If a space alien landed in Israel and watched television or browsed the internet, he’d instantly conclude that the country faced a fierce tsunami of left-wing organizations. He’d base his finding on all the top headlines, investigative news programs and legislative initiatives.
All of them everywhere expose the schemes of the terrifying New Israel Fund, plant undercover agents amid the dark forces of Breaking the Silence, send brave emissaries behind enemy lines at the most dangerous college campuses in California or at demonstrations in Petah Tikva. They face off against hostile organizations and Meni Naftali, the former caretaker at the prime minister’s residence turned political activist.
Meanwhile, the poor government, just like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, tries to hold back the flood of leftist funding using emergency laws meant to save the nation.
Anyone familiar with these activists, with the employment terms at these organizations, the difficulties they face, can only laugh. But I’m not laughing, not even cracking a smile. Years of fake news and an entire industry of lies have created the impression of an even contest between two sides.
If only that were true, but far from it. The activity, money, power and influence of left-wing groups and the segment of civil society that doesn’t toe the government line is a tiny fraction of the forces on the right. I’m not talking about right-wing nonprofits, media outlets and the enormous variety of organizations. Despite the almost unimaginable sums poured into them, they don’t even approach the government’s power — including the military and education systems, the settlement and development mechanisms, the economic agencies, the rabbinate and all the other institutions that control our lives.
For years now this establishment has been right-wing; anyone not yet on the right, and anyone who fails to show blind faith — whether a frustrated schoolteacher, the national police commissioner or the army chief of staff — is flattened by a hundred-ton steamroller.
The influence of the left-wing groups could be compared to that of their right-wing counterparts if it could be added to the influence of the government institutions of the left. Excuse me? Government and the left? The left hasn’t been there for a long time.
As in the ritual of burning chametz before Passover, every crumb of leftism is swept from the house. The size of the opposition in the Knesset is deceptive; it’s an opposition on paper only. Part of it, perhaps a majority, isn’t only not left, it’s not even an opposition. For most of the current government’s term, opposition parties have been standing in line to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition and make it stronger.
For that reason it’s impossible to compare the leftist groups’ money, all of which is transparent and reported, to that of their right-wing counterparts, most of which is confidential because its sources are “private.” It’s also impossible to compare this money to the river of government funding for increasing religious coercion, widening inequality, developing the settlements, perpetuating the occupation and of course identifying traitors via bogus loyalty tests.
That’s the most effective instrument because it silences and paralyzes. Overt directives from a cabinet minister against a play or school curriculum are no longer necessary. The will of the commanding officer is clear to everyone, whether a high school principal or theater company manager.
That’s reality today for human rights groups, pluralism movements and social activists. They aren’t playing on an empty field, but rather in a crowded boxing ring against a much stronger opponent, and also against the referee and the announcer. The game is almost fixed. Of course, the rights groups aren’t immune from criticism, and the left isn’t sacred. By the way, anyone familiar with such organizations knows how absorbed they are in self-criticism, sometimes to the point of self-flagellation.
But anyone who ignores what’s happening around these groups is like someone touching an elephant’s trunk and thinking he’s holding a snake. It’s a great injustice to people who operate under difficult conditions and still make an extraordinary contribution to Israeli society. It’s not hard to be a great patriot when the state embraces you and supports you generously, but fighting for justice and equality against a hostile establishment is genuine patriotism.
Published in "Ha'aretz"