A Land Without an Opposition

by Irit Katriel

Dissident Voice

August-September 2001



A Knesset member of Meretz (the largest Israeli party which pretends to be leftist) tried to co-opt an anti-occupation protest and turn it into an essentially pro-occupation event. The media, meanwhile, is working hard to ignore the Left opposition and create an impression of full consensus that there is no alternative to the Sharon war.


It wasn’t really surprising. I mean, even if Meretz party has crowned itself as “the head of the parliamentary opposition,” one can’t expect its members to actually oppose the same policies they were running only a few months ago when they were members of the government. And yet, the crudeness of the co-optation attempt of MP Anat Maor of Meretz shows you that she really doesn’t understand how little credibility she and her party have in the circles of the Israeli Left.


The primary political question which the Israeli society is facing today is whether or not we want to keep the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The price of holding on to the occupation is also known: we have to fight for it, to kill and get killed for it. The government wants to keep the occupation. The opposition doesn’t.


The Coalition of Women for a Just Peace (CWJP) is an opposition organization of activists. To mark the 34th year of the occupation, the CWJP organized a worldwide vigil on June 8th: simultaneously in over 150 locations around the world, women in black were joined by men in black for vigils with a uniform message: End the Israeli Occupation.


It goes without saying that organizing and coordinating the event involved many women, who worked on it for over a month. Two days before, on June 6th, the CWJP received a letter from MP Anat Maor. The subject was “an appeal to change the character that the international day against the occupation is getting this year.”


The character was  - remember? - that we want the occupation to end.


 “First,” writes Maor, “the appeal of the CWJP is directed to the Israeli government only. The appeal should be made to both sides of the conflict - first of all the Israeli, but also the Palestinian. While the yearning of the Palestinian people for independence is understandable, this yearning must be accompanied by a non-violent political choice.”


The first sentence is strange. It doesn’t make sense to direct the call “to end the occupation” towards the Palestinians – it is, after all the Israeli government which is forcefully occupying their land. But the second sentence explains her point. She is against violence. She thinks that the message of the vigils is FOR violence.


This is a common Orwellian twist in today’s liberal Israeli political discourse: those who are against the occupation are FOR violence. Faithful to this view, and since Maor is AGAINST violence, it is only natural that she will be FOR the occupation.


Maor’s party is against conscientious objection to serve in the Israeli occupation army. She probably is too. So they are far from pacifists - they’re more the “you must fulfill orders” types. At the same time, one of the member organizations of the CWJP is New Profile, the movement for civilization of the Israeli society. This group actively supports objection to serve in the military. But don’t let the facts confuse you. Maor is against violence. The CWJP is for it.


Maor’s letter continues: “Second, it is awkward that in 156 countries in the world, there will be vigils only against the Israeli occupation, as if occupation is an Israeli invention, and there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world. It would be more fitting if the vigils will be against occupation and killing in general.”


Of course Maor is against the occupation. She is SO against occupation, that she’s against ALL occupations, not only the Israeli one (the one she can actually do something about). This is why she doesn’t want vigils all over the world against the Israeli occupation. What a noble reason to silence your opposition.


This is, in fact, a very common silencing line. An outright rightwinger will ask, “Why don’t you demonstrate against the human rights violations perpetrated by the Syrian government?” But a “progressive” like Maor will take it away from home, into the far away, safe zone: let’s mobilize resistance to some faraway occupation. As long as we are talking about others’ crimes and can harmlessly ignore the ones of our own government.


To put things in their context, Maor isn’t alone in her pro-occupation crusade disguised as Left. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz, which is erroneously considered to be Left-leaning, replied to the request to cover the world-wide demonstration with the claim that “this is not the time to be talking about Women in Black and its views.”


Apparently, this is the time to talk only about how to occupy and how much to bomb. In a recent poll on one of the Israeli news websites, the question was “what should Sharon do now?,” and the readers were democratically allowed to choose between five options: five different levels of vandalism towards Palestinian properties and lives. The option of ending the occupation wasn’t given.


The primary political question we are facing today is whether we want to keep the occupation, and go to another war over it, or not. Those who are bringing up secondary debates: for and against Sharon’s imaginary “restraint,” for and against more fake “negotiations,” debates between different methods of crushing the Palestinians, have already answered the first question, affirmatively. Especially if they think that “end the Israeli occupation” is awkward.


The next stage is already known: Sharon will “re-take Kalkilya and Tulkarem, as well as Bethlehem and northern Hebron mount, crackdown on Hamas and Jihad. IDF units will go from house to house and arrest wanted persons (by lists). In these lists, by the way, the majority are Fatah and PA affiliated people, and only few are from Hamas and Jihad. Most will be deported to Jordan, while those with solid suspicions against them will be arrested.” (Yediot, 1/6).


“The attack at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium last Friday deferred a large-scale operation which the IDF has planned for PA territories” (Ha’aretz, June 6). It wasn’t the attack itself, but rather the international intervention and Arafat’s declaration of a ceasefire which deferred the large-scale operation. But this is what Sharon is planning, while NATO and the EU ‘foreign office’ expect that “the US will give a free hand to Sharon, perhaps a mild condemnation. Same for Britain and Germany.” (Yediot there). 

It seems that Maor and Ha’aretz will also continue to fulfill their role and work for Sharon against the internal Israeli opposition. No amount of blood will persuade the “parliamentary opposition” and the “free media” to withdraw their support from the government.


Irit Katriel is an Israeli activist, currently living in Germany. Email: iritka@internet-zahav.net.il