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Monday, May 24, 2004

The Israeli Left, a "Lonely Crowd"

by Martin Peretz at Jewish World Review
el Aviv's Rabin Square is an iconic site. It is where, after an exuberant peace rally in 1995, the prime minister was murdered and where, on perhaps a dozen occasions since, Israelis have gathered to rekindle the dewy sentiments about relations with the Palestinians that he so awkwardly— and so late in life— appeared to embody. But, by now, almost everyone understands that his faith in a viable Palestinian negotiating partner was, to say the least, naïve. And no one at last Saturday night's rally so much as mentioned Yitzhak Rabin's name. Instead, there was plenty of schwarmerei folk music, beginning with "We Shall Overcome."

Another era, another language, another issue, another country. Rather pathetic at a time when, among the young, in hot clubs and cafés everywhere, there is a revival of old romantic and confident Zionist songs. They are not, to be sure, doing wild circle dances. But they are reinventing the kumsitz with a nostalgic repertoire— indicating, I believe, that post-Zionism has come and gone, pace Tony Judt. Good riddance.

It was a large crowd, perhaps 150,000 people, but a generally listless one. Perhaps it was the lingering pall of the 13 dead soldiers in Gaza over the previous week, some of whose body parts, including an intact brain, were displayed on television by Palestine's holy warriors. But mostly, I think, the pall reflected the crowd's recognition that they were not the majority some of their tribunes told them they were. "Get out of Gaza, Start Talking" was their slogan. The slogan, however, papered over important differences among the varied constituencies, and so it is not a political program at all. It's rather like "Peace Now," the slogan that has named a loose touchy-feely movement in Israel for years, or the Vietnam War-era incantation "Give Peace a Chance." Just words, and meaningless ones, at that.