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It's time for the Israeli Left to part with the kibbutz

Between unequal distribution of municipal taxes that discriminate against development towns and admittance committees that bar entry to those who do not belong to the ‘white tribe,’ the Left must lead the struggle against the kibbutz’s sectorial policies. 

By Elad Wolf

The dining room at Kibbutz Givat Brenner.

The dining room at Kibbutz Givat Brenner.

Since the founding of the state, the kibbutzim have undergone a process of privatization. From their socialist infrastructure, the kibbutzim and the moshavim have turned into the enemies of equality and solidarity. Perhaps the time has come for the Left to move forward and release its hold on the kibbutzim.

The biggest question one must ask is what will happen when the residents of Israel’s impoverished development towns decide to engage in a struggle. A real struggle that will include banging on the kibbutz gates and blocking its access roads. When they decide to rise up against the historical injustice, according to which municipal taxes go solely to the tiny kibbutzim and moshavim at the expense of dilapidated development towns, or simply rise up against the admittance committees that refuse to accept them. Perhaps they could also demand that the kibbutzim divvy up their land for the purpose of building public housing.

Where will the Left be on that day? Will it shut up? Will it protect the kibbutzim? Will it call for negotiations? Or perhaps it will decide to take the side of the development towns? Choosing any of these options aside from the last one is an affront to the very idea of the Left. But if you ask any of the self-defined Israeli leftists this very question, they aren’t likely to choose the last option.

The development towns must engage in this struggle. The distribution of municipal taxes and the national budget is simply unfair. There is a preference for the rich, white Israelis over the hungry workers — it is as simple as that. Take, for instance, the debt accrued by the development town of Yeruham as opposed to the unreasonable growth of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council’s (which presides over mostly kibbutzim and moshavim) budget. While Yeruham is struggling to rise above its debt — without any resources of its own — the state keeps transferring huge sums of money in municipal taxes to the adjacent Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council; this despite the fact that all the IDF bases are in or around Yeruham.

Or take the factories, hotels, and tourist services at the Dead Sea, which constitutes a huge source of income for the state. All of the municipal taxes go directly to the coffers of Tamar Regional Council. Take an even closer look and you’ll find that the majority of the workers at the Dead Sea hotels are contract workers from development towns such as Arad or Dimona.

But it doesn’t end here. Those who do not belong to the same “white group” will also never be able to penetrate the borders of the kibbutz. The admittance committees are still in effect, meaning that Arabs and Ethiopians will never be able to become kibbutz members, while Mizrahim only rarely make it. The Israeli Left must not only take the side of the development towns, it must lead this struggle in the Knesset and in the streets.

During this past election I learned two important things: the first happened while I was managed the campaign for a candidate for Meretz’s internal elections. While making phone calls to voters from the kibbutzim, we heard time and time again that they vote “according to the kibbutz’s dictate,” or according to “what is good for the kibbutz.” My kibbutznik friends told me that I will never be able to truly understand, but that they are beholden to the kibbutz. The candidate who ran on behalf of the “kibbutz” is someone who most people didn’t even like, who in the past opposed raising the minimum wage, and who demanded lowering taxes on contractors who bring in work from outside Israel. But the dictate stood.

Mitzpe Ramon development town, southern Israel, 1957.

Mitzpe Ramon development town, southern Israel, 1957.

The second thing I learned happened while traveling between small campaign events across the country, some of which took place on kibbutzim. The question we kept hearing was: “What are you planning on doing for us?” The Left’s response must be: Why must we do something special for you that isn’t being done for your neighbors? Why are you better?

But the Left does not say these things.

Instead the Left continues to safeguard Knesset seats for members of the kibbutz and moshav movements, in order to vote in a way that does not reflect the worldview of the Left, but rather to serve the needs of the kibbutz. After he was kicked out of the Knesset, Meretz’s kibbutz representative, Abu Vilan, said that it is inconceivable that the Left would just toss aside a representative of the movement, and that the kibbutzim should consider supporting a party that will look after their interests.

The struggle between the heads of the powerful authorities against the weak ones proves this point. On one side we see several members of the Labor Party who are interested in redistributing the budget and challenging this unequal power dynamic. On the other side we see kibbutz and moshav representatives from the Labor Party who stand alongside the heads of powerful councils. The latter are using their political power to shut down any attempt at redistribution.

