Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Opposition in Israel

Everyone knows that the Israeli left is either dead or (hopefully) in the midst of a world record nap. Tzipi Livni’s centrist opposition is tepid at best. Livni’s first and only act of ‘opposition’ was her refusal to join a coalition government.

This is Livni immediately after the last election:

"we weren't elected to legitimize this extreme right-wing government, and we must represent an alternative of hope and go to the opposition.”

For the last year Livni has spent most of her time, well, legitimizing this right wing government. She has been unwilling or unable to challenge the Israel Right on issues that matter: the occupation, issues of religious equality, Israeli identity, gender equality, discrimination against Arabs, etc.

Livni delivered some revealing remarks at last Friday’s Gay Pride Parade in Tel-Aviv:

"Because the tendencies of the body and heart are not political, the protection of the [gay] community is not within the realm of any one political group. It is a matter of human beings respecting each others."

Livni is dead wrong. For members of the LGTBQ community in Israel, “tendencies of the body and heart” become VERY political when the Deputy Prime Minister for Internal Affairs calls gays “sick” and demands an end to the parade.

Guaranteeing equality “is much more than a matter of human beings respecting each other.” It requires a political fight. Livni doesn’t get it.

The failure of the opposition in Israel stems for their inability to grasp the stakes. Israel is undergoing a political shift to the right. Ministers from nationalist and religious parties are changing government policies in surprisingly terrifying ways. Government ministers routinely voice support for a whole host of bizarre policies: racial discrimination in public housing, loyalty oaths, press censorship, redefining the Jewish State based on its ‘love for Torah'.

Just today, members of the ruling government protested the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision to desegregate Beit Yaakov a girls school in the West Bank. The Israeli police are preparing for a protest of 20,000 ultra orthodox Jews who oppose schools that integrate Sephardic and Ashkenazi children. Only a few hundred Israelis bothered to protest the flotilla incident.

American Jews are starting to get it. The gap between our values and the values of the current Israeli regime is turning some prominent heads. But the spark must come from Israel. At this point, the Israeli opposition does nothing more than legitimize the current regime, giving them political cover and the veneer of "healthy dissent."

1 comment:

  1. On June 11th, Nahumus woke up in the morning knowing today wasn't going to be a routinely Friday of cleaning the house and buying groceries in the Shuk. This friday Gay parade will pass through his neighborhood. He went for his morning swim and later attended his yoga class. Around the mid hours of the day, the Gay Parade began, and Nahumus already had his plan for the day. Nahumus decided to go all out wearing a wig and some costume to fit in with the people marching on the street. His plan at the beginning was to watch the parade from up above, in the terrace of his great and good-hearted friend and favorite yoga teacher. Great location!!! Ben Yehuda/ Gordon, third floor, 180 degrees of Paradeness. Her roommates are a lovely gay couple, who also invited their gay friends to be part of the terrace spectators.
    After an hour of Party, loud Music, Dancing, overwhelmingness and kick ass costumes the floats passed by and the music began to fade way and with it a mirage in the deep end of the masses began to appear. It was Chadash, and with their Red flags waving along side the colorful flags of gay pride. For some spectators in the terrace this was a disappointing site, because as they told me, "the reason why we have the parade is not to show off to the Israeli society that we are gay and we proudly need representation. Everybody already knows that. We don’t need to have A DAY to remember our everyday way of life. Tel Aviv has been recognized as a gay capital for years. Therefore you shouldn’t be mixing this political shit with this crazy cool party that took over Ben Yehuda". (For those who don’t know, Ben Yehuda Street is an important artery in Tel Aviv's anatomy)
    The majority of the spectators felt that this event is a big party, a great opportunity to demonstrate that “C’est Tel Aviv” and that there is no reason to complicate things.
    It was strange because to me it wasn't disappointing at all; actually a part of me was feeling good to see some political noise in these silenced streets. But in the middle of this discussion with some Ibiza Techno sound tracking the ambiance, I, Nahumus, mentioned Jerusalem… The reaction of the few terrace spectators that heard me, was; “there we do have a problem” and sad but true, “we live in tolerant Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.”
    The party moved on but subconsciously I couldn’t. But anyway, we rode the “happening wave” from the terrace, to the streets, to Gordon beach were the big Party was. And yes it was A CRAZY COOL PARTY!!!
    P.S. Last year, the gay parade in jerusalem was enclosed with high fences and black mesh covering the perimeter to hide the event inside the famous walls Israel loves to build.