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Red Rag column: Time to decide
Gideon Spiro receives Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's blessing, 1998
By: Gideon Spiro
10 March 2015 (English translation 17 March 2015)

Time to decide

Recently I watched again, for the who-knows-how-manyth time, Eran Torbinger’s
film The Bundists. Every time I watch it I keep to myself for a while,
lest a child see me and ask, “why are you crying, grandfather?” What will I
tell him? That I get emotional when I hear veterans of the Bund, a vanishing
generation, singing “The Internationale” in Yiddish, or the Jewish partisans’
song, “Never say this is the final road”, or the commitment to socialism of
people in their 80s and 90s, many of whom are survivors of the death camps? In
a nutshell, their message is: there is no socialism without democracy and
there is no democracy without a just and fair distribution of the national
wealth. If the Bund were running in the elections I would place it between
Meretz and Hadash. Neither Zionists nor Communists, they act on the assumption
that democracy plus justice equals socialism at its best. A perfect fit for

I fantasize that if the Bund had been standing behind the striking workers at
Israel Chemicals, they would have proposed occupying the factory to liberate
it from the parasitical hands of private owners who were stuffing their own
pockets with billions of shekels stolen from the public. The police would be
summoned to clear out the factory and the workers would get a valuable lesson
in political science: that the police do not defend the citizenry but serve as
a tool of the tycoons. The conclusion is clear: workers with consciousness
will not fight in wars that enrich the arms-producers and they will not vote
for those who rob them, whether they call themselves Zionist Union, Likud,
There Is a Future, Shas, All of Us or Together or other such names that are
meant to drug and paralyze human beings as autonomous entities. Workers with
consciousness will vote for the Left – that is where their supporters are.

There they will have to distinguish between the imposter Left and the
authentic Left. How will they know? It’s not hard. The real Left is a
combination of social and political. It will defend human rights for all human
beings, have solidarity with all who struggle against tyrannical regimes,
whatever their source, and on the social level it will work for the
nationalization of infrastructural industries, properly tax the tycoons,
provide free health care and education and ensure that senior citizens can end
their days in dignity instead of having to dive into dumpsters in search of
food. A partial list. All this by right, not as charity. And where will the
money come from? Mainly from the military budget, which will be cut in half in
the first stage, from 60 billion to 30 billion shekels. Even then they will
still be able to find deposits of fat in the establishment. And from the
settlements, the flow of billions to which will be stopped.

When I think about these things, I consider whom to vote for in the coming
Knesset elections. I belong to the mobile left-wing electorate, which is not
in the pocket of any party. I have no party loyalties and so I did not vote
for Meretz when Yossi Beilin led it. It was faded red in colour, “reddish” I
called it; but I did vote for Meretz when Shulamit Aloni led it. The decisive
factor in choosing whom to vote for is a combination of global outlook and a
weighing of the concrete political data. In my votes I have covered nearly the
entire left side of the spectrum throughout the history of the State of
Israel. I have voted for Meretz, Hadash, the Progressive List for Peace, Sheli
and Moked. In 1981 I voted for the Arab Citizens’ Movement in Israel under the
leadership of Nuri el-Okbi, who has struggled for years for the rights of the
Bedouin in Israel, and I have also served as his representative in the Central
Elections Commission. If that honest and beloved man were elected to the
Knesset, the representation of the Bedouin would be enhanced in a way that
would be hard to disregard. Not only the Bedouin, but all of Israel’s
downtrodden would benefit from his struggles, because he understands that
there are connecting lines between the harassment of the Bedouin, the abuse of
the Palestinians and the neglect of the elderly. Here are two of them: plunder
and greed. And there are more.

I am faced with three choices: a blank ballot, as the Pirate Party suggests,
Meretz, or the Joint List. I have friends in both lists, and I agree with the
platforms of both. I read with dismay that they were unable to reach a
surplus-vote agreement. I heard and read the positions of both sides, and each
blames the other. I have no way of finding out who is right. I would like to
devote a few words to one version, according to which it was Balad that
imposed a veto on any cooperation with a Zionist party.

Even if that is not the position of Jamal Zakhalka, who heads the Balad list,
I assume that some among the list’s members and supporters do hold that view.
Jamal my friend, to put all the Zionists in the same basket is no different
from the view widespread in Israel that “all the Arabs are the same”. Even
people who are not Zionist would not have difficulty perceiving that Zehava
Galon’s Zionism is the opposite of that of Lieberman. Galon’s Zionism is close
to that of Martin Buber and his comrades in Brit Shalom, or that of Professor
Albert Einstein, who as a Zionist bequeathed his papers to the Hebrew
University, but who as a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi declined Ben-Gurion’s
offer of the presidency of Israel. Already then, in 1955, Einstein understood
that the cult of militarism was widespread in Israel, a new war every few
years, and he did not want to be identified with a Middle Eastern Sparta.

