By Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz – 27 Sept 2010
At the Land of Israel Museum after Yom Kippur, the large political camp the Cynicism Bloc appropriated for itself the rich uncle from the left, the Geneva Initiative. No one was more suitable to star at the event than former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Once again, this man was presented as the person “who underwent an ideological revolution.” But it should be remembered that, parallel to the revolution that only found expression in press interviews, some time after the atrocious war in Lebanon, Olmert went to war again, in Gaza. And once again there were massive civilian casualties.
Following the gathering’s media success, the leaders of the Geneva Initiative hastened to send out a press release that opened with the words: “Yesterday, Sunday, September 19, the Geneva Initiative held a conference on renewing the negotiations with the participation of the former prime minister.” And while Olmert is busy flying his latest balloon (how Ehud Barak tried to promote a cease-fire during Operation Cast Lead while he, Olmert, opposed halting the massacre ) the Geneva-ites hastily tried to cleanse the disgrace by disseminating Olmert’s “worldview.”
The response of the “peace camp” to the fact that the talks with the Palestinians are not moving forward is a prime minister crowned with the glory of two dastardly wars. This is yet another explanation of the paralysis of the left – the obsession with the politics of newspaper headlines.
Anyone who expected the square to be filled by masses of supporters of the Geneva Initiative, or the Peace Now demonstrators of 1978, as pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government during the crisis in the negotiations has not noticed the change the left has undergone over the past decade. The movements have disappeared, including the Geneva Initiative. In their place we have nonprofit organizations.
Advertisements calling for demonstrations sometimes bear the signatures of around 20 groups, most of them human rights organizations. The demonstrations are generally attended by some 20 people per organization, and sometimes they overlap. The organizations consist of several paid functionaries and board members. But they have a defect – they do not cease to exist even if they do not have supporters. They exist for the sole purpose of reporting. To that end, they have spokespeople, publications, an accountant and a lobby that takes a percentage between Jerusalem and Brussels.
That’s the way to achieve the politics of headlines but not of resistance. Environmental associations or feminist organizations put out press releases; the activists from the Matzpen socialist organization who once went out onto the streets to tell about the iniquities of Zionism have been replaced by Zochrot, which promotes awareness of the Palestinian exodus of 1948. This group has offices on Tel Aviv’s Ben Yehuda Street, plenty of money from Europe and zero political effect.
And most important, Peace Now has been reduced to a director general who flies journalists over the territories. Against this backdrop, the anarchists who demonstrate against the fence and in Sheikh Jarrah stand out as being unusually idealistic. But the truth is even sadder: Israel’s streets are silent. Supporters of the left can be found mainly on Facebook and on Internet petitions. There you can sign as much as you want and under any name. The political context is not forming the resistance but granting approval to what exists. “Like” – as you say on Facebook when you like something – is the name of the neoliberal game.
Yes, the monitoring by Peace Now and B’Tselem has importance, as does the humanitarian aid of Physicians for Human Rights. But between this and a political struggle in Israel’s streets – the real arena for a struggle – there is very little. The difference between monitoring or granting aid to the victims of the occupation and the political struggle over changing Israelis’ awareness has been lost. Instead of meetings, conferences and demonstrations, spokespeople telephone journalists. The Geneva Initiative sponsors billboards with giant pictures of Palestinian leaders. The fact that the business on their side has also languished because of the state of nonprofit associations and European budgets will not comfort anyone>