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Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?

What is the difference between warning about Arab hordes heading to the polls and warning of Arabs being democratically elected to parliament?

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog addresses the annual Herzliya Conference, June 7, 2015. (photo: Erez Harodi/Herzliya Conference)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog addresses the annual Herzliya Conference, June 7, 2015. (photo: Erez Harodi/Herzliya Conference)

A few days after Benjamin Netanyahu swept the elections — partly attributed to his election-day racist warnings about Israel’s Palestinian minority — I wrote a piece about his rival, Isaac Herzog, who was lugging his own brand of anti-Arab racism along with him on the campaign trail.

Throughout the race, Herzog positioned himself as an alternative to Netanyahu who would reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, save Israel from looming international isolation, and return the country to its rightful place among the community of nations. In reality, Herzog refused to consider forming a coalition with the Joint List, joined the right-wing chorus by voting to disqualify MK Haneen Zoabi from the elections, and released a video featuring former intelligence officers lauding him as someone who “understands the Arab mentality,” and who “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations” (including “in the crosshairs”).

Some might counter that in the current climate, a “dovish” underdog has little choice but to turn into a hawk during elections. I accept that premise: politicians always have and always will make election promises they do not keep. But if there was any doubt that a racism lies deep down in Herzog and his ilk, it was belied on Sunday evening when the Zionist Union leader warned attendees at the Herzliya Conference of the “demographic emergency” facing Israel:

In about a decade, the Arabs between the Jordan and the Mediterranean will be a majority and the Jews a minority. The Jewish national home will become the Palestinian national home. We will be again, for the first time since 1948, a Jewish minority in an Arab state. I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s Knesset. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel. I don’t want them to change my flag and my national anthem. I don’t want them to change the name of my country to Isra-stine. (Emphasis mine, E.K.)

There you have it. The leader of the Israeli opposition, the great white hope of the Israeli Left, the man who was supposed to rescue Israel from itself, thinks only Jews are worthy of being elected prime minister in the Jewish and democratic state. What is allowed for Jews is, at best, hardly afforded to Palestinians. At worst, it is a prized possession that must be protected from non-Jews at all costs. After all, what is the difference between warning of Arab hordes heading to the polls and warning of Arabs being democratically elected to parliament?

At this point, Herzog is doing us a favor by making it clear that the issue does not lie specifically with him, or even Netanyahu for that matter. The consensus worldview in Israel — which has historically been propagated by the Zionist Left — is one of separation between Jews and Palestinians. This is not because Israelis and Palestinians “need a divorce” as famed Israeli author Amos Oz, a prominent voice the Zionist Left, has stated on numerous occasions. It is because the Jewish majority cannot abide any real Palestinian power — political or demographic — in the Jewish state. Don’t believe me? Just ask the same Amos Oz how he feels about a one-state solution:

“If there will not be two states here, and fast, there will be one state here. If there will be one state here, it will be an Arab state, from the sea to the Jordan River. If there will be an Arab state here, I don’t envy my children and my grandchildren… If we stay in the territories, in the end there will be an Arab state from the sea to the Jordan River.”

It turns out that the great “liberals” of Israeli society aren’t so much worried about a lack of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians as they are of becoming a minority. In this sense, peace and an end to the occupation aren’t an end in and of themselves, but a vehicle for maintaining and making permanent a demographic majority that will ensure Jewish rule over a country where 20 percent of the population is not Jewish. Most of all, however, Herzog and Oz’s warnings are a promise that if and when the occupation does in fact end, Israel will not be transformed into a fundamentally different project.

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    1. Anthony

      It is really naive to say that Herzog’s argument is purely racist and lacking in all objective merit.

      Herzog’s view is the axiomatic zionist belief – that only a state with a majority of Jews will be able to ensure our protection long term. This belief is borne out repeatedly through history – including the holocaust, but also the exodus of 1 million mizrahi jews from Arab countries after 1948. And in the Arab wold today there is not a single democratic state that protects its minorities – so the fundamental reason for Zionism remains just as strong as it did in Herzl’s day. That is why the two-state solution remains the only way to allow both peoples to coexist in safety and freedom.

