The First Sign That Israel’s Social Rift Might Be Healing

Israel might appear united from the outside, but it’s definitely not. Though there are signs the rift might be healing

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Many in Israel believe that the picture to the left faithfully represents the metamorphosis the Israeli left has undergone. It was taken on the last Saturday of March, after Israel had successfully thwarted the mass infiltration attempt from Gaza. 

That the liberal Israeli media so readily embraced the Hamas superlative of “March of Return” and “Million-Man March” only strengthened the feeling that the left has come to oppose everything that Israel represents. We’ll look into whether or not that’s true in a moment. What is certain is that this photo could easily serve as a campaign poster for the radical left-wing political party Meretz, which joined Israel’s detractors worldwide by suggesting the IDF had committed war crimes and demanding an investigation into the army’s efforts to thwart the Hamas infiltration.

Adding to the confusion was the IDF’s own failure to correctly identify the march. Army spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis chose to call it a “demonstration,” but that’s a severe understatement given that Hamas leaders openly spoke of resettling Israel with millions of Arab “refugees.” And if our own government fails to call a spade a spade, how can it then turn around and criticize opinions like that published in the UK’s Independent, which blasted Israel for the “ruthless” killing of 16 “peaceful demonstrators”? 

It’s no wonder that Israel struggles in vain to convince the world that the majority of those killed and wounded in last week’s confrontation were known terrorists. It’s no wonder that Israel Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon’s efforts to persuade the nations to “not be deceived” fell on deaf ears.

Going back to that picture, what you see are Israelis, Jews, who are waving the Palestinian flag and calling to boycott Israel, this time for preventing Hamas from achieving its objectives. One must wonder what drives Jews to such suicidal gestures, and why even the IDF is unable to say that “demonstrations” of the kind are, in fact, military operations of a different sort.

Israeli society is in the midst of an epic internal struggle of identity. To use familiar terms, Israelis are divided between liberals and conservatives. The first are mostly secular Ashkenazi Jews who have embraced the politics of identity lock, stock and barrel. The second, the majority, are predominantly Sephardic Jews who remain faithful to the Mosaic Covenant to one degree or another.

Majority as they are, due to historical reasons, conservatives are barely represented in academic spheres, the media, art and the judicial system. This has resulted in those strongholds of power quashing the conservative voice and in turn defining democracy as essentialist. This means that Israeli democracy no longer expresses the will of the people, but rather the values of “the enlightened public,” which wants Israel to live according to the latest progressive trend. 

Identity politics has penetrated as deep as the army’s top brass, who are now embracing the most radical feminist and post-gender agendas (recently the army was parading its first transgender officer).

This terrible rift in Israeli society has happened because the few who hold the microphone, occupy the bench, possess the key to the faculty door or fill up the ranks of different prize committees, coerce the majority into accepting a worldview that is hostile to their own. For decades, conservatives who suffer from an inferiority complex swallowed their pride and did nothing to challenge the free reign of liberals running amok. 

So long as the hegemony of the liberal elite remained unchallenged, Israeli society appeared to be relatively united. However, with the appearance of social networks, that for the first time allowed this large constituency to freely express their mind, all hell has broken loose. 

Today, Israeli society appears more divided than ever because, especially since the last election in 2015, the conservatives have arrived at an unapologetic state of mind. They are now holding their ideological ground and urging their political leaders to do the same. And as more conservatives penetrate what once was a progressive playground, the more the liberal minority is forced to articulate the reasons behind its resentment for Israel. When synthesizing all the elements of self-hate, the one predominant ingredient that surfaces time and again is the deep hate for the “racist” notion behind a “Jewish” state. 

While it might seem negative, the widening gap between liberals and conservatives is actually a good thing. Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg calling for a committee of inquiry into the IDF protecting our borders forced Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay to take a clear stand against her. Having finally recognized Meretz for what it is, a post-Zionist party, instead of flirting with this divisive little party, the moderate Israeli left is now compelled to reckon with the fact that the “left” that Meretz represents is unacceptable. 

This small move toward marginalizing the post-Zionist factions may prove to be a harbinger of the beginning of the end of the destructive politics of identity that have dominated our lives for far too long.


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