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Ehud Barak and the death wish of the Israeli left 

Opinion
on 19 Comments

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: There are few people I actually hate. Oh, I despise quite a large number of politicians, and some of them I even loathe. Hate, though, is much more personal. I hate Ehud Barak with a passion. And therefore, the fact that he is now running in the same faction as Meretz, a party I’m an on-and-off member of for over 30 years, will make it very hard for me to vote for it again.

I’ll make the case against Barak as concisely as I can, which admittedly isn’t much as the charge sheet is rather long. As a general, planning the First Lebanon War, Barak suggested secretly to Ariel Sharon that they fake a Syrian attack on Israel so as to use the chance to destroy the Syrian army, Sharon was impressed, but rejected the idea (as it turned out, the IDF had its plate full with the Syrians near Beirut). Later, as deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff, Barak developed the doctrine of attacking enemy civilians purposefully, in order to put pressure on their government. The first use of this doctrine was in Operation Din V’Hesbon in 1993: The IDF used massive artillery and air attacks against the civilians of South Lebanon, specifically aiming at a humanitarian crisis as an attempt to put pressure on the Beirut government. Not incidentally, Barak came at this idea after the IDF was losing the conventional war against Hizbullah. The same doctrine, which is a war crime, would be used again against Lebanon (in 1996 and 2006) and Gaza (2009, 2012, 2014).

In 1994, Barak was leading an exercise supposed to lead to the assassination of Saddam Hussein. An officer at an elite unit misunderstood a signal, and fired a missile which killed several unit members. The incident, called the Second Tse’elim Disaster, caused shock, and Barak, questioned by the Knesset, lied and said he wasn’t present. He then used the military censorship to cover up his lie. Soon, he joined Rabin’s cabinet – and abstained during the vote on the Second Oslo Accords.

Barak kept maintaining himself in a position in the right of Labor, and managed a Pyrrhic victory against Netanyahu in 1999. He won the election, but his party was decimated. He refused to accept the Palestinian parties as part of his coalition, forcing him to rely on right-wing and religious parties. The coalition was brittle, and in a spectacular show of hubris and insensitivity, Barak found himself with a minority government in about a year. He botched a peace accord with Syria, getting cold feet at the last minute.

And then, of course, there was the Palestinian debacle. Throughout his short tenure – the shortest in the history of Israeli prime ministers – Barak kept the Palestinians on the backburner, saying he will deal with them once he dealt with the Syrians. Oslo officially ended just before he was elected, but Barak didn’t care.

He pushed the Palestinians to discussions which are still a matter of contention, but one thing is clear: Before Barak went to the talks, he told the Israeli media he intended to “expose Arafat’s true face”; and once he returned, empty handed, he uttered the most deadly slogan in Israeli politics:

“There is no partner.”

By so doing, Barak tried to deflect responsibility from himself, and cut his own feet. The idea that “there is no partner” for peace, uttered by a so-called leftist prime minister, wiped out the raison d’etre of the Israeli left. That was in July 2000. Two months later, Ariel Sharon wanted to climb up Temple Mount; the ISA (Shin Beth) warned Barak this would lead to an explosion; Arafat begged him not to permit it; but Barak, who was a dead man walking politically, was thinking of an alliance with Likud. He disregarded the advice, Sharon went up the mountain, and Israel and Palestine went up in flames.

The initial demonstrations were relatively peaceful, but Barak lost control of the army, which killed dozens and then hundreds of Palestinians. Later records would show that as the government tried to lower the flames, the IDF high command ordered brigade commanders to kill as many militants as they could, and leave the government to the Chief of Staff. The army fired 1.2 million rounds in October 2000 alone. Barak was Minister of Defense; this was his corner to keep clean. Yet, again, as a political lame duck, he didn’t dare confront the army. As pundit Doron Rosenbloom noted, “Israel went willing through a military coup d’etat.”

