Changes on the Left
Jews, Marxism and the Worker’s Movement

Changes on the Left

First Published: Israel & Palestine Monthly Review, #58, April 1977.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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MIA Introduction: The following is an excerpt from an article about the various electoral lists participating in the 1977 Israeli national elections.

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After a protracted series of negotiations a Zionist Peace-Forces Front called SHELI was created. It basically represents those organizations which went to the famed Paris Talks with the PLO, i.e., those personalities organized in the Israeli Council for Israel-Palestine Peace. And, indeed, the SHELI forces’ program calls for both a Zionist State of Israel and for peace with a Palestinian State created in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The four first candidates of this list are: Arieh (Liuva) Eliav, MK for the Independent Socialist List;

Meir Pail, MK for MOKED; Uri Avnery, editor of HAOLAM HAZEH; and Saadia Marciano, of the Black Panthers. (This last group split over electoral tactics and strategy).

Of all these groups, only MOKED possesses the structures, cadres and real-estate needed for a thorough electoral campaign, as MOKED is a mixture of the Zionist wing which split the MAKI Communist party in 1965, and joined the non-Zionist SIAKH socialists. On the other hand, Arieh Eliav is the only “personality” able to wrestle away a number of Knesset and other personalities from MAPAM and the LABOR. Uri Avnery is, unquestionably, the most able propagandist and the best strategist of the group; while Saadia Marciano is thought to bring with him a number of Oriental Jewish elements, who remain anti-communist in outlook or define their ideology as Zionist – particularly after the “Zionist Panthers” led by Victor Tayar entered Yadin’s Change Movement – and then failed to get any kind of representation in this group’s internal elections.

SHELI will obviously try to appeal to the “Left of Center” electorate: Uri Avnery has claimed, often, that he stands “neither at the right nor at the left of the political spectrum” and also has claimed he is “for free enterprise, as long as it remains clean”. Avnery stated in HAOLAM HAZEH that his Movement has 1,600 members (YEDIOTH 2 March). But most important is his weekly magazine, HAOLAM HAZEH, which remains the only popular weekly with opposition positions contrary to the occupation of the Territories.

This magazine has always campaigned against corruption and of late was instrumental in the indictment and condemnation of Asher Yadlin; has revealed Moshe Dayan’s theft of antiquities; and challenged Minister Ofer, who later committed suicide. In fact, Avnery has seriously damaged the leading LABOR party, and some sources pretend he is supported, covertly, by people inside the leading party who would like the present economic leadership to make place for themselves – even if this means uncovering scandals and causing the present leadership’s disgrace.

However, if Avnery’s propaganda can and will hurt the enemy, he is probably unable to marshal enough votes for entering the Knesset alone. The vote-getter-element in SHELI is Moked, which, after MAPAM decided to remain in the ruling Alignment, may-get some of MAPAM’s left-of-center electorate, particularly in those Kibutzim belonging to the HAKIBUTZ HAARTZI Movement. Already in the last elections, MOKED got 7% of this Movement’s votes. MAPAM is aware of this, and this is why 43 members of the MAPAM central committee voted against staying in the Alignment, while a majority of 148 decided to stay – after the Labor leadership came out as demanded by MAPAM, with a statement of willingness to give away some occupied territories; and after the Labor leadership refused to see in Peres its candidate for the Premiership. (YEDIOTH 28 February).

But MOKED – and up to a point the new SHELI minifront – have now inherited not only the historical role held up to now by MAPAM – that of the “Socialist-Zionist” force in Israel – but also the latter’s eternal problem: to remain inside or outside of the ruling Establishment?

MOKED’s right-wing, led by the party’s organizer Yair Tzaban, hopes to be able to join a coalition with the Alignment, or part of it, in the Ninth Knesset. The left-wing, about 30% of MOKED’s membership only, is against this “Turn Rightwards”. Both groups are held in check by the Party’s only Knesset Member now. General (res.) Dr Meir Pail. The right wing would like to replace Pail with Kibbutznik Ran Cohen, a Reserve Officer in the Israeli Army.

Knesset Member Marcia Freedman, who left Alony’s Civil Rights’ List to join Eliav’s formation, now has also left Eliav to create the new Women’s Party. In her statement to the press, Freedman declared: “....Men sit in the seats of power and control every aspect of our lives – our bodies, our ideas, our, aspirations, even our feelings the struggle for full equality is one which only we can wage for ourselves – no one else will do it for us”. (ISRALEFT 1 March).

It is as yet unclear whether the Women’s Party will remain outside the newly formed SHELI front. Without it, estimates by knowledgeable observers state, SHELI may get as many as five or as little as two Knesset Members.