For Israel's government, we are insignificant beings
When we, who live in a democracy, do stand up against something, write articles opposing it and demonstrate against it, our protests have no effect.
On Saturday I read the article by novelist David Grossman, which appeared in Haaretz's Hebrew edition over the weekend, following a report about injured Palestinian who was left to die on the side of the road after police officers dumped him near an intersection in the middle of the night.
How come I didn't think of writing about that news report, I asked myself. The details seem familiar, I thought as I read the Grossman piece, so maybe I had read the original article. But it is also possible that it sounded familiar because it's just like so many other tales of encounters between Palestinian detainees and the police or the army.
Whether I had read the original article or not, I had done that not entirely conscious action of pushing it away from my mind, blocking it, and looking the other way, because who could possibly stand it?
You see that headline, "Left to die at the side of the road," and you know it's awful, you know there's nothing you can do about it, the helplessness drives you out of your mind, and your soul simply cuts through it all and, without further deliberation, pushes the bad news aside and moves on.
Because really, what's the point? Yesterday I took part in a Geneva Initiative panel entitled "Where did the peace go?" But peace has never been here. So what if an entire people is groaning under our occupation? So what if we're being crushed under our own occupation? So what if the public is demonstrating, in dwindling numbers, against the occupation, or for a peace agreement? So what if many people good and true have been writing for 40 years to warn of the strategic, moral and existential dangers of occupation?
True, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought the situation to a head. But the truth is that aside from Yitzhak Rabin, every prime minister before him either didn't negotiate with the Palestinians at all or did so with a "take it or leave it" attitude. If it works out – good, If it doesn't - also good. That feeling, that a peace agreement is a luxury, is so prevalent that for the first time since 1967, not a single party is raising the banner of peace. Not even Labor, which is supposed to be the leader of the peace camp, in theory at least. And then you get up one morning and discover, too, that the planned changes to the construction industry that Netanyahu announced a year and a half ago, when the housing crisis had just started to gain momentum, is bad indeed - as bad as had been expected. It limits people's ability to object to development projects that cause them harm, restricts their chances of receiving compensation for this harm, and facilitates the expropriation of land (land belonging to Jews, within the Green Line - yes, yes, it's spreading ). It's great for wealthy developers and makes housing even more expensive for the 99%.
And this is less than six months after nearly the entire country, it seemed, came out in person to demonstrate against precisely this issue. If you've read the fine print on the construction proposal, you know that the prime minister is basically telling us to get off his back. And if you're still bothered about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the occupation, then you know Netanyahu's bottom line is: Leave me alone.
Every time we read or learn or think about undemocratic regimes, we ask with frustration and lack of comprehension: How did they let it happen? Why didn't they stand up against it? How come they didn't write or protest, or sound the alarm?
And then here we are, supposedly in a democracy, do stand up against it all, we write, we demonstrate – the government doesn't throw me in jail and secret agents don’t threaten my life and still it has no effect.
The nationalist-capitalist system in Israel has much more sophisticated ways of shutting us up. It turns us, the 99% of this country, into transparent, insignificant beings.
We pinch ourselves and it hurts; we're awake, we exist, we demonstrated all summer and notching changes. We are the silver platter on which the next Jewish state is being built, one which its Jewish morality has no problem with controlling another people. One about whom others will ask: Why didn’t they stop it? How did they let it happen?