Avraham Burg and a New Israeli Progressive Party

In today’s Ha’aretz, Avraham Burg apparently announced the formation of a new party. His description of it:

“The party Israel Equality (Shivyon Yisrael ) – with the acronym Shai in Hebrew, gift – will fight for a state that will be a total democracy; everything else will be either personal or on the community level. The party will wrestle with the sanctimonious internal contradiction of “a Jewish and democratic state,” which means a great deal of democracy for

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg

the Jews and too much Jewish nationalism for the Arabs. It will be the party of those who are committed to the supreme universal and Israeli cultural values of human dignity, the search for peace and a desire for freedom, justice and equality.”

To be perfectly frank, that doesn’t just sound good, it sounds like precisely what Israel needs.

Over at Jewschool, the Kung Fu Jew expresses his skepticism. His concern is not with Burg’s ideology, but that the formation of another party will divide an already fatally divided Left in Israel. I understand that concern, but here it is misplaced.

The Israeli left is not just divided; in terms of political impact on Israeli policy, both foreign and domestic, it is non-existent. The extent to which the Israeli political system is responding to desires for peace or domestic justice and democracy can be measured by how much those desires are reflected in the mainstream parties. Meretz, Hadash, the Arab parties…none of them have the slightest impact on Israeli policy.

There simply is no progressive representation in Israel that matters. The causes of peace, democracy, human rights and universal values have been advanced, in any material sense, exclusively by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for years now. Meanwhile, the forces that wish to continue to marginalize Israel’s Arab sector, that wish to maintain the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that consider the Golan Heights more important than peace, and that wish to eliminate those very NGOs are strongly represented not only by avowedly right-wing parties, but with considerable representation in Kadima and Likud. Continue reading