OPINION: Bibi’s abandonment of hope in peace is not my Zionism

OPINION: Bibi’s abandonment of hope in peace is not my Zionism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters In Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters In Tel Aviv.
Joseph Moses

By Joseph Moses, an oleh hadash (recent immigrant to Israel), who was previously the public & international affairs officer at the Board of Deputies.

When I was thirteen, I went on an educational programme in Israel for three months, living on a Kibbutz. Every Friday night before Kiddush we sang a psalm” ‘May peace be within your walls and prosperity in your palaces.’

That trip had a profound impact on my life. I gained a deeper understanding of Judaism and learned about the ideological foundations of Zionism. I studied and read more and more about Jewish history and the history of Israel, feeling immense pride in parts and deeply saddened by others.

It instilled within me a great commitment to Israel, and  I have dreamed of moving to Israel and actively participating in its future. I finally made Aliyah six months ago.

The result of this election is so startling for me because it represents, in part, the triumph of a Zionism that is alien to me.

While the political blocs themselves have not really shifted, the ability to form a narrow right-wing religious government has been greatly enhanced. The positions and beliefs of Bennett, Lieberman and sadly, as became evident on election day, Netanyahu, are an utter abandonment of hope for a better future. They are proudly preaching social exclusion, they espouse loathing of the ‘other’ and have succeeded in sowing fear into many Israelis. Their abandonment of social welfare, peace, and their commitment to building more settlements frightens me.

Bluntly, their positions on many issues are simply morally wrong.

In them I do not see the Zionism I read about and compelled me to move here.

I do not see the bustling, tolerant country that through all its challenges and struggles, would always strive for peace. A country that would make excruciating sacrifices based on the prospects of a better life for their children.

I see fear and division.

It is inconceivable and outrageous that our Prime Minister, anxious of a possible electoral upset, and in a desperate attempt to court more right-wing votes, voiced his concern that too many Arab citizens were voting.

This type of comment is a slap in the face to the very bedrock of our society.

Our Declaration of Independence proudly states that Israel will “be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex…”. How our Prime Minister could sink so low just for votes pains me.

As a result of this election there has been utter dismay in large parts of the country. I have heard far too many talented, educated, and passionate people saying it’s time to leave. I feel like screaming at them, I have only just got here!

The centre and left in Israel need to go back to the drawing board and devise better strategies that truly bring hope.

We thought we had it this time, labour were ahead in the polls for weeks, Yesh Atid showed a positive surge, but ultimately they did not do enough to convince the voters.

We need to be empathetic and open, listening to people’s fears and concerns, and asking about their hopes and wants for the future. We cannot afford to be condescending or appear out of touch.

There are real security threats, and even with numerous high-ranking security personnel recommending Herzog, it was not enough.

The distrust in the Palestinian leadership is not completely unfounded, and past withdrawals have had painful consequences. This needs to be discussed in more depth, and the centre-left (heaven knows how) need to try to deal with this societal trauma.

The emphasis on the long-term need for peace over the short-term desire for guaranteed immediate security has not worked. It may well be the correct and responsible position, but the arguments in its favour were clearly not made strongly or articulately enough.

The left also needs to pay greater attention to the alienation of Mizrahim. This is in part due to the historical policies of left-wing governments towards them. This morning I spoke to an acquaintance who comes from a Sephardi/Mizrahi background. I asked him what his thoughts are on the likelihood that the next government will focus resources on settlements and Yeshivot. He responded by saying “So what, when the left were in power they just gave the money to Kibbutzim, I don’t trust them”.

I have heard similar comments before.

This lingering resentment towards the left from this large sector needs to be addressed. The reality that policies of Likud and the right have not assisted these communities at all needs to be better communicated.

Moreover, the leadership of the centre and left wing blocs needs slightly refreshing, incorporating a diverse range of leaders, not seen to just be coming from affluent Tel Aviv neighbourhoods. (Not that this is necessarily unique to their parties.)

Should Netanyahu form a right-wing religious government, we need a vocal opposition that actively campaigns with even more vigour in the periphery and in right-wing strongholds. We need to be seen to unite while the right will undoubtedly continue to divide.

Most importantly, after the shock of the results, we cannot allow a defeatist mind-set to prevail. A lot was spoken about hope; however, too many seem to have none, and we need to find ways of injecting them with it.

We are not going anywhere, and we cannot give up. When we see extremism, we must oppose it with all our might, not apathetically or with a sense of resignation. We need to work hard to stop people being kept in the palms of the right.

In the meantime, things are likely to get worse, and sadly, it will likely be a bumpy ride for some time, but we can never stop dreaming of peace within our walls and prosperity in our palace – I, for one, simply refuse to.

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