Friday, August 12, 2011

The frustration of the anti-Zionist left (updated)

Joseph Dana writes in the UAE's The National:

Last weekend, more than 300,000 Israelis protested for economic reform throughout the country. In Tel Aviv, the epicentre of the housing protests, 250,000 Israelis marched to the defence ministry chanting the slogan "the people want social justice". The demonstrations were some of the largest in Israel's history and have pumped new life into the corpse of Israel's leftist political movement.

But the one issue glaringly missing from these demonstrations demanding "social justice" is the most urgent social justice issue in the region: the equality of everyone under Israeli rule, including Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Despite the connection between economic hardship and the settlements, Israeli protesters have been careful not to connect their struggle with Palestinian solidarity or an end to occupation.

This is partly tactical. In the climate of radical politics, Israeli public opinion meets any discussion of the occupation with a negative reaction. Protest organisers say economic reform would not receive the 87 per cent public approval rating that it enjoys if the early demonstrations had been overtly anti-occupation. However, after a month of increasing protests, questions about "social justice" can hardly ignore the occupation or unequal conditions for non-Jews.

Organisers are desperate to show that the demonstrations include all Israelis. As the protests have gained momentum, Arab-Israelis, among the most disenfranchised people in the country, have slowly joined. But displays of Zionist politics have been overwhelming.

How can a protest in Israel, borrowing the revolutionary energy of the Arab Spring, ignore Israel's military control of the Palestinians?
Dana and his anti-Israel fellow travelers have been tweeting their frustration about this issue for weeks now. They see the tent protests as an opportunity wasted, as a tragically Zionist phenomenon when it should have been, they believe, an anti-Zionist movement.

Of course, their complaints have been based more on their hatred of Zionism than on any logic.

The protests touch upon a romantic memory of Israel's socialist past, when the entire country felt that it was like one big kibbutz and everyone was in it together. Whether this is true or not, and whether a massive social program would help more than it would ultimately hurt, is not the issue for now - the point is that the tent movement is a quintessentially Zionist response to perceived economic and economic inequity.

In other words, it's the economy, stupid.

Dana and his pals love to say that the "settlements" are the cause of the economy's woes, as they paint a picture of massive Israeli investment in helping crazed rightists on hilltops oppress their Palestinian Arab neighbors. This is false to begin with.

Beyond that, if the anti-Zionist left would get their way and a half million Jews were ethnically cleansed from their homes, it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars - money that every Israeli taxpayer would have to pay!  It cost about $2 billion to remove a few thousand Jews from Gaza; the cost of Dana's idea of "social justice" would be a huge burden on the Israeli economy, making the chances of affordable housing in Israel much more remote. As much as Dana loves to pretend that the settlements are expensive, he never addresses the flip side.

If you want a back of the envelope calculation, Ha'aretz reported that the total cost of building the Jewish communities across the Green Line was $17 billion - of which $13.5 billion were for the homes that the Jewish residents paid for themselves, Many of the other public buildings like synagogues were paid for by the residents as well, not the state. It would cost an order of magnitude more to evict them, and such a move would hugely exacerbate the housing crisis that prompted the tent protests to begin with.

So Dana's agenda is exactly the opposite of that of the tent-protesters. He wants them to pay a massive personal price for a program of ethnic cleansing that they do not support.

There is, of course, another angle that Dana and his fellow anti-Zionists always ignore as they push their half-baked arguments. Israelis - real Israelis of all types, right and left, not the coffee-shop Tel Avivians of Dana's world - have become extraordinarily cynical about Palestinian Arabs.

The Israeli Left enthusiastically supported Oslo. Even though there were plenty of terror attacks during the process in the 1990s, before the intifada, they were downplayed by the government and the media because of the desire for peace which seemed at hand.

Arafat's intransigence at Camp David, followed immediately with the pre-planned terror war that cost thousands of lives, left the Left with no one who really believed in the peace process. Sure, the Ha'aretz crowd would still push the concept, but real Israelis, including the Left, saw that the PLO's goals were far from peaceful. They felt let down and their idealism crumbled.

From an economic perspective, the PLO-engineered intifada was hugely expensive. The additional security measures cost Israeli taxpayers - a cost that continues to this day.

Dana and his friends will never mention the intifada except in how they believe it was justified by Israeli policies. To them, the intifada is another "social justice" movement, and they cannot figure out the difference between Arab suicide bombers and tent-dwellers on Rothschild Boulevard.

Dana's world does not include the Zionist Left, the mainstream Left that built the state (and, incidentally, is part of the government.) His viewpoints are fringe within Israeli society. His stated objective would result in the exact opposite to what the protesters want.

And his knowledge that his opinions are so far out of whack with those of the mainstream is frustrating him to no end.

UPDATE: The paragraph I struck out was overly harsh towards Dana, and I apologize for that. I didn't know that he had lost family members in terror attacks. I don't want it to detract from my main points, though.

Dana did not accept my apology. Instead, in reply he insulted me on Twitter, saying that I "care nothing for human life whether israeli, palestinian or otherwise" and that I am "disgusting" and I am a "pusher of vile hate."

Of course, he refused to apologize for these far worse insults to me. And (as I pointed out to him) I never saw him use such words against the ISM, which explicitly supports the murderers under the name "resistance." He quotes Electronic Intifada liberally without any note of irony about the name of the site. But those purveyors of hate are not nearly as bad as I am, apparently.