The massacres – for that’s what they were – in the occupied territories spilled into Israel itself. Demonstrations, sometimes violent ones, broke in the Palestinian sector; Barak went on the radio, and hysterically cried that Israel was about to be cut in two, and that “roads must be kept open.” The police acted accordingly, and killed 13 Palestinian citizens in what would be later termed The October Events. A government inquiry board (the Orr Commission) would find him responsible for the killing; but by that time, the Second Intifada was in full stride, bloodletting unseen since 1948 was in progress, and Barak was a private citizen involved in murky business after losing badly to Sharon in 2001 (A noted business partner of Barak’s was Jeffery Epstein). The Palestinian public boycotted the election; Barak got 33% of the vote, Sharon 67%. Myself, I put a blank ballot, on which I wrote “down with the generals’ regime.” I couldn’t vote for that monster.

Six years would pass, and Barak would return to politics. He won, once more, leadership of Labor – and immediately broke his promise to leave Olmert’s government should a government inquiry into the Second Lebanon War demand Olmert’s resignation. It did, and Barak did nothing.

Then came Cast Lead, an orgy of fire and destruction in the dense urban jungle that is the Gaza Strip. The operation began several weeks before the elections, and embittered leftists nicknamed “Operation Save the Polls.” Barak did to Gaza what he once did to Lebanon, killing 759 civilians (B’Tselem figures). The fire was so dense, 4 out of 10 IDF dead were due to friendly fire.

This latest war crime didn’t help Barak much at the polls. He ran under the slogan of “Not likable, [but rather] a leader.” The public was unimpressed. He brought Labor to its lowest result ever, and started its death spiral. He then immediately reneged on his election promise, and entered Netanyahu’s government as Defense Minister. In this position, he would commit another was crime (the Mavi Marmara massacre), and would try to push the country to war with Iran. In late 2011, he split up Labor, taking with him four renegades to form a party he called ‘Atzmaut (Independence). Understanding he was as popular as leprosy, he did not run again in 2013.

So how did this most disastrous of politicians, this serial war criminal whose murky financials are kept hidden from the public, make it into Meretz’s list, albeit in the 10th place?

There are two reasons, as I see it. One is tactical. Barak formed a new party and basically blackmailed Meretz. If you don’t let me join, he kept saying, I will keep running, you will lose votes, and perhaps both of us won’t make it into the Knesset. Barak’s appeal is negligible; by all polls, he wouldn’t have gotten into the Knesset under his own power; he was a parasite looking for a carrier. He carried out a successful hostage-taking operation.

But why did it succeed? Because the Israeli left has been eaten alive by a sort of death-wish masquerading as a will to power. I’ve been fighting against this merger for weeks. Those who opposed the merger failed miserably. The vote was 250:6. Why?

The answer we kept hearing was “we need to win for once. Stop being purists. Let us win.” This reasoning sent many of Labor and Meretz voters to Blue-White: the wish to be, for once, on the winning side.

But this goes against all reason. The numbers are hard and unchanging: The right-wing will get 63-67 seats. They will be in a majority no matter what the left wing does. Unless there’s a catastrophic war or some other earth-shaking event, this is unlikely to change. But to face this is to accept one of two options: that the struggle is pointless, lost; or that it will require much work that we expected.

A large core of the Israeli left has given up on its mission. It speaks less and less of the occupation. Why do you bother us with that? It’s not like we can change it. The people have grown tired of the issue; occupation-fatigue was in evidence even in the 1990s. Even within Meretz those who consider the occupation the main issue faced by the public are mocked as “kibushniks”, “occupationists.” Let us seize power, but we have forgotten why. Let us seize power, even if takes a war criminal to do so – and power is imaginary. This torch, we can no longer carry it. This burden, it’s too much.  Let us sleep, then. Let us dream. Let us merge with majority and dissolve within it. A weariness of existence captured well by Kavafis:

Why the sudden bewilderment, this confusion?

Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,

Everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.

And some of our men just in from the border say

There are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?

Those people were a kind of solution.

For people weary of unceasing struggle, crowned by repeated defeat, Ehud Barak is a kind of solution. Surrender to him, abandon your ideas, let someone else worry. But, of course, once you surrender to the barbarian the way back will be much more arduous.

Solon, the semi-mythical lawgiver of Athens, ordered that anyone who, in a time of civil strife, stood aside and chose no side, should be exiled, as he is the worst of citizens. Israel is rapidly losing its democratic trappings. To not go to the polls would be the height of civic irresponsibility. I cannot vote for the butcher of Gaza and of the October Events. The Joint List contains religious fundamentalists and supporters of a greater butcher, Assad. This leaves me with no party I can willingly vote for.