If the kibbutz movement is interested in being a sectorial party, let them do it. The door is wide open. But if they believe in the interests of all people, they must choose between Right and Left, between the principle of equality and dog eat dog. And no, solidarity is not solely reserved for kibbutzim; solidarity should also be reserved for their Arab, Ethiopian, and Mizrahi neighbors.

Elad Wolf is a Meretz activist.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Jason Kidd

      Ever notice that leftist-elitists can’t help themselves from telling other people what they should be doing?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Well, but you see, Elad Wolf is critiquing the Left intelligently here, taking it to task. It’s good, no? And of course the Right never tells people what to do, yes?

        This piece by Wolf is one of at least three in an excellent series on “the white tribe.” See the recent articles by Seth Frantzman and Haokets. These are penetrating analyses that get to the deeper issues of race in Israel. A complicated subject. This “white tribe” series follows on the excellent “License to Kill”series. +972 should be nominated for the Sokolow Prize or something similar.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          BS Benny. BS and part of the PSI warfare against Israel. It happens in all wars. Hey, it won’t change a thing.

          It happened in WW2 as well. Go read up on lord Haw Haw, the Brits executed him after the war. Go read up on Tokyo Rose. She got jailed by the Americans at the end of the war.

          Don’t worry, Benny, we won’t do anything to OUR traitors after the end of our war coz we are a democracy and we don’t hold grudges. We just shake our heads in bewilderment over how dedicated they are to their stupidity. An obsession to self flagelate one has to say. Masochism is an illness.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Ok, now the +972 writers are Lord Haw Haw and Tokyo Rose. What’s there to discuss? You’re so out there on the extreme far right that there’s nothing to discuss. Why are you here? If Noam Sheizaf is really a traitor them prosecute him. He’s not and you won’t. So much hot air. You’re not a serious interlocutor.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            LOL, now Benny is the arbiter about who is a serious interlecutor. Too funny.

            As for why we don’t prosecute Sheizaf and his silly compadres, that’s easy. We are a democracy and they are entitled to have their own opinions even if the opinions are stupid and destructive.

            Now, if they act on those opinions, say by placing bombs or murdering Israelis, like some of their Arab buddies do, that would be a different matter.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Democracies try traitors. You just admitted the “traitor” talk is so much hot air.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Only your shit hole “Arab democracies” try traitors for having opinions. We only try them if they murder us because they have opinions.

            Poor Benny, now he wants us to indict people just because they have stupid opinions. Is this guy worth feeding? What a loser!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I see. A traitor is a traitor on account of having an opinion. Many a fascist would agree.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            You don’t see nothin’, dummy. Being the little totalitarian that you are, you don’t seem to understand why we don’t try people with traitorous opinions. But I am the fascist for saying that we don’t try people for foolish opinions?

            You have a twisted upside down mind Benny. Oops, did I say mind? LOL.

            Reply to Comment
        • Jason Kidd

          Behind every pro-Palistinian, you will find:
          1) an antisemite
          2) someone who believes that White is bad and Brown is always a victim
          3) a person who,hates America too

          Sometimes, they portray all of the above.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            LoL! He pulled out the ‘Why do you hate America?’ card too. Comic.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jason Kidd

            If you hate Israel for being “racist” then it follows you hate America as well for the same reason.
            The lol is on you loser.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Pulling out the ‘Why do you hate Israel’ card and laying it on top of the ‘Why do you hate America’ card won’t save you. The game you’re playing is over and you lost.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jason Kidd

            I’m playing no game
            I’m exposing you for the white=bad=Ferguson=Israel; good=brown=Trayvon=Palistinan BS
            See how absurd you are?

            Reply to Comment
          • Jason Kidd

            Ben: “The game you’re playing is over and you lost”
            Can you believe this senseless narcissist? Like its 1) personal 2) a zero sum game.
            Ben seems to have that Arab pride thing going to couple with his elitist disposition.
            It does not bother if Ben wants to continue morally indefensible,positions. It’s not between he and I.
            It sure is fun to mock him.

