Where left meets right

We oppose gun laws, we support women’s rights, equal wages, gay rights and animal welfare. We support sustainability, we oppose the pharmaceutical industry and the fast food industry and we eat organic and local where possible. We encourage think tanks, we support interfaith dialogue, we recycle and we smoke weed, and when they grow up, so do our children. We practice attentive listening, we process our shadow projections, we believe in the interconnected unifying universal energy or lifeforce, which sometimes we call God, we believe in freedom of religion. We practice yoga, we attend healing retreats, and many of us are, or have been vegan and or vegetarian, and if not, we support the idea. We live in rainforests, we camp in the dessert, we believe in sharing resources and in fair trade conditions.

We are venomous in our fight for social justice and in our fight against the child slave industry, the sex slave industry, female mutilation, child abuse, domestic abuse, human trafficking and poverty. We are very much the left wingers of our generation, until it comes to Israel, and then suddenly we take a radical sharp right. Isn’t that strange?

Perhaps it has to do with not wanting to die. Perhaps it has to do with the Holocaust. Perhaps it has to do with intra-generational cellular ‘fear’ – centuries of persecution will do that. This is the favourite reason put forward by the Israeli left, who insist if we just get over our ‘fear of persecution’, and hand over the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Arabs will live side by side with us in peace. Gaza has proven this not to be the case, though the sentiment lingers.

Many years ago, I saw a documentary about the grassroots interfaith movements that had sprung up all over Israel. Arab Israelis, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians came together to meet, to play and to interact, in educational, sporting and cultural events, crossing over the barrier that war had placed between them. For a brief time, there was hope. Given the humanitarian nature of many Israeli Jews, watching this show, I came to believe that had the Israelis and the Palestinians been left to their own devices, by now, and probably sooner, the Palestinian people would have been well integrated into Israeli society (as are the Israeli Arabs), and we would all be fighting nicely together over shekels and parking spots.

And then Arafat showed his ugly face. Under Arafat, the PLO, (sponsored by the United Nations), hijacked the Palestinian cause brainwashing generations of peace seeking (and now job seeking) Arabs and turned them and their children into war mongering terrorists. This radical transformation of this large group of disenfranchised people, now made it impossible, even for peace loving left wing liberals to reach across the great chasm that had been purposefully created by the PLO and associated Islamo-fascist political movements. Instead of instilling the values of peace and harmony and encouraging Palestinians to work together with Israel to move towards a prosperous joint future, Arafat and the fundamental Islamic movements that followed, convinced the Palestinians to swear loyalty to a ridiculously simplistic version of Allah that demands death to the infidel, and the complete eradication of all Jews from the Zionist entity – otherwise known as my ancestral homeland and the only country in which I have the guaranteed right to defend my children from being beheaded.

Not having grown up in Israel and not having served in the IDF myself, I am not really in a position to question the ideology of the Israeli left, and yet I identify with their humanitarian intentions, and their desire to rise above our differences and to let go of our attachment to our pain, fear and victim status. And as my own children prepare to join the IDF, I understand their desire to end this ongoing, retroactive, exhausting battle, but the reality on the ground, remains.

Last night I spoke with a man from Shechem (the ancient Biblical town from which Abraham came). Over bitter coffee and sweet suvganiyot, he told me of a time when his business prospered and when life was good, even in Shechem, or Nablus which sits in the north of the country over the green line. These days he comes to find scraps of work, far from his wife and children, in a local village close to where I live, where he acts as a go-between, between the territories and Israel. He hates the radicalised Palestinians, even though he is Palestinian himself. Like many Israeli Arabs, he believes each concession Israel has made has been a mistake, fuelling fundamentalism and radicalisation and he encourages Israel to come down hard on terrorists. He does not believe in a two state solution any more than I do. He does not want to be under the mafia rule of Hamas who tax him heavily and give nothing in return.

He is not in favour of equal rights for women, and he certainly doesn’t recycle or support Gay marriage, but on this one radical position, here at my kitchen table, we agree on this. How is it possible, I wonder, that two people from such different sides of the fence, both literally and philosophically, meet at this fundamentally ‘right’ junction? Perhaps it has to do with a deep understanding that the most ‘humane’ thing we can all do at this point is to acknowledge our mistakes, of which there have been many, to forgive ourselves and each other and to move forward towards prosperity together, as one unified nation.

About the Author
Born in South Africa, raised in Sydney and still shocked but recovering in Israel, Rebecca Bermeister writes about all things Israeli from the arsim at the hairdresser, to the politics of the Temple Mount. Exploring the brilliant tapestry that makes up this fascinating country, her short pieces are both poignant and amusing.