Now what?

Yossi Gurvitz

Yossi Gurvitz is a journalist and a blogger, and has covered the occupation extensively.

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19 Responses

  1. bcg on August 19, 2019, 4:10 pm

    “The first use of this doctrine was in Operation Din V’Hesbon in 1993: The IDF used massive artillery and air attacks against the civilians of South Lebanon, specifically aiming at a humanitarian crisis as an attempt to put pressure on the Beirut government.”

    The journalist Robert Fisk was in Lebanon and he wrote about the piles of bodies – civilian bodies – he saw. I just never knew the name of the operation.

    When you read Israeli history you have to ask yourself how it is that Israel gets away with the whole “the Arabs attack civilians” thing, they did it on a massive scale.

  2. lonely rico on August 19, 2019, 10:21 pm

    Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
    And some of our men just in from the border say
    There are no barbarians any longer.
    Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?

    Blinded by fear and hate,
    Zionist ignorance that the barbarians are not to be found looking outward
    but rather inward.
    The barbaric racist war criminal Barak a metaphor for the dark corruption in the soul of Israel.

  3. Mayhem on August 20, 2019, 3:51 am

    @Yossi Gurvitz, why don’t you vote for the Arab parties?

    • johneill on August 20, 2019, 10:21 am

      “I cannot vote for the butcher of Gaza and of the October Events. The Joint List contains religious fundamentalists and supporters of a greater butcher, Assad. This leaves me with no party I can willingly vote for.” helpful to finish the article

      • kylebisme on August 21, 2019, 2:36 pm

        Does anyone on the Joint List really even support Assad outright though, or do the simply consider him a better alternative than ISIS in the context of the current situation? If it’s the latter I don’t see how anyone can rightly be faulted for that.

      • johneill on August 24, 2019, 9:58 am

        i was just helping mayhem with his reading problem, your question is better addressed to yossi than his.

  4. Elizabeth Block on August 20, 2019, 8:41 am

    The Israeli Left knows, though it won’t say, that Zionism is incompatible with democracy, let alone justice. No wonder it’s dying.
    People ask me, “What about the Israeli peace camp?” What Israeli peace camp? No Israeli politician who would be willing to do what is needed to make peace has a ghost of a chance of being elected. And they all know it.

  5. Misterioso on August 20, 2019, 10:11 am

    Zionism and “Israel” – over 71 years of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.

    Prime Minister Ehud Barak: ‘The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more…’ (Jerusalem Post, Aug. 30, 2002)

    Perhaps Barak has seen the writing on the wall:

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.720715
    Haaretz, May 20/16

    “’Israel Has Been Infected by the Seeds of Fascism,’ Says ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak”

    “Barak tells TV interviewer that ‘there are no serious leaders left in the world who believe the Israeli government. Israel has been ‘infected by the seeds of fascism,’ former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak said during a TV interview on Friday night.

    “Responding to the resignation of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon earlier in the day, Barak said that it ‘should be a red light for all of us regarding what’s going on in the government.’

    “‘Life-sustaining Zionism and the seeds of fascism cannot live together,’ Barak told a Channel 10 interviewer.

    “Ya’alon’s resignation is ‘the end of a chain that began with the case of the soldier who shot [a wounded Palestinian assailant to death’, Barak said. ‘Such incidents give us an X-ray image that is opposed to the will of the people.’

    “‘What has happened is a hostile takeover of the Israeli government by dangerous elements. And it’s just the beginning.’

    “To illustrate his point, Barak referred to legislation promoted by members of the coalition, including the law to lift the parliamentary immunity of Knesset members who allegedly support terrorism and a bill to impose Israeli law on Israelis living in the West Bank.

    “‘This government needs to be brought down before it brings all of us down,’ Barak added. “‘There are no serious leaders left in the world who believe the Israeli government.'”

  6. gamal on August 20, 2019, 1:00 pm

    “There are no barbarians any longer.

    Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?”

    Those people were a kind of solution.”.

