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Surviving the Passover seder: A how-to for leftists

The Passover seder can be trying at the best of times: all that food, family and arguing. But it’s even more treacherous territory if you’re a leftie — so here’s your guide to getting through the night (relatively) unscathed.

By Ido Nice


An Israeli family holds a Passover seder, Tzur Hadassah, April 14, 2014. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Passover seder is fast approaching, and along with it, the inevitable political arguments with extended family. Every year, some opinion writer pens a “guide” to surviving the entire affair, and coming out on top.

But you can’t win an argument in which both sides have valid claims, and the Israeli Left’s tendency to ignore the valid claims of the Right is one of the main reasons so many people view it as so disconnected from reality.

So here’s what not to do:

Don’t talk about security

No, you can’t guarantee security. Certainly not in the short run. Everyone, everywhere, throughout time, prefers to control their own fate as opposed to allowing others to decide for him or her.

When a motorcycle rider feels like he or she is losing control, they will almost always try and regain control, even if the the odds are of almost certain death, instead of just jumping off and hoping for the best.

It’s true, Israel sacrifices a number of its people each year. But beyond ensuring that our number is lower than their number (the number of people killed on the other side of the conflict), the fundamental idea is that the nature of those losses preserves the sense that we are in control, and that the situation can be improved.

And Israel does indeed improve at minimizing the harm caused to itself from its direct military rule over the Palestinians. It’s enough to look at the senselessness vis-à-vis Hamas in Gaza (where, despite the siege, Israel doesn’t have full military control) compared to the relative calm exercised in the West Bank.

Don’t say that clear borders prevent wars

Israel has fought wars against its neighbors despite clear borders. Bosnia and Serbia fought each other for years. Russia invaded Georgia and the Ukraine in recent years. And let’s not even get started on the Middle East over the past decade. That doesn’t mean that there’s no chance of reaching an agreement in which everyone lays down their arms. Of course it’s possible. But that’s only one possibility, and you can’t ignore all the rest.

IfNotNow protestors carry a Passover table to the headquarters of Hillel International, where they held a 'Liberation Seder.' (photo: Gili Getz)

IfNotNow protestors carry a Passover table to the headquarters of Hillel International, where they held a ‘Liberation Seder.’ (photo: Gili Getz)

Don’t talk about the economy

No, the economic situation probably isn’t going to improve. The portions of the state budget that are tossed into the territories aren’t actually so huge, even if they sound massive, and don’t forget to deduct the profits from the exploitation of resources (human and natural resources) in the West Bank.

Don’t forget that when the settlers living cheaply in the West Bank return to Israel, the state will continue to subsidize their lives. And that will cost us even more. Furthermore, the military industry injects billions into the state’s coffers, largely from the daily use of all the equipment it produces. Does Israel profit from the occupation? I don’t know. Maybe not. But it’s way less clear-cut than the picture the Left often paints.

Don’t talk about international pressure

Until there are sanctions on Israel, and it doesn’t look like there will be anytime soon, there’s no point in being scared of them. Israel has stood up to international pressure since its establishment, and somehow its international standing keeps improving.

But more importantly, the “international community” is no moral authority in any way, shape or form. Not in the past, and not today. Would we stop fighting the occupation and the settlements if the international community declared them to be legal? A document prepared by Europeans in fancy suits doesn’t really have any moral authority in and of itself, and the Israeli Right’s skepticism and derision of the Left’s adoration of international conventions and treaties is pretty understandable.

Don’t talk about moral corruption

With all due respect, Dr. Leibowitz, 50 years have come and gone and nothing happened. The negative phenomena in Israeli society (and we all know that we have a good few) are actually reminiscent of xenophobia in much of the Western world, and there’s no serious evidence that the occupation has affected the Israeli street. Even the day-to-day implementation and maintenance of the occupation isn’t what it was 50 years ago, even if it’s still criminal. In short, there’s no unusual phenomenon in Israel society that one can clearly attribute to the occupation.

If you find yourself in an argument about one of those points at the Passover seder table, you lost before the argument even began.

So what should you do?

The oppressive military regime in the West Bank needs to end for the same reason that slaves in the United States needed to be freed, women allowed to vote, and LGBT couples allowed to marry. The occupation needs to end because human beings deserve to live freely, not under tyranny.

