Intellectuals and the Delusionary Israeli Left

April 22, 2012 by Isi Leibler
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The most talented Israeli intellectuals and writers frequently display gross political naiveté…writes Isi Leibler.

Isi Leibler

Amos Oz is an Israeli icon, recognized throughout the world as the doyen of the Israel literary arena. His books, primarily relating to the wide spectrum of life in Israel, are enormously popular and have been translated into many languages.

Oz, always regarded as a supporter of the left, was also admired as a consummate and devoted Zionist. Until recent years, he expressed his political views with gentle restraint and moderation and was perceived as a national rather than partisan intellectual.

I have fond recollections of his visits to Australia in the ‘80s, when he insisted whilst abroad, on assuming non-partisan positions and refused to publicly air his political differences with the Likud government then in office.

In contrast today, Oz unhesitatingly exploits every opportunity, even when abroad, to bitterly demonize his government. Moreover, his criticism has become so vehement to the extent that he effectively blames Israel for the impasse with the Palestinians.

Most recently, Oz even proudly publicized his prison visits to Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian terrorist condemned for five life sentences for the murder of five Israelis plus other orchestrated attacks on Israeli civilians and who only recently called for a third intifada and global boycott of Israel. Sadly, Oz morally identified himself with Barghouti, insisting that they both share the same national objectives and expressed the fervent hope that the ruthless killer would soon be released.

David Grossman, another highly acclaimed and talented Israeli writer whose son was killed during the Second Lebanon War, behaves in a similar manner. He recently penned an op-ed in the viciously anti-Israeli UK Guardian proclaiming that the greatest threat confronting the Jewish state is not Iran but the paranoia of its leaders.

These two writers exemplify the irresponsibility and extremism that has consumed a number of prominent leftist Israeli intellectuals and academics.

Needless to say, they are hailed as heroes by Israel’s “elitist” but dramatically declining newspaper Ha’aretz, which over the past decade has radicalized itself to such an extent that it is recognized as one of the most potent sources for global anti-Israeli propaganda. The extent of this newspaper’s venom – directed from the “top” – was recently demonstrated in an op-ed written by the publisher, Amos Schocken who accused his country of becoming an “apartheid” state and last week in an editorial which criticized President Peres for “publicly” calling on President Obama to release Pollard.

It is hard to comprehend how seemingly rational educated Jews can behave in such a manner. Of course, Jews turning against themselves are not a new phenomenon. In the Middle Ages Jewish apostates emerged as the most vicious anti-Semites. But one can rationalize that their disgusting behavior may have been motivated by an obsession to ingratiate themselves within their host societies.

Likewise the alienation from Judaism of Karl Marx and many of the early Jewish socialists could be attributed to desperation for emancipation from what they considered to be a stifling religious and ethnic identity in order to qualify as cosmopolitan citizens of the world.

The same can also be said for the Jewish Communists who vigorously applauded as Stalin executed their kinsman and justified the persecution of Soviet Jews. Many of them convinced themselves that by destroying Jewish particularism, they were paving the way for a messianic secular era in which the brotherhood and equality of all men would resolve the Jewish problem.

But after the Holocaust and with the creation of a Jewish state, one surely expected less alienation and a more rational approach.

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, a genuine social-democrat, was highly conscious that left-wing extremists represented a major threat to the Zionist enterprise. He was especially scathing towards the Marxist Mapam which continued to idolize the murderous Stalin and the Soviet Union – even after Mordecai Oren, one of their senior political leaders, had been arrested in Czechoslovakia in 1951 during the Prague Trials on trumped-up charges of having acted as a CIA agent.

But after Khrushchev’s exposure of Stalin’s “Cult of the Personality”, the loony left in Israel was marginalized to splinter groups like Matzpen.

The dominant Labor Party was uncompromising in its commitment to the State of Israel and proudly stood at the forefront of Zionism. It had no truck with the post Zionist intellectuals and ensured that they were isolated and condemned.