    “The Joint List contains religious fundamentalists and supporters of a greater butcher, Assad. This leaves me with no party I can willingly vote for”

    oh there are still barbarians? or you don’t get cavafy “religious fundamentalists”…?

    “Now what?”

    well precisely what you are aiming for…. Mr. Gurvitz is excused, sometimes the world is just not good enough for the most forward looking and progressive Israeli in the history of that world, especially those vomit inducing Palestinians and no doubt sundry as yet poorly specified other oppressed and struggling folk, yuk, you shouldn’t have to sully yourself …

    Mr Gurvitz is indisposed….crises will just have to proceed for we the revolting folks without his intervention.

    is there a Hebrew phrase for what a total cop out, if so now’s the time to count off a few on those subhas

    “Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?” just as cavafy is implying hidebound by cowardice, the habit of denigrating your victims and self delusion what is one to do?

  7. pabelmont on August 20, 2019, 7:32 pm

    Could Gurvitz start a new “list”, a peace list, even w/o hope of receiving more than 1 vote? Maybe a “write-in” list? And thus circumvent the barbarians (Zionists)?

  8. Keith on August 20, 2019, 8:02 pm

    YOSSI GURVITZ- ” The Joint List contains religious fundamentalists and supporters of a greater butcher, Assad.”

    Why blame Assad for the consequences of Uncle Sam’s destabilization attempt utilizing ISIS, et al, to terrorize Syria? Uncle Sam and Israel, I might add. Israel’s goal for the last 70 years has been the destabilization and fragmentation of the entire Arab Middle East. The empire, including Israel, is the primary reason that the Middle East is the way that it is. Below, I link to an excellent interview of Max Blumenthal by Chris Hedges in which they discuss the creation and use of Al-Qaeda by the US as a proxy army to achieve geostrategic objectives. Highly recommended viewing. https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2019/08/17/chris-hedges-and-max-blumenthal-international-jihadism/#more-208499

    • Nathan on August 20, 2019, 10:29 pm

      Keith – There are so many factors of history and sociology that have created the enormous crisis in the Arab world of today. One of the outstanding factors is the inability to express self-criticism and to accept responsibility. The Arabs are aware of the big mess (as you are too), but always it’s someone else’s fault. It’s always “European colonialism” or “Zionism” or whatever – but it’s never an admission that the Arab world has not been able to cope with modernity.

      It’s an interesting phenomenon to see a thinking person like you who doesn’t understand that his releasing the Arabs from any responsibility for their own actions is actually a type of haughtiness AND racism. You’ve define Assad as a little child: He has no responsibility for his own actions or control over events.

      The Arabs are adults, and as such they have an agenda. They are not puppets on a string. I couldn’t imagine your absolving a violent person from criminal responsibility because he had a difficult relationship with his step-mother. Your blaming Uncle Sam and Israel for the unstableness and divisiveness of the Arab world indicates (1) that you don’t know anything about their history and (2) that you don’t regard the Arabs to be equal members in the family of peoples in this world.

      • Keith on August 20, 2019, 11:26 pm

        NATHAN- “It’s always “European colonialism” or “Zionism” or whatever – but it’s never an admission that the Arab world has not been able to cope with modernity.”

        Have you ever read “Year 501: The Conquest Continues,” by Noam Chomsky? For those with eyes to see and an honest heart, the consequences of Western imperialism are rather ugly. The historical reality is that the West (including the US) has one clear competitive advantage over the rest of the world: highly successful warmongering and subjugation of Third World peoples. I refuse to judge those defending themselves against imperial aggression, your dishonest attempt to assert that the plight of the Arab world is their failure to deal with modernity little more than imperial apologetics. And Zionism is a form of European colonialism which has been tainted by ethno-religious fundamentalism.

      • oldgeezer on August 20, 2019, 11:59 pm

        @nathan

        Laughable. You just described Israel and it’s supporters to a “T”. and not the Arabs. Israel always tricked or forced into unleashing murderous and barbaric violence against defenseless people and never accountable for it’s own actions.

