Oh my... Haaretz op-ed admits that the Left is free to speak in Israel but cannot make a case
An op-ed in Haaretz debunks an op-ed in the New York Times that claims that the Left in Israel has been terrorized into silence
As I write this, the most-emailed post on the New York Times website is a short piece called “How Israel Silences Dissent,” by Mairav Zonszein who, like me, moved to Israel from America where she was born. And like me, she is a leftist and a political activist. Zonszein describes a small group of thugs who mixed it up with Tel Aviv peace demonstrators at the start of the Gaza war, a death threat phoned into a theater against a renowned 75 year old stage actress, Gila Almagor, after a newspaper reported that the grotesque murder and immolation of a Palestinian teen in Jerusalem left her embarrassed to be an Israeli, the cancelling of an endorsement deal for a gifted comedian, Orna Banai, after she expressed sympathy for Gazan kids, and threats against a Haaretz journalist, Gideon Levy, who described Israeli pilots as war criminals. All these, Zonszein wrote, demonstrate “the aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians.”
The thing is, they don’t.
Don’t get me wrong; they’re terrible.... My stomach churned when I watched, heard and read all these things, just as Zonszein’s did.
But then, that’s the point: I watched, heard and read all these things. The criticisms reached me. The criticisms of the criticisms reached me. Discussion of the criticism and of the criticisms of the criticisms reached me. No one was silenced. The week after thugs punched three demonstrators, there was another demonstration, this one larger, and protected by more police. The actress, the comedian and the journalist received hours of airtime and hundreds of column inches. The murder of the Palestinian kid in Jerusalem was condemned by multitudes, including the parents of the three Israeli boys who were murdered weeks earlier.
Although most Israelis supported the war in Gaza, especially at the start, there were voices of dissent in all media and especially on the internet....
The simple fact is, a lot of the media, and a lot of academia, and a lot of NGOs and civil society in Israel lean left, and sometimes far left. We have ways of expressing ourselves, and we did express ourselves. I was not intimidated. The thugs did not keep me away from the demonstrations, and did not make me too fearful to bring my kids along. If we’re honest, the dozen right-wing bullies shouting threats infuriated lots of us, but they intimidated no one. Leftist Israelis may not have shown as much anguish or empathy as Zonszein thinks we should have. But that was not because we were aggressively silenced. Perhaps we were too silent, but not because we were silenced.
But we haven’t been silenced. We’ve just failed to make our case. For a dozen years, we have failed to win a majority in the Knesset. We have failed to convince other Israelis that the cost of holding onto the occupied territories is greater than the dangers of relinquishing them. In Zonszein’s analysis, this is because a right-wing cabal has shut us up, and there’s little we can do about it.
The truth is, we’ve failed because we’ve failed, and there is a lot we can do about it. Rather than whine in the New York Times about how we’ve been silenced, we need to figure out how to speak to other Israelis so that they will listen. The answer is not to convince readers of the New York Times that Israel is no longer a democracy. The answer is to accept that Israel is a democracy, and that democracy demands that we speak to our fellow citizens and listen to them, that we persuade them rather than dismiss them. Zonszein argues that democratic politics in Israel are hopeless. The fact is, it is in Israeli democracy that our greatest hope lies.
The writer, Noah Efron doesn't seem to acknowledge the possibility that maybe the Left has failed because most Israelis have realized that its ideas are not workable. Ideas don't just fail because they're not well presented - sometimes they fail because they're just plain wrong. But at least he recognizes that the Left has had the opportunity to present its ideas. Maybe one day others on the Left will reach the same epiphany.
Labels: anti-Israeli Israelis, Haaretz, Israeli Left, Israeli media bias, New York Times