            The truth is that when. the Arabs decide to peruse peace, both sides will win. Someone needs to tell Ben that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Educate yourself:

            http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/routine-emergencies/.premium-1.648625

            Racism in Israel cuts much deeper than black and white
            Deep-seated prejudices and resentments, always simmering below the surface,

            “….Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, like many overseas pundits, missed the many layers of Israel’s race issue in his post-election analysis. Comparing Netanyahu’s warning that “droves of Arabs” were voting to get out the right-wing vote to racist Republican scare tactics aimed at white voters in the U.S., Meyerson joked that “perhaps Likud and the Republicans can open an Institute for the Prevention of Dark-Skinned People Voting.”

            Would that racism in Israel was as simple as skin color: it is a far more complicated mix of nationalism, religion and culture.

            For example, it’s hard to find skin fairer than that on the wounded, tearful countenance of Lucy Aharish….”

            Reply to Comment
          • Jason Kidd

            More,elitism from Ben. Can you believe this guy? If you don’t align with his thinking, you are uneducated. F’king incredible.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            C’mon, Bennyleh, come to Papa… answer my question … don’t be shy…

            “But the West Bank is not Palestine. I see the Galilee, al-Quds [Jerusalem], Haifa and Acre also as part of Palestine.”

            Earth to Benny, are ya there? Which bit of the above sentence don’t you recognize as a zero sum game in which your Palestinian Arab bosom buddies claim not only the West Bank but Israel itself?

            These words were spoken by Sawsan Khalife, the person who will take over from Sheizaf and for whom you had nothing but best wishes. Do you still want to pretend that your saint Palestinians want to live in peace along side us?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I very much look forward to what Sawsan Khalife writes here on +972. With great interest. We will have to see what she writes and not over interpret with malicious intent the words you quote and are intent on divining like tea leaves and spinning. You’ve already called Noam Sheizaf and Michael Omer Man traitors merely for speaking the truth. So I am quite sure you have the knives out for the non-Jewish Ms. Khalife. Your buddy here has already taken to reflexively labeling every +972 writer with an Arab name “an extremist.” Preparing the ground. It’s clear your tactic is to attack +972 now along sectarian Arab-Jewish dividing lines, but you know what? They’re too smart and too superior to let you credibly do that. You really do belong on Arutz Sheva, Gustav, and should stop wasting everyone’s time here.

            Speaking of the truth ==>

            Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Hotoveli: “Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians…It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it,”

            LoL. So much for all of Gustav’s tirelessly offered hasbara as to how Israel would just love to reach a two state solution if only the supposed lack of Palestinian goodwill did not stand in the way.

            Poof!

            Sanctions are the only nonviolent way to push the country to leave the territories.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jason Kidd

            “I very much look forward to what Sawsan Khalife writes here on +972.”

            You don’t say, Ben? Of course you are. It’s part of,your malady.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”We will have to see what she writes and not over interpret with malicious intent the words you quote”

            LOL. Here are Sawsan Khalife’s words again…

            “But the West Bank is not Palestine. I see the Galilee, al-Quds [Jerusalem], Haifa and Acre also as part of Palestine.”

            What is YOUR interpretation of it Benny? I can’t wait for Benny’s response…

            As for sraeli foreign minister Tzipi Hotoveli’s comment even if it means what you say it means. Previous Israeli governments certainly did not agree with her. And more than that. They actually offered peace deals , twice in the last decade which would have resulted in a Palestinian Arab state on the West Bank. But what do you know… they did not accept. On the first occasion, their response was an Intifada involving a four year suicide bombing campaign. Not just stone throwing as you are fond of claiming.

            Bibi is not el presidente for life. Let’s see, what your Palestinian Arabs are offering? If they offer genuine peace and Bibi says NO, he will be gone. But so long as the offer is the type of offer which your Sawsan Khalife speaks of, they have to deal with Bibi. It’s only fair, no?

            Reply to Comment
          • Rick Santos

            @Jason Kidd – Yes I think you have a point here. The Left in Europe and the US/Canada always paints White as bad and Brown/Black as Good/Honorable.

            I am off mixed origin and it is absolutely pathetic. Yes this person has a point that the grant distribution is very unfair and NEEDS TO CHANGE.

            However always throwing race/racism will only create a more divded “hunkered” down society.

            Reply to Comment
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