The silence of the Left

'The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel' should have been denounced as reactionary.

A report entitled "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," published by the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Councils and endorsed by the Supreme Follow-up Committee of the Arabs in Israel with the cooperation of Arab leaders and intellectuals, is sharp and clear. The Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel no longer advocates the two-state solution. Alongside the future Palestinian-Arab Muslim state they favor a binational state, Jewish and Palestinian, which will give the Palestinian minority special political rights. Israel would thus lose its specific nature as a Jewish homeland. A new flag, national anthem and essence would characterize both nations, Jewish and Palestinian. This vision will not further the cause of equality between Arabs and Jews. On the contrary, it will increase the antagonism between the two communities and enrage Jews like me who have worked for cooperation and equality between the two peoples. WHAT IS most interesting about the vision are the things it omits. For example, the nature of Palestinian society in the proposed binational state that is to replace Israel. Will it follow radical Muslim traditions? What will be the status of women in this society? Will they have equal rights? Will they be freed from arbitrary unilateral divorce? And what about gay Palestinians? Will they be punished for their sexual orientation by being flogged to death, as in Saudi Arabia, or by hanging, as in Iran? The vision is silent regarding all this and does not, moreover, include any reference to freedom of expression, rule of law, sanctity of life and other values without which there is no civilized society. ALL THESE missing values are rightly espoused by the Israeli Left. And yet there has been no comment on this Arab vision, which has plenty of hate-words for Israel and none on equality, justice and civil society. The silence on the Left is significant, and part of a phenomenon not confined to Israel in which values which are supposed to be universal are applied, sometimes with great fanaticism, to advanced Western societies but not to third world ones. The European Left, for instance, can raise a storm of protest over Israel's misdeeds - real or imagined - but has little or nothing to say about Darfur or Iran's Nazi-like president. Furthermore, Europe's Left, as well as Israel's, has fallen in love with an extreme interpretation of the concept of multiculturalism, according to which it is alleged that all cultures, like all human beings, are equal and therefore the liberal concepts developed in the West have no priority over traditional cultures. But what about cultures that suppress the individual and expose women to forced marriage, polygamy, honor-killing and arbitrary unilateral divorce? Should they be treated with respect just because they represent a traditional culture? The Left in Israel and elsewhere have never answered this question clearly, and have, ignominiously, failed to even condemn repressive regimes emanating from traditional non-European cultures. THE FAILURE of Israel's Left to react to the "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," is part of a bigger picture. Its silence means, in effect, that Israeli Muslims - future subjects of the Palestinian regime within the binational state - are treated differently than Israeli Jews. But doesn't this double standard smack of racism? Universal values should be universal in scope and application. Any society, regardless of its ethnic origin, that fails to observe these values is guilty of repression. The Arab "vision" is, therefore, not only anti-Israeli, it is also anti-everything the Left stands for. The Left's failure to react to it is thus reprehensible as well as regrettable. The writer, a former cabinet minister and Knesset member, is president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.