Yesterday, July 4th, I sent my email list a downer when everyone else might have been celebrating with fireworks. It was Gershon Baskin’s newest article in which he pleads for a two state solution to the conflict that has lasted so many decades. And he despairs. So do I. Not a good thing for activists to despair. What is equally depressing is to read the comments that were posted inveighing against “leftist” thinking. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=276038
In response to my recent depressing emails, here is what Aaron Sharif wrote me. Aaron and I were in Habonim together. I was a few years older, and hence called the Madricha (the leader); today he is a veteran kibbutznik, lives in Gesher Haziv, is a writer, a poet, and a family man with grandchildren.
Yes, I’ve already read Gershon Baskin’s letter. So simple, so true. A couple of months ago I wrote a very-very similar letter and filed it away for my grandchildren to read in the future. I’ve lately stopped sending letters to a list, mostly because I fear of depressing any of those very few activists who still fight for what I today already see as lost. As an Israeli democratic Zionist I join the Gershon Baskins who feel that a major cause (2-States) is pretty much lost, are floundering at sea in a boat without a sail, trying to figure out “O.K., if this is the case…what now?”. Where do we go from here? What can be our second line of defense or offence?
A number of our friends and neighbors also see themselves as good liberal democratic Zionists. I haven’t understood how they’ve been able to sit back all these years, sometimes complaining in living-room chats, voting correctly once every few years, but never coming out into the streets…mingling with our Israeli public .. and screaming….or at least whispering out loud. Similarly, I haven’t understood our Jewish people around the world who have in the main and knowingly backed and funded a direction leading to the poisonous destruction of the Zionist Dream……(here I am….writing down some of the things I most fear of writing.).
Today’s Israeli street is teeming with active social protests. The protests range from economics (cost of living is too high) to demands for army conscription of the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities who have been exempted till now. And yes, the political Left is out there in these protests. But the so-called political Left is no longer able to muster a protest against the policies creating a “Greater Israel”, which will see two and a half million Palestinians permanently ruled by my Israel in a Ghetto enclave (is that apartheid?) watched over by my army, bereft of any Israeli citizen’s rights, and denied so many normal civil rights. This is a Ghetto thoroughly riddled with Jewish settlements and towns enjoying every right which their neighbors do not. No, our activism is no longer able to fight the fight of “Two States for Two People”. That one is already a lost battle.
No….this is not a farewell to activism. It only means I’ve taken a short time out for some r&r in order to reassess the realities around us, and figure out what to do next ……… not how to return to a lost cause (Two States), but perhaps how to protest the “Ghetto” and fight the fight for civil liberties and equal right for those annexed Ghetto Palestinians. This, of course is problematic. Equal rights will mean the end of a Zionist State and the actual formation of a Dual-People State. But I’ve always seen our fight for social justice actually as our fight for the kind of Jewish human beings we choose to be. In the choice between being a ruling Jewish Zionist holding millions of native residents prisoners ….. or being a Jewish citizen struggling to defend my own rights in a Dual-People State ……….. I choose the latter. Most Israelis, unfortunately, will choose otherwise. I don’t want to be that kind of Israeli, nor that kind of Jew. This is where our Israeli policies have brought us.
I’m not sure yet how to express and voice this kind of social protest in a country where social protest is filled with the price of cheese and housing and military conscription. I’m in a boat with a few others (too few of course), all trying to mend the sail and search the night lights for a new direction. We will find it. I’m not sure we’ll like it.
Having re-read the above, perhaps eventually I’ll send this letter to others as well.
Meanwhile I send it to you as a postscript to Gershon’s letter.