Here’s an excerpt of the victory speech delivered by MK Chaim Oron (“Jumas”) after being voted in last week as Meretz party chairman in Israel. (This unofficial translation is my own; click here for the original.) It has lately become journalistic bon ton in Israel to suggest that, since the main components of the Meretz peace platform have been adopted by the mainstream, the party is no longer relevant. Jumas responds as follows:
“… I hear the voices of the cynics who doubt our relevance. What are they talking about? When the Justice Minister, backed by the Prime Minister, and with the silence of the Labor Party, causes damage to the Supreme Court day in and day out, and undermines the last defense for human rights in Israel – who will stand against him, if not Meretz?
“And when [Defense Minister and Labor Party chair] Ehud Barak, who calls himself ‘the head of the peace camp’, fails to remove settlement outposts and enables construction in the settlements, and hurts the chances for promoting the peace process – who will stand against him, if not Meretz? …
“When the economic plan, as conceived by [Likud leader, Bibi] Netanyahu, delivers blows to Israeli society, to hospitals, to schools, and to hundreds of thousands of poor children in Israel – who will stand against it, if not Meretz?
“In the fight for the character of the State of Israel, we need Meretz to be big, strong and influential. Meretz is relevant and Meretz is needed – today more than ever. “
And while we’re on the subject, here are a few more items of interest:
Well, I hate to rain on Mr. Oron’s parade, but it looks like Meretz also doesn’t think it is very relevant according to this internal Meretz report.
Meretz in ‘twilight of its years’ according to own audit
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent
“Financial collapse, constituency offices and a youth movement that exist on paper only, few legislative initiatives, a party in the twilight of its years, these are just a few of the descriptions contained in an internal report on Meretz-Yahad released last week.”
Interesting that Meretz has almost no Arab support since Meretz claims to support “peace” and equal rights. Wonder how to explain that?
“In terms of its relationship to the Arab community, Meretz has almost completely lost its way, the report says. It has not expanded its power base in the Arab sector, where its votes amounted to only a quarter of a Knesset seat in 2006.”
Meretz’s failure to attract Arab support is easily explainable. When an ethnic conflict accelerates and deepens, parties that try and bridge the gap will lose support on both sides as can readily be seen in poll results for the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2005. The fact that Meretz lacks patronage power like Labor, the Likud or the religious parties also hurts it–the Liberty Party and the Free Soil Party also suffered from the same weakness in antebellum America. And the fact that Meretz self-identifies as a Zionist party makes it unacceptable for most Arabs. These are some of the obstacles that liberal parties in deeply-divided societies face.
Author of Indispensable Traitors: Liberal Parties in Settler Conflicts
I think you may have hit on the key issue in one sentence, and then discounted it and failed to draw the necessary conclusions in the next.
“And the fact that Meretz self-identifies as a Zionist party makes it unacceptable for most Arabs. These are some of the obstacles that liberal parties in deeply-divided societies face.”
Many people – Palestinians, others and me – just cannot figure out how Zionism can be reconciled with equal rights for Palestinians. Your comments about divided societies and bridging gaps are nice, but my sense is rather that you and Meretz are trying to square a circle, and that people are on to you.
I realize that I uncharacteristically used the word “Arab” in my first comment to describe Palestinian citizens of Israel (reflecting the language in the Ha’aretz article). Yet I wonder if you and Meretz (and Ms. Zabar) also prefer to use Arabs, and avoid the word Palestinian? If so, that might provide you with another clue as to why Meretz’s “Arab” support is dwindling.