By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
I did an interview about why Israel’s traditional left and right parties have declined and there is a large mass of voters who always choose centrist parties.
One of those I spoke to claimed that the Labor party, which ran Israel from 1948 to 1977, had declined because of Russian immigration and because Arabs “deserted” the party.
I thought it was interesting this psychology of victimhood, that the traditional elite, the party that ran the country almost like a private preserve, giving out land to its ideological friends, making the army almost part of the party, and controlling the means of production and settlement policies, that it is the “victim” because of immigration and because of “Arabs” who don’t vote for it.
You’d think that perhaps if a large minority doesn’t vote for your party that it might be your fault, not that you are a victim, but that you are a victimizer? How do people who sit behind high fences and acceptance committees with pools, members of the wealthiest 1% convince themselves that they are actually the victims, not only of poorer people they call immigrants, but also the other poor minority group.
Perhaps if the gates of acceptance had been opened, if instead of the Negev being divvied out to a few wealthier people, while Bedouin were denied rights and the poor were crammed into development towns, then maybe the voters might have remained?
It’s always funny in Israel to see the rancor between the Old Left and Arab political parties. There is a sort of paternalistic arrogance of “how can you not vote for those who know what is best for you”. The mentality of “the left is your natural home, vote for us” is lost on people who know that the “left” is actually a nationalist right. It’s only a left in the imagination of its stalwarts who for years told people abroad “we are the left”…but the normative left abroad moved on. Nationalism and the kind of state-centered extreme social engineer of “socialism” and socialization has ended, in favor of a rights-based dialectic and other concepts, such as diversity.
Jamal Zahalka and others have articulated clearly how they feel about this paternalism. An Arab woman speaking at a Peace Now event said she doesn’t feel welcome because she’s not a “privileged Ashkenazi” and touche, she is right. But the old men, and they were mostly old white men, almost fell of their chairs. “What is this Arab doing here who dares speak to us like this,” someone was probably thinking. “Don’t they know their place, we know what is best, they are not supposed to be part of the decision makers, not on the committee, we decide what to do with them.”