Yacov Ben Efrat
The pundits and the politicians agree that the protest movement succeeded, resulting in big electoral wins for Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) and Naftali Bennett of the rightwing ha-Ba’it ha-Yehudi (“The Jewish Home”). These luminaries are united in their hatred of the Ultraorthodox and the Arabs and in their indifference to the workers. Both are future partners for Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. It’s not at all clear that this is what Dafni Leef had in mind when she pitched her tent on Rothschild Boulevard starting the social protest of Summer 2011, but such is the gloomy outcome. Those who wanted to unite the entire people—left and right, settlers and impoverished middle-class youth—have succeeded in a big way. The protest refrained from calling on Bibi to resign in order not to be stigmatized as political, and so Bibi remains to conduct the choir.
The protest has succeeded perhaps, but the people has lost out. The Right can go on ruling, because there is no one to challenge it from the Left. Shelly Yacimovich of the Labor Party, who swept the Occupation under the rug in her futile courting of right-wing votes, has rendered herself irrelevant. The potential of a leftwing bloc capable of stopping the Right dissipated a few nights ago when its three would-be participants— Yacimovich, Lapid, and Tzipi Livni of Tnua—failed to agree on which one of them would lead. The Arab parties fought hard to keep what they had, dividing the cake among themselves. Despite the indifference of the Arab voter, they slightly increased their number of Knesset members, whose shouts will resound in parliament’s chambers. They won’t miss a chance to grab a headline heckling right-wingers Moshe Feiglin and Orit Struk, and all will be festive, no doubt.
Daam in the elections
Daam did all that was in its power to join up with other social forces, but its efforts were fruitless. The protest leaders (except Leef) preferred to wheel and deal in the Labor Party, the Greens wound up with Livni, and others avoided politics altogether. Daam campaigned, therefore, as a Jewish-Arab list headed by Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka, including social as well as union activists.
Daam brought a unique message of solidarity, class-conscious rather than nationalist, moderate rather than hot-headed, and won praise from supporters and opponents alike. Hundreds of new, enthusiastic activists joined, contributing time and money, infusing the party with the energies of the social protest. The results are disappointing precisely because they stand in utter contrast to the vast amount of goodwill that Daam won from the community—from humanists, artists, and workers, Arab and Jewish, including Russian immigrants. They are also unexpected when we consider the large and sympathetic media exposure we had (see Challenge Online Magazine on Facebook). The number of votes that Daam received—3,374—is very far from reflecting the impression it made in this election campaign.
Today, January 23, 2013, the day after the elections, multitudes of workers wake up to the same harsh reality that propelled Israelis into the streets in Summer 2011. The Occupation goes on, and it will deepen the rift between Jews and Arabs. Harsh economic decrees are in store. The workers and the middle class will pay the full price, while the tycoons give “haircuts,” enjoying subsidies and tax breaks. This reality will motivate the public to seek a more fundamental change.
Daam views what it accomplished in this campaign as an investment for the long term. The first lesson from the painful disappointment is to build more branch offices, to bring in more members, to deepen our labor union activity, to open more jobs for Arab women, to organize more industrial workers, truck drivers, and teachers, and to intensify our hold in the working public and on the Arab street.
Daam was created to bring about the change that reality demands. We have come in order to change the discourse between Jews and Arabs, because without that there is no Left. We’ve come to unify workers from all sectors, because without unity it is impossible to achieve labor rights. We’ve come to change the present consciousness, because otherwise there cannot be a democratic and just society. We’ve come to fight against racism and the Occupation, because we demand peace as a condition for social justice. We’ve come with a historical vision and we won’t rest until it is reality. We and the future generations deserve another kind of society, based on equality. We haven’t compromised and we won’t. We call on all who understand the election results as we do to join our ranks and bring about essential change.