Dear Nitzan Horowitz,
I understand you’re stressed. Your Meretz Party is begging for votes to get the bare minimum and remain in the Knesset.
But you may have killed your party by justifying the International Criminal Court’s criminal singling out of Israel – and linking it to your obsession with Israel’s “unbridled settlement” policy. You lost votes while making Meretz radioactive to some potential coalition partners in the anti-Bibi camp.
That betrayed those of us in the Center, let alone the Left. You hurt our people, let alone our state. And you even undermined the ICC and the cause of human rights.
Before your allies trash me as a “right-wing racist” – I am actually an admirer, despite our different worldviews. Three years ago, you gave me permission to run your wonderfully Zionist selection “The Steps of Boorishness,” in my anthology The Zionist Ideas. The piece reflected your identity as a proud gay, progressive Zionist, not by justifying yourself defensively, but by living your values naturally.
Consecrating a single-sex marriage on the steps of the Chief Rabbinate’s offices in 2013, you demonstrated how your multiple identities shape you, reinforce you, motivate you. While quoting Israel’s Declaration of Independence, you gave a dvar Torah based on the Hebrew word for marriage, nisuim, whose root N-S-O means to lift, launch, carry and bear. It was a lovely tribute to marriage – and Jewish statehood – which sometimes entails bearing burdens yet ultimately elevates us.
In this overwhelmingly issueless election campaign, you claim to be championing a tolerant, democratic, big-hearted Israel that’s naturally Jewish – “it’s the air we breathe,” you say.
I join you in denouncing Benjamin Netanyahu’s despicable flirtation with anti-Arab bigots, and have been demanding his resignation for three years. Bibi and the demagogues love clumping all his critics together as traitors – you made his work easier.
More fundamentally, we in the Center – in fact, all of us – need thoughtful, nimble leftists who know when to defend the state and when to dissent.
When he was education minister, Naftali Bennett said that if someone were to invent a button to impose unanimity by eliminating all factions, he wouldn’t press it. “We are a people of ideas and arguments,” he explained. “The arguments spawn the ideas.”
He, too, understands that we need reasonable radicals, not loony leftists.
Alas, your Occupation Preoccupation derailed you. You couldn’t resist a chance to knock the settlements and indulge in your own demagoguery, blaming Israel’s international troubles on Israel.
You proved yet again why Israel’s Left is bankrupt ideologically. Like Shimon Peres and many others, you never acknowledged Oslo’s failures. You never updated your political programs to process Palestinian leaders’ constant rejection of Israeli compromises because the Palestinian extremists oppose a two-state solution; they still dream of destroying us, including you, no matter how wonderful you might think you are.
You boosted the Blame-Israel-Firsters, without realizing how much distress the obviously biased ICC probe risks causing Jews worldwide. They need to hear anti-occupation progressives like you explain that the Palestinians have not declared statehood and therefore lacked standing to make the complaint; that the Palestinians are the spoiled brats of modern nationalism, claiming statehood when convenient to bash Israel before the UN and ICC, but whining “we’re occupied” when begging for vaccines from Israel; and that demonizing Israel in the international community only feeds the Palestinian delusion that internatia-bashing advances their campaign to destroy Israel, when it actually prevents them from dealing with Israel maturely, realistically.
You also double-crossed Israel’s brave civilians who endured Gaza rockets, and our valiant soldiers who defend us daily. You should model critical patriotism, not lily-livered leftism. And don’t forget that the rocket fire intensified when Israel did what you demanded – withdrew from every inch of Gaza.
The international community keeps targeting Israel obsessively, unfairly and destructively. People like you, with impeccable progressive credentials, should save the ICC’s credibility by defending your country. If you had done it right, you would have advanced the cause of human rights, which looks farcical because noble ideals are used ignobly, inconsistently, against the Jewish state.
IN SUNDAY’S Yediot Aharonot, Ohad Ben-Yishai – the most-injured surviving Israeli soldier from the 2014 war – asked: “What’s more ethical than the privilege of defending Mom and Dad from terrorists?”
He reminded us that “Tzuk Eitan [Operation Protective Edge] reacted to rocket attacks on our homes.” And he inspired us by saying: “I would be honored to wear the uniform again.”
Ohad suffered a shrapnel wound to the head and has difficulty communicating. His father, Shimon Ben-Yishai, added that “no one warned Ohad’s Egoz unit before raining rockets down on them, and no one dropped white fliers [as Israel did] warning that they were sending a missile to target him....
“My son remains silenced – with serious cognitive disabilities,” Shimon continued. “He paid a high price in his health and future when the army that deployed him sacrificed the element of surprise because it worried about Shejaia’s populace – and the international players now criticizing us. How much more humanitarian must we be?”
You, Nitzan, give me a choice. I could side with Ohad and his family, or I could side with you. There’s no contest for me, for most Israelis, for most Jews, for most rational humans who understand that human rights do not mean leaving yourself defenseless against inhumane wrongdoers. I choose Ohad and his family. They’re living your words about naso – carrying an unspeakable burden, yet lifting us all up with their courage and grace.
The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University and the author of nine books on American history and three on Zionism. His book Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, coauthored with Natan Sharansky, was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.