War Divides Israel’s Left

War Divides Israel’s Left

Now retired from the Knesset, the former Meretz party leader Yossi Sarid is activating his considerable writing talents full-time as a news commentator. His column in Haaretz, August 15, scathingly examines divisions within Israel’s left in the wake of the Lebanon war. His acerbic take-no-prisoners wit is entertaining but also unfair to those who struggle with the complexities of the issue. Among those who have publically made both pro-war and then dovish arguments are the three great writers mentioned in this article, excerpted below, from the LA Times. Within days of their support for the mainstream peace rally held on August 10 to demand a cease-fire, one of the three, David Grossman, suffered the loss of his 20 year-old son in a tank destroyed by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Faced with the prospect of a bloody, drawn-out conflict, mainstream peace groups that had refrained from criticizing the war effort are urging a diplomatic resolution…. On Thursday, organizers of an antiwar rally in Tel Aviv for the first time brought in what are regarded in this bookish country as big guns: a trio of Israel’s best-known authors. The three — Amos Oz, David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua — have all spoken out strongly against past conflicts and wield considerable moral authority here.

“The use of more force now is not in Israel’s best interests,” Oz told reporters before the rally in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. “The time has come to resolve this through diplomatic means.”

…. up until now, the antiwar movement had been mainly the province of what are generally considered to be splinter groups: Arab parties, communists and anarchists. Yael Dayan, the daughter of iconic general and politician Moshe Dayan and a doyenne of the Israeli peace movement, found that out the hard way last week when she tried to address a Tel Aviv antiwar rally organized by a far-left coalition. Stepping up to the microphone, Dayan — an imposing, deep-voiced woman who bears a striking resemblance to her famous father — told the crowd it was important to support Israel’s troops even while opposing the war.
Her listeners responded by hurling invective and debris, with some shouting that Israeli soldiers were baby-killers. Dayan was forced to relinquish the microphone and leave the stage.

“At that juncture, people who were protesting against this conflict simply did not want to hear the message that the war was a just one, at least initially,” said Dayan, a former lawmaker who is now the [Meretz] deputy mayor of Tel Aviv. “Even if we have the common ground of believing that now is the time to stop.”

The encounter, while extreme, was emblematic of sensitivities among Israelis who want to speak out against the war without appearing unpatriotic at what is felt to be a time of grave national crisis…. Prominent peaceniks make a point of doing their army reserve duty, believing it gives them greater moral authority to speak out against a given conflict. And some of those who identify with Israel’s dovish left say that circumstances change, and actions must be altered accordingly.

Yosef Sendik, a captain in the army reserve, spent three months in jail because he refused to serve in the West Bank at the height of the Palestinian uprising, or intifada. That decision, he said, was due to his strong belief that Palestinians’ rights were not being respected. But he says he would go willingly to Lebanon if called…. “This is a war of our survival — I believe that.”

Similar soul-searching has taken place within the venerable Peace Now movement…. The group’s secretary-general, Yaariv Oppenheimer, said he believed in the war’s first weeks that Israel was correct and justified in striking hard at Hezbollah after the group staged a cross-border raid last month that captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others. But Oppenheimer said he had deep qualms about the wide-ranging ground offensive authorized by Israel’s “security Cabinet” on Wednesday….

By | 2006-08-15T13:08:00-04:00 August 15th, 2006|Blog|0 Comments

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