It was only following the huge public divide over the Oslo Accords that the Zionist left began to fragment. Although Rabin himself remained a steadfast Zionist throughout his life, de facto he became allied with a new breed of labor activists, many of whom flirted with post-Zionism. Dr. Yossi Beilin, a key architect of the Oslo Accords, even expressed public regret that his grandfather, one of the original Chovevei Zion delegates to the early Zionist Congresses, had voted against Herzl’s plan to adopt Uganda as a Zionist homeland.

Some Labor leaders, in order to alleviate public hostility about the “peace process”, felt obliged to defend the Arab case and began understating or trivializing statements by Arafat and other Palestinians leaders who were telling their people that Oslo was merely a preliminary step towards achieving the ultimate objective of destroying the Zionist entity. They also suppressed the mounting evidence that the duplicitous Arafat was actually directing terrorism.

This impacted on our response to terror with repeated mindless statements, even from Rabin, that we would fight terror but continue pursuing peace – with the very same Palestinians initiating the terror.

As a result, the Zionist core of the labor movement rapidly eroded, with extremist radicals emerging and expressing sentiments that would have been considered treasonable during the period of the Mapai hegemony. Ultimately the radicals all but hijacked the Labor Party.

Of course, criticism of Israel is a guaranteed passport for elevation to heroic stature in certain Western liberal quarters, and thus represents an additional incentive for failed Israeli politicians like Avram Burg and his ilk to join the anti-Israeli pack and act as principal propagandists of the adversaries of Israel.

The situation became exacerbated in recent years with a major change in public perceptions and the emergence of a consensus moving the country somewhat to a right of center approach to the Israel-Palestinian impasse, thus further marginalizing the far left. To the dismay of the radicals, , their bête noire, Netanyahu, far from being reviled , emerged as the most popular leader.

Oz and Grossman are neither post-Zionists nor self-hating Jews. They unquestionably love Israel.  But the public support of the government appears to have unhinged them and a number of other “doves”. In their frenzied desperation to dissociate themselves from the national consensus which broadly endorses Netanyahu, they succumbed to employing vitriolic language that comes perilously close to being indistinguishable from the anti-Zionist left.

One can only hope that under the new leadership of Shelly Yachomovich, the Labor Party will reaffirm the Zionist credo and encourage Labor Zionists who lost the plot, to return to the fold.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.


11 Responses to “Intellectuals and the Delusionary Israeli Left”
  1. David says:

    It is hard to know where to start on Isi Leibler’s delusionary rant – as usual attempting to silence anyone who dares criticize the ultra-right Likud government (which Leibler clearly thinks is soft-left) but this line is not bad:

    “David Grossman, another highly acclaimed and talented Israeli writer whose son was killed during the Second Lebanon War, behaves in a similar manner. He recently penned an op-ed in the viciously anti-Israeli UK Guardian proclaiming that the greatest threat confronting the Jewish state is not Iran but the paranoia of its leaders.”

    1. The Guardian is not viciously anti-Israel. It is conservatively pro-human rights.
    2. Leibler and his rant are excellent examples of the paranoia of Israel’s ultra-right leaders, and if they are democratically elected, by extension a right wing nation.

    Always shoot the messenger if you don’t like the message.

    • Interesting how some people can write but cannot read and I am talking about the same alphabet and same language.
      Where on erath, or to be more precise, in his text attached, is Liebler departing from the subject matter, i.e. intellectuals and Judaism, Zionism, at going ad hominem !!??
      How is right wing ideology any diferent from the so called left in terms of paranoia !!
      How is Guardian pro humn rights when it attacks Israeli Jewish humans by sponsoring strongly anti Zionist views disguised as “intellectual” positing.
      Oz and Grossman are the best specimens of the “groisse Moishe” syndromme, frustrated that, in spite of their literary reputation they are not running the country, but must be subservient to “lesser” minds, not so famous at creating prize winning fiction.
      Interesting how cohorts of canasta specialists know better than Isi ,whose vantage point in Israeli politics should be regarded as a respectable intellectual aid for those passionate about Israel.
      Isi in accurate and reliable, whereas my local communal busy loggers are bitter and badly misled.

