Ben Gurion University
Ben Gurion University – Neve
Gordon’s (Dept of Political Science) distain for Israeli Democracy
shows him to be “out of touch” and “elitist”
Terra Incognita: Begging for
Seth J. Frantzman,
THE JERUSALEM POST
Jul. 7, 2009
ever-present calls from within Israeli society for "greater
international involvement and pressure" on the country are
emblematic of a contempt for democracy. Some on the intellectual
Left want to see themselves as canaries in a coal mine, warning the
state of its coming destruction. One corollary of this endless
struggle to be the "lone voice of reason" is the tendency to insist
on greater international pressure.
Israel's 2009 elections, Prof. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University
declared it was time for the US under Barack Obama to impose a
solution on Israel, and "if such intervention includes sanctions, it
is the only way to secure Israel's existence in the long run." The
latest manifestation of this was Haaretz political columnist
Akiva Eldar's June 29 call for Obama to "play on Israel's fears, not
its hopes for peace.... The time has come for him to directly
address the Israelis, bypassing their leadership."
interest in international pressure can be downright crude, as when
Haaretz editor David Landau told Condoleezza Rice in
September 2007 that he believed the US needed to "rape" Israel.
According to reports he "referred to Israel as a 'failed state'
politically, one in need of a US-imposed settlement."
that international pressure is a godsend is quite widespread. A
February 2009 petition signed by five academics, including Prof.
Rachel Giora and Eva Yablonka of Tel Aviv University, in support of
a recent anti-Israel motion at Manchester University, noted that "we
strongly believe that without some pressure from outside Israel and
without concrete support for Palestinians nothing will change in our
part of the world."
In a similar
vein, on April 3, Naomi Chazan wrote in the Upfront weekend
magazine of The Jerusalem Post that "a much more assertive
international involvement is therefore necessary... the threat of
isolation verging on ostracism may be precisely the kind of jolt
that has been needed for some time... such an externally driven
impetus can also revitalize domestic politics."
the overbearing involvement of the international community, and the
trust and reliance on its decisions, is indicative of a severe
distrust of Israeli democracy. Those on the Left who call for this
have declared that while they acknowledge the failure of their
political parties in 2009, they need foreigners to impose a
solution. This has long been typical of fringe groups such as Yesh
Gvul, which try to get Israelis indicted abroad for "war crimes"
because courts here will not do their bidding.
reason behind the call for international intervention is the feeling
that the leftist parties have failed. Ze'ev Sternhell, Israel Prize
winner and controversial professor, says that Labor has lost its
purpose. Describing the disillusionment with Labor he notes: "The
real problem is that the Israeli Left is an artificial, even a
false, Left. It lacks every one of the instinctive responses that
are identified with the natural Left - standing with the weak, the
oppressed and the working poor against the strong and the state
Harel, another columnist, the Left failed because of its inability
to achieve peace when given the chance and the "overidentification
of this public with Arab-Palestinian nationalism." It's no surprise
therefore that Zehava Gal-On, formerly a Meretz MK, has been
described by Haaretz as the "last leftist" among a Left with
"no clear message... no edge."
In turning to
outsiders, these voices are anti-democrats. It is interesting that
some of the country's elite would trust the same nations who
perpetrated the Holocaust to be fair arbitrators of the current
conflict. They are continually embarrassed by their countrymen, most
recently Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. This is a mistake. The
voter casts his vote for Lieberman primarily because the Left is
seen as being out of touch, elitist and incapable of solving the
admitted as much in an April 3 interview, when she noted that Jews
from the Middle East are "not the classic faces of Meretz." Neither
are Russians or Ethiopians. Rather than courting these voters with
reasonable solutions, some on the Left would simply ignore them and
ask foreigners to do the job. This is not a positive development.
The reaction of those in a democracy when the electorate fails to
agree with them should not be to declare that democracy a failure
but to frame their proposed solutions in a palatable manner.
is a PhD student in geography at the Hebrew University and runs the
Terra Incognita blog. firstname.lastname@example.org