      Herzog is making the only possible argument that can appeal to Israelis today – because Israelis are Zionists and are never going to vote for a one-state solution, so they must be made to understand that not separating the land makes the one-state solution (and the death of Zionism) inevitable.

      Reply to Comment
      • Liz

        Absolutely. For realistic Zionists Jews must remain in the majority within the green line to ensure that Israel can remain as a homeland for Jews with a core Jewish ethos. Its 20 plus percent non-Jewish minority must have full and equal rights both in law and fact but Israel is entitled to ensure its Zionist future. I live in Europe in a multi-cultural state but, I would argue. with an underlying Xian ethos. I would be horrified if my country was to get a mjaority Muslim or Jewish population who could, through the ballot box, change the status quo. Israel should be viewed in the same way.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Zakkai

      I think people on the hard left sometimes fail to recognize that one does not have to be Jewish or Zionist or racist to value a certain degree of homogeneity and commonality within the population of a country. For example, one may respect both Americans and Chinese but at the same time recognize that if 350 million Chinese immigrated to the US tomorrow, thus becoming a majority of the population there, it would probably make the US ungovernable. The idea of having nation-states rather than world government is a practical rather than a utopian concept based on the convenience and workability of governing populations who share, to a large degree, common language, customs, history, culture, geography and/or religion. One may feel affection and respect for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians while at the same time thinking that each group would be better off enjoying a comfortable demographic majority in its own country rather than fighting for control of one country, especially given the record of hostility and grievance between the two peoples. And it goes without saying that minority rights ought to be respected in every country, although unfortunately that doesn’t happen too often in the Middle East. I write all this not to justify Herzog or to speak on his behalf – indeed I’m no big fan of Herzog or his policies – but rather just to make an important point that seems overlooked or perhaps implicitly dismissed in some recent +972 articles.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Fair enough Ben but the specter of flooding Israel inside the green line is just used as an excuse by those who know full well that the real deal they could work out will involve a “symbolic”number of returnees. You know what I mean.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          If I understand you correctly, you’re talking about Israeli fears of demographic effects of Palestinian Right of Return to Israel proper, not Israeli fears of demographic effects of continuing to rule and settle Occupied Territories and thus eventually being forced to incorporate millions more Palestinians into Israel’s political process, which was the subject of this article. To the best of my knowledge, no representative Palestinian organization has officially agreed to relinquish any part of the maximalist individual-and-collective Right of Return, although they’d probably do so if we arrived at a moment of truth when Israel was actually prepared to offer Palestinians a reasonably fair deal.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Ok. But I don’t read Edo as “hard left.” Or heedless of your concerns. Edo is talking about many things and it’s hard reduce it to one thing except he is talking ultimately about an attitude towards Jewish rule versus democratic power sharing with a 20% minority after a 2SS is accomplished.

            Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Sigh, again…

          To answer Benny’s (not Ben Zakai’s) insistence that the Palestinian Arabs would agree to a small number of symbolic return.

          Only very recently, Israel agreed to a UN brokered deal, to allow Palestinian Arab refugees from Syrian camps, where they are under threat from ISIS, to be evacuated to the West Bank.

          Israel set one condition. It insisted that those refugees would need to sign a paper to indicate that they relinquish their so called right to settle in Israel proper.

          Abbas vetoed the deal!!!!

          How does that bode to the idea that Abbas would really be willing to agree to a symbolic return only? He is not willing to let them to sign to give up their so called right of return even to save their lives? But he would sign those rights away to please Israel?

          Poppycock!!!! There are no flying pink elephants, Benny.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Already addressed and debunked here by Kaufman
            and elsewhere in these pages. Netanyahu “offered” nothing, he blocked the return that Abbas requested–into the West Bank that Israel professes to want to withdraw from–by cynically and rather sadistically using the plight of these refugees to set a condition that itself violated international law on refugees. This is best seen as a particularly awful form of blackmail.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Actually no Benny dear. I urge every fair minded person to read your own link and satisfy themselves that even Ami Kaufman’s article confirms the facts that I presented. That is…

            1. Israel did agree to the evacuations.

            2. Israel made it’s agreement conditional on those refugees from the Syrian camps giving up their so called right of return.

