Letter to the Meretz Leadership and their responses

Letter to the Meretz Leadership and their responses

Below is a letter that the Board of Partners for Progressive Israel sent to the leadership of Meretz and the responses we received.  The letter expressed our view that Meretz and the Israeli Left must be more pro-active in working with Arab citizens of Israel in a political context.  We would be happy to hear any comments by you to the views expressed in the letters – or your own views on the subject at the end of this page.

 

May 17, 2020

To the Meretz leadership:

These are indeed grim days for those of us who actively support progressive change in Israel. Between Covid-19, the swearing in of the new rightwing government, and the likelihood of imminent Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank, it is hard to retain optimism that needed change will be attainable at any time soon.  With that said, we stand with you, reiterating our strong support and commitment to Meretz. The work ahead is more important than ever before.

The undersigned are the officers and members of the Board of Directors of Partners for Progressive Israel; many of us have been active for decades in the struggles for peace and social justice for Israel, working both in Israel and in the American Jewish community.  Some of us are Israeli citizens as well, who grew up in or have lived for years in Israel.  We understand the reality on the ground.

We are writing to express our strong support for a decisive effort to increase Jewish-Arab political partnership in Meretz that would embody the values of a shared democratic society.  This is not a retreat from our ideals of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, but a necessary step towards their fulfillment; a recognition of the reality that Arab Israelis are partners with Jewish Israelis in the struggle to change Israel’s current ruinous course.

We reject criticism that a political partnership between Jews and Arabs betrays Meretz’s Zionist roots.  We fully recognize that there are sins as well as glorious accomplishments of our forebears; decisions that must be regretted as well as those that should be celebrated.  But going forward, both political reality and basic morality dictate the importance for Meretz to create a model for a viable political structure that will appeal to Jews and Arabs alike, and that will work towards a state based on democracy, peace, equality, and an end to the occupation.

Election after election we have seen the failure of parties claiming to represent the “center.”  Now that Meretz is set on the path of rebuilding itself and creating a true alternative to the current political direction, a new orientation is imperative if the Left is ever to regain a significant place in Israeli politics. Engaging all parts of Israeli society is essential.  Strengthening and deepening the relationship with the Joint List, as well as with those Arab citizens of Israel already affiliated with Meretz, are initial steps. Both Arab and Jewish leaders need to play an integral role in the party’s decision-making.

While there will be challenges in this rebuilding, we want you to know that you have our full support in fighting to restore democratic practices and for creating a viable alternative on the Left.  As we have stood with you for all these years, we will continue to partner with you on this difficult journey towards a Jewish and democratic Israel as envisioned by its founders and set out in the Declaration of Independence.

We look forward to hearing from you and working together for a better future.

B’shalom

Officers
Paul Scham, President                       Leonard Grob, Vice-President
Karen Shapiro, Vice President          Arieh Lebowitz, Vice President
Sam Fleischhacker, Secretary           Mark Gold, Treasurer

Members
David Abraham                                   Rabbi Israel Dresner
Peter Eisenstadt                                  Ayala Emmett
Evelyn Gelman                                    Gili Getz
Todd Gitlin                                           Gil Kulick
Rabbi Andrea London                       Lilly Rivlin
Sanford Weiner



RESPONSES TO THE MERETZ LEADERSHIP LETTER

Dear Friends,

First allow me, on behalf of Meretz, to congratulate you for your most important initiative. As we invest in our mutual relations on the basis of Zionism and Israeli-diaspora ties, it is essential that we are involved in each other’s challenges and share our visions and perspectives.

I strongly adhere to the desire for a Jewish-Arab coexistence and equality in Israel. As we define Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation, we should always bear in mind the fact that there are Israeli citizens who are not Jewish and must enjoy full civil equality.

Therefore it is Meretz’s mission, and always was, to fight racism and discrimination, and to defend and promote civil rights. Parliamentary cooperation, political partnerships, and firstly strong actions on the grassroots level are not only welcomed but rather essential for all the political factors.

Our most urgent common challenge is preventing the annexation of settlements in the west bank and the deprivation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This catastrophe is enthusiastically encouraged by President Trump and his Middle eastern staff. Unfortunately the US has become the major international power advocating annexation. We need your decisive help in order to tackle this disastrous plan.

We are working here Jews and Arabs, hand in hand, to put an end to the occupation and bring about peace and prosperity for all. But since the main pressure is coming from America, we yearn for your active involvement. I do believe that together we can win this. That will be a tremendous achievement.

My dear friends I thank you for your continuous support and I wish you all a quick recovery from the Corona crisis. Let’s hope that we can all meet soon in Jerusalem.

Sincerely

MK Nitzan Horowitz
Chairperson of Meretz


 

Thank you Paul and all friends on PPI.

I strongly agree with your words and believe that our mission is to go along that path. Jewish-Arab partnership is not only the right and just path for Meretz, it is the right and just vision for the Israeli left and for Israel. It is the way to ensure full democratic citizenship and to fulfill our premise of equality and justice. Moreover, from political view, it is the only way to win a majority in Israeli society.

I promise to do all in my power to lead toward that inspiring vision.

Thank you again and all the best to you and your families.

Tamar Zandberg, MK


 

Dear Paul,

First and foremost, I wish to thank the PPI for its longstanding support and partnership, it is of the highest importance that we maintain our ties with partners abroad, in an increasingly golbalized world.

I would also like to thank you for your remarks. There are many thoughts and disscussions and different views on what would be the right course of action. I rest assured that whichever path we take, our dialouge and cooperation will continue.

