah, who controls Lebanon by the force of arms and wishes to impose an Ismalist dictatorship. This is not the brand of socialism I know. This is not the socialism upon which I was raised.
My kind of socialism is anti-occupation and pro-human rights. But above all it is for the right to live. For those who died in exploding buses in city centers or were wounded by missiles close to home, their rights have been violated. The most basic right of man that I as a socialist know is the right to live.
And as to the occupation, I am amazed at the way the European Left is acting. While the operations initiated by Israel were undertaken in self-defense against the indiscriminate shooting on its citizens from the once occupied Gaza territory, but which has been completely evacuated, these inadmissible acts of aggression constitute the ideology of Hamas, Hizbullah and the regime of the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad in Iran, yet they do not figure on the agenda of the Left in Europe.
Quite a considerable number of women in those societies are beaten, illiterate, unable to earn a living; they are a children-producing machine and slaves of their husbands, who can get rid of them and abandon them to their fate with no resources at any given moment. This is the kind of Hottentot morality that is unexplainable.
Since I cannot, nor do I want to, suspect the European socialists of being anti-Semitic, I have no logical answer to this abstention.
My socialism also constitutes a universal ideology. This is not a tactical matter. In my mind, all human beings are equal and the standards according to which I would like to see them live apply everywhere.
The double standards exercised for different societies cannot be defined as socialism but as political cynicism.
Are operations in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Algeria, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan and Sudan acceptable, yet only Israel’s effort to uphold moral warfare principles while engaged in a battle against terror deserving of condemnation? I AM on occasion critical of my government. In all of my adult life, I have been somewhat of a non-conformist.
Throughout my public activities I have worked to bring about change in my country in the spirit of social-democracy.
For greater equality, more freedom, the release from the burden of occupation and the march to peace. I learned from my guide and mentor Shimon Peres that socialism is a civilization and not a fleeting fashion. It represents the essence of things and a way of life, not a trend or media spin. Hence my bitter disappointment in my friends of the European Left.
My dear social-democratic friends, return to your roots.
You are not Pavlov’s dogs who automatically jump to an anti-Israel posture no matter the issue. Go back to the human perceptions, on which socialism is based, apply equal standards to all, fight for the liberation of women in authoritarian societies, and confront the opponents of peace and negotiation. Condemn declarations calling for the annihilation of a country and of a people (even if the country in question is Israel). Start differentiating again between good and evil and not between what is convenient and inconvenient. This has always been what our worldwide movement etched as an emblem on its banner.
Socialism constitutes a network of moral values that needs to be safeguarded and on which the generations to come are to be educated. Do not allow the slogan of: “Socialism is a wonderful idea but the socialists killed it” to prevail.
The writer is an adviser to President Shimon Peres.