      • eljay on August 21, 2019, 7:27 am

        || Nathan: … There are so many factors … that have created the enormous crisis in the Arab world of today. One of the outstanding factors is the inability to express self-criticism and to accept responsibility. The Arabs are aware of the big mess (as you are too), but always it’s someone else’s fault. … The Arabs are adults, and as such they have an agenda. They are not puppets on a string. … ||

        Zionists blame everyone from “the Arabs” and the Nazis to the ancient Romans and every real and imagined anti-Semite in between for the past and on-going (war) crimes they and and their colonialist “Jewish State” construct have been committing for decades deliberately and with impunity.

        Zionists are adults, not puppets on a string, and as such they have an agenda. When will they stop blaming everyone else and accept responsibility and accountability for the evil they haven chosen to commit and which they refuse to stop committing?

    • oldgeezer on August 21, 2019, 1:07 am

      @Keith

      Do you agree that Assad is a greater butcher? Just curious as I don’t.

      Assad at his best is defending his country against outside armed forces intent on his overthrow and the subjugation of Syria to those foreign interests.

      Assad at his worst is defending himself primarily but as a side issue defends the Syrian state against external armed forces intent on his overthrow and the subjugation of Syria to foreign interests.

      It isn’t worth time being wasted on whether there are external factors. US UK Israel Turkey (NATO) Jordan Qatar Saudi Arabia all have hands covered in the blood of innocents.

      It isnt worth time debating that even polling undertaken by those external actors showed that they supported Assad (screw democracy!).

      Assad has no doubt killed many. Absolutely. I detest the man. But to suggest that those who oppose him and are slaughtering innocents and teaming up with the most vime terrorists the world have any moral high ground is laughable. They can’t hold a candle to a dictator. And he is one. But these supposedly great moral clarity leaders are far more vile than he has ever been when viewed on any objective basis.

      Since this site is primarily about IP it behooves me to say syrian dictatorship is far more moral than the fictional Israeli democracy which is racism st it’s core and on steroids.

      • Keith on August 21, 2019, 6:29 pm

        OLD GEEZER- “Do you agree that Assad is a greater butcher? Just curious as I don’t.”

        Well, neither do I. What is Assad supposed to do? Allow Al Qaeda to take over the country? Stand aside as imperial proxy forces chop heads? In view of Western imperialism and Western destabilization, what should Assad do? Throw in Western propaganda and it is close to impossible to evaluate Assad’s actions. I place the blame for the Syria carnage at Uncle Sam’s feet, period. And Uncle Sam includes Israel which has ceaselessly worked to destroy regimes like Assad while making nice with Saudi Arabia. Below are two links to interviews which I highly recommend.

        John Pilger on Syria (17 min)- https://www.democraticunderground.com/1017312383

        Link to Chris Hedges/Max Blumenthal interview re: US support for ISIS: https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2019/08/17/chris-hedges-and-max-blumenthal-international-jihadism/#more-208499

        OLD GEEZER- “They can’t hold a candle to a dictator.”

        Dictator? Compared to what? The US is a dictatorship of the corporate/financial oligarchy. All of this talk of “democracy” is propaganda, nothing more. Do you think for a minute that the
        American people are calling the shots? Forcing the elites to implement neoliberal globalization? The elites rule, period. The form may vary but the substance remains the same.

      • oldgeezer on August 21, 2019, 10:01 pm

        @Keith

        “Dictator? Compared to what? ”

        I should have said supposed or purported dictator.

        “”OLD GEEZER- “They can’t hold a candle to a dictator.””

        You misunderstand that phrase. I am suggesting that those opposed to him and teaming up with the most vile (typo’d it last time!) terrorists (in) the world are far worse than Assad.

    • Talkback on August 21, 2019, 5:45 am

      Nathan: “It’s always “European colonialism” or “Zionism” or whatever – but it’s never an admission that the Arab world has not been able to cope with modernity.”

      How is the Jewish world coping with modernity? Post-colonialism, international and human rights? Sates being sates for all its citizens? The right of return? A democracy which doesn’t need to keep people expelled to prevent an undesired outcome of elections? Property rights (vs. consfiscations), housing rights (vs. demolishing homes), the right to family (unification) the right to free moveent, childrens rights, the right to self determination, the right to have acces to a lawyer and know the charge against you and seeing all the evidence which is brought against you? I will stop right here to give you a chance to respond. And then we will talk about your racism against the Arab world.

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