The newspaper headlines in the last couple of days suggest a catastrophe. The Israeli left collided with an asteroid. My Facebook page and email filled with friends and family in utter shock and terribly angry. One of my friends posted a picture of her passport and a flight ticket, saying “this is my response to the election results.” Another sent an email asking if I have an inflatable mattress in my apartment in Pittsburgh.
But what just happened here? Noam Sheizaf correctly observed that the political reality did not change much. “Despite all the recent drama, there wasn’t much movement between the political blocs compared to 2013.” And Zehava Galon wrote this morning on her Facebook page that Meretz won the same number of votes it had received in the previous election. It’s just that the turnout was larger so the percentage and therefore the number of seats is smaller (5 compared to 6 in 2013). But nothing really changed. I listened yesterday to Amira Hass and Gideon Levy say essentially the same thing: this was not a surprise.
So why are my leftist friends so disillusioned, angry and disappointed?
To put it simply, their bubble burst. Progressive Israelis surround themselves with like minded people. One of my friends posted a question on Facebook: “If you voted for Bibi, would you mind telling me why?” This was not a joke. My friend reads Haaretz and inhabits the same progressive circles I do. He knows the economy is doing poorly, Israel is not safer than it was six years ago, and is in danger of international isolation. He doesn’t know anyone who voted for Netanyahu and he simply does not understand why someone would.
Reflecting the mood of progressives in Israel, Haaretz has been blaming the voters. Or Kashti argued that the Israeli poor and periphery population voted for Netanyahu against their self-interest.
The problem is that when their bubble burst, racism against Mizrahi voters came out. The renowned actress and author Alona Kimhi posted a vulgar response to the results on Facebook: “Each nation gets the rule it deserves. Long live stupidity evilness and false consciousness. You win. Drink cyanide and die fucking Neanderthals. Only death will save you from yourself.” Later she erased the post saying it had been written in the heat of the moment. A Facebook campaign called “Not to give” (Lo Latet) began immediately as the election results were published: “Do not tell me about the minimum wage and hungry children in the south [of Israel]” If those people voted for Netanyahu, they get “no more solidarity and donations.” It includes blatantly racist images of Mizrahi politicians, like Miri Regev (Likud) and Arieh Deri (Shas) with a “bon appetit” caption, enjoy yourselves. Gideon Levy went so far as a call to replace the nation.
Zehava Galon posted her outrage on Facebook: “I completely understand and share the great disappointment with the election results. But I am ashamed of the ugly and racist statements against Likud voters. Now more than ever is the time for solidarity, time to see all parts of society rather than alienate them. Not only because it is the only thing that will make our camp grow and win the next election, but that’s who we are, that’s what we believe in and what we voted for.”
Indeed Galon is correct, much like the right is rampant with racism against Arabs, the left is plagued with racism against Mizrahi Jews. And these racist responses are probably at least one cause for the Left’s defeat. The social and cultural commentator Avirama Golan wrote:
I cannot take it any longer: If my leftist brethren’s response is “Periphery residents, the poor and the Eastern Jews – we refuse solidarity with you, because you voted Bibi” – then you, my leftist brethren are not Left. […] Solidarity is the effort to go as far as possible to those who are not you. To listen to them, to understand them, to try and get their logic. To the best of my understanding, voting Likud was as rational a choice as any other. […] Stop throwing dirt and start looking at the mirror and asking why Facebook, the media and the pollster were blind. A man is recognized in his anger and difficult moments. The Right-wing victory in this election is not a strike against your fragile egos, it has far deeper meaning. Respect the society within which you live, even if its majority voted against your liking. If you do not respect it, how do you expect it to respect your wonderful vision? How would you mobilize it next time to go in the direction you believe in?