The Party that Loves to Hate

An Insider's View of the Israeli Left

By Eitan Haber

A year or two ago, when the woes of the times got me down, I saw fit to quote the words of the late president Chaim Herzog. He said: "The problem with Israel is that its political rightists are big fools and its political leftists are absolutely evil." The same day a senior member of the Labor Party called me. "Vivian was wrong," he said (everybody called Herzog Vivian). "The leftists are not so evil. They are mainly big hatersÉ" Oh, how they hate.

The lesson that can be learned from what has been happening in Israeli politics in the last year, and surely from Israel's brief political history before and after the state was established, is that God forbid you should find yourself hated by the Left. Your fate is sealed in that case. Beware. You will have no redemption. Oh, how they know how to hate. Their bile works overtime when an object of hatred falls into their hands.

And now they have one: Ehud Barak, who gave the Labor Party one of its greatest victories, became the target for every snot-nose to aim at: This one didn't have his call returned, the other one didn't get his hand shaken, and the third one doesn't like his strange smile. You can't say Barak didn't earn that hatred with hard work. A lot of the arguments against him are true, but none of them, taken separately or together, justifies heaping the buckets of hatred upon him that they do while foaming at the mouth.

Barak, of all people, who is intimately familiar with the history of the Labor Party, including the complete works of leaders who died before he was born, should have etched upon his heart the bitter experiences of the Labor movement - a movement that knew how to hate like nothing else.

I personally came across the burning hatred in their eyes and their foaming mouths when, at an early age, in one of the corridors of Israel Radio in Tel Aviv, Sima Arlosoroff overheard a conversation I had with somebody. The furious lady, the widow of the brilliant leader of the workers' movement who was murdered in the 1930s, a murder of which rightists were suspected, was under the correct impression that she had actually heard me say a word or two of praise for Menachem Begin. Boy did she open her mouth at me. I narrowly escaped into Ya'acov Ben-Herzl's room, begging him to save my life.

So Barak, of all people, should have known about the depths of hatred that emerged in the mid-'40s between Mapai and Ahdut Ha'avoda surrounding the proposals to partition Palestine, and the "saison" during which members of the Hagana pursued members of Etzel and turned them in to the British, and the sinking of the arms ship Altalena. From his kibbutz home, Barak should have remembered the rift in the early '50s, when families and kibbutzim were torn asunder, and the General Security Service's early fight against the Right (and Mapam and the Communists) to the point of denying a livelihood to anybody who didn't hold the card of the right party.

Nobody can compete with the Labor Party for the intensity of their hatred. Sometimes they cover it up with academic, literary, or philosophical guises, but it is always the same hatred coursing through their veins. When members of the Right (except for perhaps Shmuel Tamir and Ezer Weizman) always rallied around the leadership of Menachem Begin, who lost elections seven times in a row, the Left used that time to build the country and feed on the adrenaline of hatred.

They pour the cup of venom out to the very last drop. Here is a reminder: Ben-Gurion's people, and Ben-Gurion himself, made Moshe Sharett's life hell as prime minister and Ben-Gurion's heir. They did not accept his authority on security matters and they brought about his political end.

Ben-Gurion, following the Lavon affair, terrorized his heir, Levy Eshkol, until the latter, bitter and tearful, declared: "These two horses can no longer pull together." The pointless split between Mapai and Rafi was the epitome of the burning hatred inside the Labor Party. And Moshe Dayan and his supporters shortened Levy Eshkol's life before the Six Day War, organizing a demonstration of mothers under his office window.

In the last generation we saw the bad blood between Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, a bad example of political leadership, and finally: The "group of eight," the Labor Knesset members who joined forces to hate everybody else together, of whom Rabin once said that if all eight spent time in a cell with a poisonous snake, the snake would die.

So what do we have here: a party that spends all its energy hating inside, outside, everywhere. From February 7, it will have 24 free hours a day to do so.

(Haber was the Director of the Prime Minister's Bureau for the Late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin)
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