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The bright side of the occupation (by Mati Shemoelof)

Lately, the Israeli radical right has found a legitimate voice in the public sphere. This is not a coincidence, but rather a symptom of the current situation. “Zionism is in its worse crisis” says Hannan Hever, professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The current government, the most radically right ever elected, has systematically attacked Israeli civil rights, while simultaneously tightening the screws on the occupation of the West Bank. Those who seek to explain the de-democratization of Israeli society often point to the Israeli left. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni may be the leader of the opposition, but her voice rarely deviates from the consensus and she seldom takes the government to task. Neither Kadima nor its ideology are significantly different from those of Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. Having positioned itself as the party that represents the moderate, secular Israeli mainstream, Kadima in fact stole the the social and political messages of the moderate left.

Israel’s civil society and academia are under daily attack. Over the longer term the Israeli left will give Israeli society tools to de-colonize its values, symbols and culture. But over the short term the left as a movement is weak. I would argue that one can view the radicalization of the Israeli right as a positive phenomenon. True, the current government has taken on some characteristics of an apartheid regime.

But what will happen if one day the Israeli prime minister decides to end the unequal system between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, offering citizenship and enfranchisement to all residents? In a way, the near-disappearance of Israeli left and the radicalization of the right can be seen as one step toward a state with citizenship for all. Perhaps this is the last hour of darkness before the sunrise. If I am wrong, though, we could be heading toward situation of unrest such as the one we saw in Algeria. That, however, is the subject of another editorial.

Mati  Shemoelof is a poet, journalist and activist. Much of his literary work and activism deals with issues of ethnicity and class among Mizrahi Jews in Israel. His blog is called Public Enemy #2.

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