Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Yitzhak Laor: The left’s role must be in the streets

17 February 2009

Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz – 17 Feb 2009

Yitzhak Laor

Benjamin Netanyahu is always reminded of one sin: opening the Western Wall Tunnel in 1996. On the other hand, he is never reminded that the violent confrontation did not deteriorate into a bloodbath. The incident caused bereaved parents on both sides to suffer a price that does not leave them, and still, it did not become another operation that resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of people handicapped and a multitude of refugees.

Four years after the Western Wall Tunnel incident in the fall of 2000, Ehud Barak, the angel of peace who rose to power with the left’s overwhelming support in order to get rid of the “warmongering Netanyahu,” took advantage of Ariel Sharon’s provocation at the Temple Mount. Barak ordered the army to pull out one of its preprepared plans and suppress what turned into the second intifada.

The half a million rounds during the first months of the intifada, even before the suicide bombings started, were fired on orders of a government of the left. And the leftists – in the street, in academia and in the literary world – continued to support Barak and his war. That is when the downfall of the Zionist left began. That is where the deep anxiety about the future stems from.

The first Lebanon war bred a fear among Likud’s leaders of a leftist opposition. Ironically, the greatest achievement of the popular opposition to that war was the granting of monopolistic rights to the center-left to embark on “operations.” It was only during Netanyahu’s term as prime minister that Israel did not embark on any operation of razing villages and towns, including killing civilians, like Operation Accountability (1993), Operation Grapes of Wrath (1996), the Second Lebanon War (2006) and Operation Cast Lead – all wars by center-left governments.

All these operations and wars, with the killing of civilians, were meant to prove to the public that “the moderates” also know how to “stick it to them.” Since then, the right has been assigned the task of inciting war and reaping the benefits of the air and artillery strikes on civilians. As a result of all this bloodletting the “national camp” has emerged more powerful, to the point of the disappearance of the Zionist left.

Netanyahu no longer needs to be worried about the antiwar public. There is no Peace Now waiting for him around the corner, no Yesh Gvul or Ometz LeSarev, just Avigdor Lieberman. It is only possible to describe Netanyahu as being under pressure when he has to prove to the racist leader and his movement that he is “a strong leader.” Netanyahu has to do this outside the Green Line – in view of the lack of calm in the occupied, besieged, partitioned and hungry territories, and inside, in the areas inhabited by the Arab citizens of Israel, who are discriminated against, poorer, more excluded, more unemployed and now the punching bag of a fascist leader and his group of puppets.

Therefore, whoever suggests that Labor go into the opposition and wants it to be an opposition party like Meretz – a little opposition vote here and there, a little bit of shouting, a little bit of a constructive attitude – fails to understand what opposition means in a country where the spilling of blood is a recurring event; where the army sets policy and the daily agenda, and where the political center is made up of Shaul Mofaz, Avi Dichter, Tzachi Hanegbi and other “moderates” elected by the confused leftist opposition that is becoming extinct.

Opposition is created first and foremost in the street, not in an electoral carnival where the political programs are produced by strategist Reuven Adler and other propaganda experts. Whatever the makeup of the next coalition, the left’s role will be manifested in the streets, not in waiting for the next elections.

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