The occupation needs to end because if we Israelis were in Palestinians’ shoes, we would be making the exact same demands. We would be doing the exact same things they are.

Anyone who doesn’t comprehend that and keeps trying to convince others that “it’s not worth it,” will never agree to ending the longest military regime in modern times. They will never come around, because “it’s not worth it.”

The author is a family man, a father of two cute kids, and an unbearable polemicist. This article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. I concur.

      For now, Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May, 2000 is a positive example of this perspective that should be celebrated by the opposition.

      The occupation of Lebanon was brutal and wrong. The withdrawal was right, though the existing tensions along the northern border are real and worrisome. If there is ever a modest level of rapprochement between the West and Iran, the security situation should also improve.

      The same can be said, I believe, of the benefits (and real risks) of ending the occupation of the West Bank. At least withdrawal offers a light at this dark tunnel and hopefully much more.

      Hag Smeach.

      Reply to Comment
    2. JeffB

      An article that makes sense and deals with reality. Well done.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      i did not know that the leftists participated in the Seder… I suggest them to enjoy. The Israeli economy is excellent. The shequel is one of the strongest currency in the world. The exports earn billions of dollars (high technology, weapons, gas) and our neighbors sink into chaos. Our demography is higher than the Arabs of Eretz Israel one. Our youth is proud and loves our country. Hag Pessah Sameah and kacher to all.

      Reply to Comment
        • Fake Statistics

          Most of those are Chareidim, who have values that promote poverty. And citizens of the State of Palestine who live in Israel (for technical reasons they are counted in Israeli statistics).

          Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            No, even secular Jewish have more and more children. The birthrate of the Arabs of the pre 1967 lines sunk dramatically. The birth rate of the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria is much higher than the Arabs one. In 25-30 years, according to the statistics, the majority of the population of the Judea and Samaria will be Jewish. There is not any “State of Palestine”.

            Reply to Comment
      • JeffB


        I don’t know about in Israel (though I suspect they do since Judaism is so interwoven into the culture) but over here several million Christians ask Messianic Jews to help them hold evangelical seders. This keeps up and in a generation we might have 50 million Christians or more celebrating passover with us. An of course what’s normative in Evangelical USA spreads to the other 400m+ evangelicals worldwide in a generation or two so… Of course they mostly all support Israel so… There are also some mainline Protestant seders, though these are more controversial and less popular.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Halevy let me suggest you add these lines to your greeting. Perhaps you meant to and just forgot:

        “Because I do not wish to be sinful and because I understand the history of the Jewish people I do not wish to enslave others, and I will accordingly work to end the occupation that enslaves another people.”

        In his testimony before the Peel Commission in 1936 David Ben Gurion said this:

        “More than 3300 years ago, long before the Mayflower, our people left Egypt, and every Jew in the world, wherever he is, knows what day they left. And he knows what food they ate. And we still eat that food every anniversary. And we know who our leader was. And we sit down and tell the story to our children and grandchildren in order to guarantee that it will never be forgotten. And we say our two slogans: ‘Now we may be enslaved, but next year, we’ll be a free people.’….”

        In 1937 Ben Gurion was called back to the Peel Commission and clarified the following:

        “If Palestine is our country, it is not to the exclusion of other inhabitants, it is also their country, and the country of those how are born here and have no other homeland…—then why a home and not a Jewish State? … We did not say to make in Palestine a Jewish State. We did not say it at the time and we do not say it now and I will tell you why. … It is not part of our aim to dominate anybody else. If Palestine were an empty country we could say a Jewish State, because the Jewish State would consist of Jews only and our self-government in Palestine would not concern others, they have a right not to be at the mercy of the Jews. …. A state may imply…domination of others, the domination by the Jewish majority of the minority, but that is not our aim.

        Ben Gurion went on to distinguish a “Jewish National Home” from a Jewish state and to say that it is only a national home that is needed and is indeed preferable, and furthermore, that the Holy Places should be under a higher supervision, international control.

        Happy Pesach.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          The members of the minorities can live in peace in Eretz Israel, the country of the Jewish People if they respect the laws. We wish them a Happy Passover, Hag Sameah.

          Reply to Comment