All the surveys are predicting 4 to 6 Knesset Members for Meretz. It is
dancing around the representation threshold. I do not want to see a Knesset
without Meretz. So every vote is important, and the scale tilts towards
Meretz. Compared to the Meretz of the two Yossis, [1] the Merez of Galon
represents a significant shift to the Left.

These elections are producing strange situations. Mizrahi feminists are
calling for a vote for Shas, a homophobic, undemocratic party that excludes
women and has participated since its inception in most of the governments that
have increased poverty, for make no mistake: Shas needs poverty, because
without it what would become Yaffa Deri’s NGO which distributes food to hungry
children on holidays? [2] Those same feminists and their active supporters
from the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow see Deri as portending good things, but
it’s a fata morgana, a mirage. The election hasn’t even happened yet and
already Deri is begging Netanyahu for a position in his government. Deri is
more right-wing today than he was before he went to prison. I know whereof I
speak, because back in the day, before his trial, I was a member of the Public
Committee for Deri, because I thought that the press was being unfair to him.
Far be it from me to scorn the blessings of rabbis. I possess two of them
myself: one from Ovadia Yosef (see photo above) and one from the Lubavicher
Rebbe. They didn’t help but they did me no harm either, thank God (excuse the
expression, I got momentarily carried away). My personal autonomy was not

To my Mizrahi brothers and sisters I ask: why are you shooting yourselves in
the foot? Would it not be better to ensure the election of number 6 on the
Meretz list, Mossi Raz – a genuine Kurdish Jew, if that matters to you – who
is an activist for human rights, and number 7 on the list, Attorney Gaby
Lasky, who works day and night to defend human rights in the justice system?
Consider for a moment the following scenario: the Joint List reaches its
target of 15 mandates [i.e. Knesset Members], Meretz doubles its strength to
10 mandates. Together that’s a bloc of 25 Knesset Members without which no
alternative government can be created. And if it is created with the left
front, there could be a revolution in the governing establishment. Dr. Ahmad
Tibi as Interior Minister, Ayman Odeh as Justice Minister, Zehava Galon as
Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Haneen Zoabi as Minister for Equality and
Civil Rights, Dr. Dov Khenin as Minister for the Protection of the
Environment, Mossi Raz as Infrastructure Minister and the Mizrahi activist Dr.
Yifat Bitton as Health Minister. There will also be a Minister for the
Evacuation of the Settlements as part of Operation Return Our Sons to Their
Borders, and we will be on our way to the Garden of Eden. Needless to say the
distribution of portfolios I’ve made here is arbitrary and the fruit of my
imagination, just meant to give an example of what cooperation between the two
peoples could look like and to emphasize that what looks like a fantasy today
could be fleshed out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the fascists are passing

Recall the image that was broadcast on television a few days ago, showing a
soldier of the Israeli Occupation army setting an attack-dog on a Palestinian
minor, who could hardly breathe. Don’t believe the replies of the senior
command. The international coverage forced them to issue some kind of
statement, but it was characterized by flight from responsibility by foisting
it off on an individual soldier who “erred in judgment”. The use of attack-
dogs against civilian populations has been practiced for years now in the
Occupied Territories – see the picture below, published in Haaretz in
March 2007.

Recall the violence perpetrated against Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi on the
inspiration and with the blessing of the Kahanist Baruch Marzel, who had
promised to “wipe the smile off her face” when she entered the Knesset. If the
fascist party Yahad enters the Knesset with four mandates, we can expect a
wave of terror and intimidation against leftists and peace activists, in the
Knesset and outside it, under the cover of parliamentary immunity. The time
has come to consider establishing special Democracy Protection Units, unarmed
and composed of sturdy people who will comprise a defensive wall for
gatherings and demonstrations of activists for peace and human rights,
especially in places where the police have neglected their duty to protect
freedom of expression and assembly.

Translator’s notes

1. Yossi Sarid:

Yossi Beilin:

2. Yaffa Deri is the wife of Shas leader Aryeh Deri.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
IDF dog attacks Palestinian woman near Bethlehem, 22 March 2007
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