Are we listening to ourselves? Are we still aware of the awful noise coming from here? Have we noticed how the discourse is becoming more and more violent and how the language of force has just about become Israel's only official language?
A group of international activists is slated to sail a flotilla to the shores of the Gaza Strip. Many of them are social activists and fighters for peace and justice, veterans of the struggle against apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, pointless wars and injustice. Just stating that is difficult here, since they have already been described as thugs.
There are intellectuals, Holocaust survivors and people of conscience among them. When they fought against apartheid in South Africa or the war in Vietnam, they won admiration for their actions even here. But to say an admiring word now about these people, some of whom are elderly, who are risking their lives and investing their money and time for a goal they see as just, is considered treason. It's possible that some violent people have intermingled with them, but the vast majority are people of peace, not haters of Israel but those who hate its injustices. They have decided not to remain silent - to challenge the existing order, which is unacceptable to them, which cannot be acceptable to any moral person.
Yes, they want to create a provocation - the only way to remind the world about Gaza's situation, in which no one takes an interest unless Qassam rockets or flotillas are involved. Yes, the situation in Gaza has improved in recent months, in part because of the previous flotilla. But no, Gaza is still not free - far from it. It has no outlet to the sea or air, there are no exports, and its inhabitants are still partially imprisoned. Israelis who freak out if Ben-Gurion International Airport shuts down for two hours should be able to understand what life without a port is like. Gaza is entitled to its freedom, and those aboard the flotilla are entitled to take action in an effort to achieve this. Israel should be allowing them to demonstrate.
But look at how Israel is reacting. The flotilla was described immediately, by everyone, as a security threat; its activists were classified as enemies, and there was no doubt cast on the ridiculous assumptions that defense officials are making and the press has lapped up eagerly. We haven't heard the last of the campaign to demonize the previous flotilla, in which Turkish citizens were killed for no reason, yet the new campaign has already begun. It has all the buzzwords: danger, chemical substances, hand-to-hand combat, Muslims, Turks, Arabs, terrorists and maybe some suicide bombers. Blood and fire and pillars of smoke!
The unavoidable conclusion is that there is only one way to act against the passengers aboard the flotilla: by force, and only by force, as with every security threat. This is a recurring pattern: first demonization, then legitimization (to act violently ). Remember the tall tales about sophisticated Iranian weaponry coming through arms-smuggling tunnels in Gaza, or those about how the Strip was booby-trapped? Then Operation Cast Lead came along and the soldiers hardly encountered anything like that.
The attitude toward the flotilla is a continuation of the same behavior. The campaign of scare tactics and demonization is what contributes to the violent rhetoric that is taking over the entire public discourse. For what will Israelis think about when they are spoon-fed scary stories about the flotilla, if not about the use of force? Those activists want to kill Israel Defense Forces soldiers? We'll arise and kill them first.
Now the politicians, the generals and the commentators are competing with one another over who can provide the most frightening description of the flotilla, who can most inflame the public, who can best praise the soldiers who will save us, and who can deliver the most pompous rhetoric of the kind one would expect before a war. One important commentator, Dan Margalit, has already waxed poetic in his newspaper column: "Blessed are the hands," he wrote of the hands that sabotaged one of the ships meant to take part in the flotilla. That's another thuggish and illegal action, one that wins immediate applause here, without anyone asking: By what right?
This flotilla, too, will not get through. The prime minister and the defense minister have promised us this. Once again Israel will show them, those activists, who's more of a man - who's strongest and who's in charge, in the air, on land and at sea. The "lessons" of the previous flotilla have been learned well - not the lessons of the pointless killing or the violent and unnecessary takeover of the ship, but of the humiliation of Israel's military.
But the truth is the real humiliation lies in the fact that naval commandos were deployed to intercept the ships in the first place, and that is something that reflects on us all: how we have become a society whose language is violence, a country that seeks to resolve nearly everything by force, and only by force.
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