    • Ben says:

      Amen to that.

  2. A redirection of the comments against Isi Leibler is more than necessary :

    Isi is offering a genuine political analysis and not a personal psychological cum attack ad hominem against two Israeli literati. The phenomenon presented by Leibler rests on the importance of the disemination of ideogical constructs by individuals with important appeal. Amos Oz and David Grossman avail themselves of the reputation they have acquired as writers to promote politcal stances detrimental to the function of the Government of Israel. Isi is not suggesting that they should not be allowed to do so. The mere fact that Leibler does not agree with their stances carries the same validity as what is claimed by Isi’s critics right here, that what Oz and Grossman should be permitted.
    Isi disagrees with Oz and Grossman in the same spirit as the two writers forcefully disagree with the politics of the Israeli governments. Delving farcically into the personal determinsm, in order to diminish a strictly political comment is simply absurd, invalid.
    I would venture, however, that the stance adopted by Oz of actively seeking the serious questioning of the legitimacy of the politics of Israel, particularly in respect to serious security considertion, could be seen as a irresponsible reactionary attitude, one that can only aid the enemies of Israel. Oz does it with such passion and dedication that one can see why less than insightful individuals could be “seduced” by his “approach”.

  3. gabrielle says:

    Grossman lost his son defending Israel. It is beyond my comprehension that Isi Leibler who spent most of his life in peacefull Australia and is only giving Israel his twilight years dares to critisize him or Amos Oz..

    In Liebelr’s eyes and of many others of his persuasion, whoever is not behind the current regime is a loony, an antisemite, or a self hating Jew. That is not how the clever Jews used to argue.

  4. George says:

    Isi Leibler’s assertion is that even if one is a loyal unreconstructed Zionist (and even lost one’s first born son in battle for the State of Israel, as Grossman has) one needs unequivocally to support the government of the day or be dubbed a traitor, and seemingly an anti-Semite!! This is absurd, unless of course he believe that Israel should become a totalitarian (Stasi-like) state, which would be a disaster. If passionate Zionist stalwarts like Oz and Grossman cannot express their views on the performance of the Israeli Government, irrespective of what that government does and how good or badly it represents and manages Israel, then we are lost. The contributions to Israel made by Oz and Grossman eclipse those made by the whole of the present Knesset put together! Leibler’s article consigns the so called Democratic free state of Israel to the trash can. Next he will recommend that books written by Oz and Grossman be burnt…sound familiar to anyone?

  5. Lynne Newington says:

    Maybe they’re going to convert to Catholicism.
    They wouldn’t be the first and won’t be the last adding to the feathers in the Vatican cap.

  6. MICHAEL says:

    The Jewish Left best Advocates the Palestinians and Arabs have………

    • Lionel says:

      Anyone who personally served in the IDF and whose children / grandchildren have served [such as Amos Oz & Grossman] has a lot of credibility, and whether they support the Left or the Right in Israel is a right they have earned, whether i or Michael or Isi agree with them or not.
      The talk Oz gave in Melbourne last year does not justify the comment ‘…unhesitatingly exploits every opportunity, even when abroad, to bitterly demonize his government’.
      Not everyone who disagrees with Isi deserves to be attacked this way.

      • Ben says:

        Where is the reality in this rant ? Do writers of honesty have to support racist and aprthied policies and land robbery ? Israeli Jews are free to marry Jews in the West Bank while Israeli Arabs cannot marry Arabs in the West Bank, Palestinians in the West Bank live under Israeli military rule, Israeli Jews under civil rule, Palestinians are routinely denied building permits to build on their own land while their homes, farms and roads are demolished to make way for settlements.
        Liebler is welcome to challenge these facts. Let us deal with facts on the ground being creayed by Israeli governments and ask why they should not be criticised ?

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