Candidly Speaking: Intellectuals and the Left (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By ISI LEIBLER 04/19/12)
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The most talented Israeli intellectuals and writers frequently
display gross political naiveté. Amos Oz is an Israeli icon,
recognized throughout the world as the doyen of the Israel literary
arena. His books, primarily relating to the wide spectrum of life in
Israel, are enormously popular and have been translated into many
Oz, always regarded as a supporter of the Left, was also admired as a
consummate and devoted Zionist. Until recent years, he expressed his
political views with gentle restraint and moderation and was
perceived as a national rather than partisan intellectual.
I have fond recollections of his visits to Australia in the ’80s,
when he insisted while abroad on assuming non-partisan positions and
refused to publicly air his political differences with the Likud
government then in office.
In contrast, today Oz unhesitatingly exploits every opportunity, even
when abroad, to bitterly demonize his government. Moreover, his
criticism has become so vehement that he effectively blames Israel
for the impasse with the Palestinians.
Most recently, Oz even proudly publicized his prison visits to Marwan
Barghouti, the Palestinian terrorist condemned for five life
sentences for the murder of five Israelis plus other orchestrated
attacks on Israeli civilians and who only recently called for a third
intifada and global boycott of Israel. Sadly, Oz morally identified
himself with Barghouti, insisting that they both share the same
national objectives, and expressed the fervent hope that the ruthless
killer would soon be released.
David Grossman, another highly acclaimed and talented Israeli writer,
whose son was killed during the Second Lebanon War, behaves in a
similar manner. He recently penned an op-ed in the viciously anti-
Israeli UK Guardian proclaiming that the greatest threat confronting
the Jewish state is not Iran but the paranoia of its leaders.
These two writers exemplify the irresponsibility and extremism that
has consumed a number of prominent leftist Israeli intellectuals and
Needless to say, they are hailed as heroes by Israel’s “elitist” but
dramatically declining newspaper Haaretz, which over the past decade
has radicalized itself to such an extent that it is recognized as one
of the most potent sources for global anti-Israeli propaganda.
The extent of this newspaper’s venom – directed from the “top” – was
recently demonstrated in an op-ed written by the publisher, Amos
Schocken, who accused his country of becoming an “apartheid” state
and last week in an editorial which criticized President Shimon Peres
for “publicly” calling on US President Barack Obama to release
It is hard to comprehend how seemingly rational educated Jews can
behave in such a manner. Of course, Jews turning against themselves
are not a new phenomenon. In the Middle Ages Jewish apostates emerged
as the most vicious anti-Semites. But one can rationalize that their
disgusting behavior may have been motivated by an obsession to
ingratiate themselves within their host societies.
Likewise the alienation from Judaism of Karl Marx and many of the
early Jewish socialists could be attributed to desperation for
emancipation from what they considered to be a stifling religious and
ethnic identity in order to qualify as cosmopolitan citizens of the
The same can also be said for the Jewish communists who vigorously
applauded as Stalin executed their kinsman and justified the
persecution of Soviet Jews. Many of them convinced themselves that by
destroying Jewish particularism, they were paving the way for a
messianic secular era in which the brotherhood and equality of all
men would resolve the Jewish problem.
But after the Holocaust and with the creation of a Jewish state, one
surely expected less alienation and a more rational approach.
Prime minister David Ben-Gurion, a genuine social-democrat, was
highly conscious that left-wing extremists represented a major threat
to the Zionist enterprise. He was especially scathing towards the
Marxist Mapam which continued to idolize the murderous Stalin and the
Soviet Union – even after Mordecai Oren, one of their senior
political leaders, had been arrested in Czechoslovakia in 1951 during
the Prague Trials on trumped-up charges of having acted as a CIA
But after Khrushchev’s exposure of Stalin’s cult of personality, the
loony Left in Israel was marginalized to splinter groups like Matzpen.
The dominant Labor Party was uncompromising in its commitment to the
State of Israel and proudly stood at the forefront of Zionism. It had
no truck with the post-Zionist intellectuals and ensured that they
were isolated and condemned.
It was only following the huge public divide over the Oslo Accords
that the Zionist Left began to fragment. Although Rabin himself
remained a steadfast Zionist throughout his life, de facto he became
allied with a new breed of Labor activists, many of whom flirted with
Dr. Yossi Beilin, a key architect of the Oslo Accords, even expressed
public regret that his grandfather, one of the original Chovevei Zion
delegates to the early Zionist Congresses, had voted against Herzl’s
plan to adopt Uganda as a Zionist homeland.
Some Labor leaders, in order to alleviate public hostility about
the “peace process,” felt obliged to defend the Arab case and began
understating or trivializing statements by Arafat and other
Palestinians leaders who were telling their people that Oslo was
merely a preliminary step toward achieving the ultimate objective of
destroying the Zionist entity. They also suppressed the mounting
evidence that the duplicitous Arafat was directing terrorism.
This impacted on our response to terror with repeated mindless
statements, even from Rabin, that we would fight terror but continue
pursuing peace – with the very same Palestinians initiating the
As a result, the Zionist core of the Labor movement rapidly eroded,
with extremist radicals emerging and expressing sentiments that would
have been considered treasonable during the period of the Mapai
hegemony. Ultimately the radicals all but hijacked the Labor Party.
Of course, criticism of Israel is a guaranteed passport for elevation
to heroic stature in certain Western liberal quarters, and thus
represents an additional incentive for failed Israeli politicians
like Avram Burg and his ilk to join the anti- Israeli pack and act as
principal propagandists of the adversaries of Israel.
The situation became exacerbated in recent years with a major change
in public perceptions and the emergence of a consensus moving the
country somewhat to a right-of-center approach to the Israel-
Palestinian impasse, thus further marginalizing the far Left. To the
dismay of the radicals, their bête noire, Netanyahu, far from being
reviled, emerged as the most popular leader.
Oz and Grossman are neither post-Zionists nor self-hating Jews. They
unquestionably love Israel. But the public support of the government
appears to have unhinged them and a number of other “doves.” In their
frenzied desperation to dissociate themselves from the national
consensus which broadly endorses Netanyahu, they succumbed to
employing vitriolic language that comes perilously close to being
indistinguishable from the anti-Zionist Left.
One can only hope that under the new leadership of Shelly Yacimovich,
the Labor Party will reaffirm the Zionist credo and encourage Labor
Zionists who lost the plot, to return to the fold. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 04/19/12)
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