            3. Abbas therefore vetoed the idea.

            About those facts everyone agrees, even Ami Kaufman, except you Benny, it seems.

            You refuse to draw the inevitable conclusion that your darlings, the Palestinian Arabs would rather die than give up the so called right of return to Israel proper.

            And that’s not all, Benny. Condi Rice in her memoirs confirms that Abbas baulked at accepting Olmert’s peace offer because it would have involved the return of only 5000 refugees. Here, read what Condi said in her memoirs…


            “The next day I went to see Abbas and asked to see him in the little dining room adjacent to his office. I sketched out the details of Olmert’s proposal and told him how the prime minister wanted to proceed. Abbas started negotiating immediately. “I can’t tell four million Palestinians that only five thousand of them can go home,” he said.”

            It all adds up to one thing, Benny dear. One of the major reasons why there is no peace deal is because your darling Palestinian Arabs insist on a MAXIMALIST demand regarding the “return” of refugees.

            You can try and spin it any which way you like Benny dear. But the facts speak for themselves…

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Nope. Kaufman says something distinctly different. I trust other readers to figure that out. And, as ‘Eliza’ says here,


            “I wouldn’t be too concerned at the hasbara or its long term effect upon Israelis. Those being lulled into its rhetoric are not the next generation of thinkers – and in a way it really doesn’t matter what they think now or in the future.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Ok Benny dear, I am game…

            I am game to leave it to REASONABLE people (not the automatons here) to look for themselves and decide…

            In the meanwhile, I don’t suppose you have anything to say about Condi Rice’s memoirs. Her testimony too bears out what I say and belies your “crock of shit” (Eliza’s delicate words on another thread).

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Here is another parody of how Benny argues his case…

            GUSTAV:”2 + 2 = 4″

            BENNY:”No it isn’t”

            GUSTAV:”Here, let me prove it to you…

            Take two oranges. Put them in a basket. Now take two more oranges and put them in the same basket.

            Now count the oranges and you will find that your count adds up to 4. That proves that 2 + 2 = 4″

            BENNY:”No it doesn’t”

            GUSTAV:”Oh dear. One may as well talk to a wall”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’m not too concerned.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”I am not too concerned”

            That’s good Benny. It means you are a little concerned. And you should be, because I thought of a way to demonstrate what a bare faced little liar you really are…

            This is what I said:

            “1. Israel did agree to the evacuations.

            2. Israel made it’s agreement conditional on those refugees from the Syrian camps giving up their so called right of return.

            3. Abbas therefore vetoed the idea.”

            …and here are direct quotes from Ami Kaufman’s article:

            The following quote lines up with my 1.

            “UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has asked surrounding countries for assistance, including Israel.”

            Ami only quibbled with Israeli newspapers about the idea that Israel made the offer. He corrected it to say that Israel agreed to to offer which is what I said too.

            “On condition that they forgo their “right of return” to Israel proper”

            That lines up with my statement 2.

            And the following lines up with my statement 3:

            ” Even Abbas, who although said to Channel 2 that he “has no right to live in Safed,” could never agree to imposing such a ridiculous condition on other Palestinians.”

            So again, even though my take and Kaufman’s take on the above FACTS are different, we agree on the FACTS.

            … and my take is this (AGAIN). If Abbas can’t even relinquish the so called right of return in order to SAVE Palestinian Arab lives, then what chance has he got of relinquishing those so called right en masse in his negotiations with Israel?

            NONE, I say as demonstrated in my other earlier post which quotes his response to Condi Rice when he quibbled about Olmert’s peace offer citing the refugee issue as a problem.

            Thank you Benny dear for once again allowing me to show you up as the unrepentant BARE FACED LIAR who you really are.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            And just for the record, I’ll address Kaufman’s take on it too…

            He didn’t even address my take on it. He was busy chastising Israel for blackmailing Abbas. And he debunked Israeli newspapers for claiming that “Israel made the offer”

            My take on this is not even discussed in Ami Kaufman’s article.

            Reply to Comment