Kind regards,

Tomer Reznik,
Secretary General, Meretz


 

Dear Paul & friends at PPI,

First, let me use this opportunity to thank you for your endless support to Meretz. We cherish this partnership which is a huge asset for Meretz.

There is no doubt that on the background of the recent (and unfortunately not surprising) collapse of the alternative to Netanyahu, which happened because of racism within the ranks of the Blue & White faction, and even with in one of the MKs on our list, Ms. Levy Abekasis, Meretz should emphasize and hoist the flag of Jewish-Arab partnership.

Not only is it the ideological right thing to do, it is also the politicly smart thing to do. The last year and three election cycles proved that much like in the US, where Democrats cannot get into power without the Black & Latino votes, there isn’t any path for a change in government in Israel without the Arab vote. It is Meretz’s destiny to serve as the bridge for preventing another de-legitimization of a political clear majority because of the fact that Arabs are part of it.

Part of the plan I presented to the Meretz Executive Board upon being elected as its Chair several weeks ago was a strategic process the Board will lead, to examine how to promote our vision into political action. I will very much welcome your input and ideas on what we should do. There is only one guideline: an open mind!

Looking forward to continue our conversation.

Best,

Uri

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4 Comments

  1. Michael Kaplan May 27, 2020 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Thank you for your letter to Meretz. I fully support their efforts, let alone your efforts. My hope is that the regimes in Israel and Washington will
    be replaced with something much better. It is great to see various liberal voices in Israel thanking PPI for their supportive letter. All the best,

    Michael Kaplan Portland, Oregon

  2. Michal May 27, 2020 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your letter to Meretz. Your raised an important point in your letter and unfortunately none of the responses really addressed your concerns. More so, none of the responses was from an Israeli Arab which is another example of the lack of participation of Israeli-Arabs in the current Meretz leadership. Hopefully, as Meretz receives more letters like this it will encourage them to act.
    Best,
    Dr. M. Ben Nun

  3. Eric A. Gordon May 28, 2020 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Thank you for opening up this dialogue. It is extremely important. Words used and not used reflect the parameters of the conversation we are having now. The leadership reiterates Meretz’s Zionist roots and affirms its commitment to Israel as both a Jewish and a democratic state. But I notice that the responses by both Tamar Zandberg and Uri Zaki do not include these formulations. I am not a mind reader, but it is possible to see in those omissions the opening that clearly some Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, envision toward a secular democratic state of all its people. I gather that the Meretz leadership is not there yet, but I believe it is the future, and I would say the only future for Israel if it is to avoid catastrophe and the opprobrium of the world.

    I clearly remember my first visit to Israel in 1993 and seeing an exhibition at the Israel Museum that addressed the traditional and modern symbols of the Jewish people. I was pleasantly shocked to see that both the Israeli flag and “Hatikvah,” the national anthem, were put under review and, at least in some people’s minds, found wanting for being so chauvinistic and exclusionary. I believed at that time (and it was a very hopeful time for the country as everyone will recall) that a much brighter future lay ahead with people willing to ask these hard questions of themselves as a culture and nation. In the final ledger book, as I see it, defining the state as both Jewish and democratic is a contradiction in terms–and always has been. It’s even more illogical now if and when a further annexation takes place, where, if there is not social and political equality, Israel will truly and fully announce itself to the community of nations as a de facto apartheid state.

    The day cannot come too soon when Arab and Jewish (and other) citizens of Israel sit together in political parties and in the Knesset to mutually work out the terms of living together peacefully in a future non-sectarian state. Now, having come this far, I will up the ante a bit, and suggest that unless that future is socialist, or at the very least fundamentally similar to the welfare state ideology of the Scandinavian countries, then the capitalist arrangement of relationships between owners and workers, Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, men and women, will undermine all the political progress over time, and many of the same divisions will re-emerge.

  4. Dr,Abe Simhony May 30, 2020 at 9:03 am - Reply

    I am grateful for your open and clear letter to Meretz and for giving us a sight of Mertz’s replies. Although I fully agree that a closer cooperation with the Joint List and other Arab groups is absolutely necessary and PPI’s encouragement is most welcome, this is simply not enough. The very vague replies of Meretz, are really no more than an indication of a party seeking ways to survive politically.
    I am sure that most of us have read the articles of Avraham Burg in the English edition of Haaretz, in which he calls for the establishment of a new truly Jewish/Arab party. I can only repeat such a call. The basic components of such a party should be Meretz and most of the Joint List (without Balad???), and it should attract all peace, justice and equality loving Israelis, both Jewish and Arabs. Although I am not an Israeli, nor do I live in Israel (or travel there, as with my expressed political views, I doubt I would be allowed in…), but from what I do know about Israel, I am of the view that such a new left wing party could attract 20-25% of the electorate. Obviously this wouldn’t suffice to beat the right wing camp, but a party of such considerable strength could wield and exercise influence either as a full coalition partner, or as leader of the opposition.
    I have always supported Meretz ( I personally met some of its past leaders, including the late Yossi Sarid), although I openly criticized it when it joined Labor and Orli Levi, assuming that such a merger would lead to many voters to desert Meretz ( I would have, if I had a vote), which actually happened. Although I respect the present leaders of Meretz, I really have the impression that they have still not realized the seriousness of the state of the Left in Israel. I do know that by establishing a new Jewish/Arab party, Meretz, as well as our PPI, will have to forgo some “holy views and principles”, but if Meretz is not prepared to take such drastic steps, it is doomed, as the whole Israeli Left. Israel is in dire need of a new political movement, recognizing its past, but realizing that the future requires getting rid of some outgrown ideas and developing new ways. PPI could be the right motivator.

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