My parents had an acquaintance, a Holocaust survivor. Many years ago, when the first Volkswagen cars arrived in Israel, the man rushed to buy himself a Beetle. I approached him with the insolence and pretention of a child. How is it possible that you, of all people, are not ashamed to buy a car made in Germany? He didn’t say anything, but the look he gave me is still burning my flesh to this very day.
One of the lessons I have learned is that shame in one person's eyes can be the right thing to do in another person's eyes. A Palestinian laborer building a home in a settlement is expected to be ashamed of himself, but he isn't: He is proud of his work. A politician caught red-handed is expected to express regret, but he doesn’t: He rushes to blame others. A model who forgot to pay the required taxes is expected to take a break, but she doesn’t: She still stars on the billboards.
What am I referring to? To the foolish bill approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs. The bill requires representatives of NGOs which receive more than 50 percent of their budget from foreign governments to wear a special badge when they visit the Knesset, indicating the source of their income.
The assumption of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who proposed the law, is that the badge will shame those wearing it; that is also the assumption of the NGOs, which are fighting the bill with all their might.
I believe both sides are wrong: The badge will become a source of pride, like a peacock's feathers, like a beauty queen's crown. The prime minister's son had a fictitious girlfriend from Norway, the NGO representative will say; I have a real girlfriend in Norway. The evidence is that she sends me a lot of money.
Last week, I met with Yehuda Shaul, the founder and leader of Breaking the Silence, the main target of the Right's de-legitimization campaign. "You know what's ironic?" he asked, immediately replying: "We probably won't have to wear badges. In 2016, the participation of foreign governments in our budget will drop below 50 percent."
The law, if approved in the Knesset, will provide further ammunition for the West's criticism of Israel: It will be its only outcome. It will be a simple argument: Israel can't complain about the labeling of products from the territories while it labels human rights activists in the Knesset. Labeling vs. labeling, a badge vs. a badge. The Israeli government is only spoiling things for its own country.
Nonetheless, the Israeli Left has a good reason to be ashamed of itself, a huge reason. Why, the leftists should ask themselves, are all these NGOs in need of foreign funds? Where are they, where are all the good Israelis who are convinced that the ongoing occupation will destroy the State? Where is their money, where is their head, where are their feet? Where are the Zionist Union voters, the Meretz voters, the Lapid voters, the Joint Arab List voters?
After all, there are very rich people and wealthy people among them, very available people and smart people. Why do they expect Sweden's government to fight their battle against the Right?
The answer appears to be complicated. Part of it has to do with the reluctance of some Israelis to give donations. The ultra-Orthodox donate a lot; so do the national-religious. The seculars donate less.
Another part of it has to do with the bad reputation of the Left, created by the Right. A person whose name is published for donating money to Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem or the Association for Civil Rights will be considered a traitor in some circles and a radical leftists in other circles. People are afraid to be exposed.
That may be the real nature of most left-wing voters: They are not built for wars. They prefer to leave the wars to the State's institutions, to Knesset members, to satire shows, to some journalists who have not been corrupted yet, and unfortunately to foreign governments as well.
Unfortunately, that is no longer enough. Not under the current government's rule. The balance between different targets, between different sectors, has been violated. The rules of the games have changed and continue to change before our eyes. The future belongs to those who fight for their outlook, not to those who sit complacently in their good homes and expect others to do their job for them.