Can a national ethos that needs to balance out its democratic ideals with demographic domination ever provide an avenue for implementing a truly progressive agenda? A response to Maya Haber.
The commemorations of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination have a strange tendency: once a year the Israeli peace camp gathers, both physically and virtually, to reflect on how exactly we got to this particular political moment. This year, discussions have been especially tumultuous after it became clear that the rally in Rabin’s honor, organized by two centrist organizations, would be a wholly apolitical affair — one that aims to bring together the “moderate majority,” including leftists, rightists, centrists, and settlers.
The conversations led to some interesting critiques worth engaging with. Alon Mizrahi wrote a powerful piece on these pages, in which he argued that Israel cannot be a democracy as long as it holds millions under military dictatorship, and that the Left’s mission should be to end that dictatorship. At “Haokets,” Lev Grinburg revisited Rabin’s attempt to build an unstable political coalition across ethnic and national lines that granted him the legitimacy to enter talks with Arafat, and how that coalition quickly unraveled following the prime minister’s murder.
Over at Jewish Currents, Maya Haber published an informative piece titled, “Why there’s hope for a progressive agenda in Israel.” In it she details how following the Rabin assassination, when the Israeli Right was at its political and public nadir, American neoconservatives exported their ideology to Israel by building an infrastructure that would put the Right back in power.
Through a network of funds, think tanks, media outlets, and philanthropic initiatives, American right-wingers “infused Israeli politics with neoconservative ideology, trained political leadership, and provided a media platform from which to attack the left,” Haber writes. Think tanks like the Shalem Center set the tone for Israel’s neoliberal economic policies, while websites such as Mida have orchestrated smear campaigns against left-wing groups such as Breaking the Silence.
Haber’s piece is worth reading for its historical breadth. Unfortunately, it never really lays out what a progressive agenda in Israel looks like. The reader is left with a nebulous optimism that seems entirely detached from the present reality. “Much like the right in the 1990s,” Haber writes, “the Israeli progressive camp now understands that in order to make Israel a better place, it needs to gain power. They have identified the vulnerabilities of the right and...Read More