Haaretz columnist Yisrael Harel writes that the Hebrew translation of the New Israel Fund should not be “a New Fund for Israel,” but rather “a Fund for a New Israel”, and he accuses the fund of supporting pro-Arab and Palestinian groups and thus deepening rather than mending the cracks in Israeli society.
The statement itself is problematic, and contains more than a hint of racism: according to Harel’s logic, supporting groups that call for a fair distribution of government funds and the integration of Israeli-Arabs into society is somehow at odds with the fund’s goal to work towards social equality. The idea of a new Israel, however, is worthy of debate and serious consideration.
Israel lacks a strong liberal voice — one that can provide both vision and action, is grounded in reality but still geared towards progress, and has the ability to compromise where necessary without sacrificing its identify.
We need a voice that stands for equality in pay, in employment opportunities, in education, distribution of government funds, religious and civil rights, in freedom of movement. One that provides a social and financial safety net for the elderly and disabled, and is driven by Keynesian economics and not Friedman-esque ones. We need a voice that isn’t afraid to reform existing institutions when necessary, and won’t shy away from debate on the nearly 50 years of ongoing occupation in the West Bank, and the siege of Gaza. Instead of ignoring these issues and hoping the world follows suit, we need to lead the discussion, use the ingenuity and creative thinking that Israel is known for, and take the lead in forming a fair, just, and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will protect security, human rights, and our democracy. We need more than the empty words that the left has produced to date; we need a cohesive plan to end the occupation that can be defended both morally and logically.
We need a voice that understands Israel’s power and the limits of that power, that understands that we limit our power by turning away from international cooperation and can maximize it by engaging productively with the world. To be a strong society, we must be unafraid of shining light into the darkest corners of Israeli society, and taking action to right any wrongs we find. This is how Israel will succeed.
Some suggest that Meretz is that alternative. However, their political and social insignificance has reached the point where the majority of Israeli leftists don’t think of them as a viable political home. I do not call for a more “extreme” leftist position, but for one that is stronger and more passionate.
“Zionism is about leaving a rotten place behind and starting anew” sings Israeli band Habiluim. That is somewhat extreme, but all who care about the future of Israel have an obligation to contribute to the discussion and help drive progress. Out of a left wing that is currently preoccupied with fixing holes on a leaky ship, we need a real political alternative to the prevailing right-wing ideology that has left us sinking.