Analysis

It’s No Crime to March for Peace

In the current atmosphere of fear and ideological corruption, it’s a crime to march for peace. It’s a crime to consider the Arabs human beings

Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel  August 11, 2018.
REUTERS/Ammar Awad

The demonstration Saturday night against the nation-state law was marvelous, full of hope and inspiration. The people who were there know. The people who were there know that the heart of the matter is not a tally of Palestinian flags or the handful of people singing songs of incitement, but rather the tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs who want peace, equality and democracy, who marched together warmly and hopefully.

Those who were there  – at one of the most gentle, dignified and quiet demonstrations ever seen here – opened Israel’s popular newspapers on Sunday, to see the lie splashed across the page in giant headlines. The lie that reverberates shamefully through the Israeli media, repeating caricatures of fascism that are the ministers in Israel’s government. The shocking headlines screamed,“Palestinian flags in Tel Aviv.” So what if some people raised Palestinian flags? There were Israeli flags and gay pride flags and red flags too.

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A Palestinian flag was placed in the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem when the Palestinian president visited. There’s nothing wrong with that. The headlines screamed despicable slogans shouted by a few extremists. History will recall the disgrace of those ministers and that so-called “journalism,” the disgrace of the shameless inciters and their loyal servants, the cowards of the herd. 

Where are the families that marched together, parents and children, hand in hand? Where are the Holocaust survivors who marched, the women who stood silently holding signs, the gay people with their flags, the drummers, the young people? Where are all of those, who were the sane, vast, peace-seeking majority, trying to flee with the last of their strength the burden of racism imposed on them by this government? 

I was there. I saw them with my own eyes. I saw and heard them, and not those who shouted: “In blood and fire we will free Palestine.” At the very least, they have to be mentioned too, if we’re dealing with truthful reporting (we have had no expectations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shoe-shiners for some time now).

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But in the current atmosphere of fear and ideological corruption, it’s a crime to march for peace. It’s a crime to consider the Arabs human beings. Even the Tel Aviv municipality issued a panicked statement that it had not lit up the municipality building in the colors of the Palestinian flag. How much fear the right wing has unleashed here. What violent psychological terror it is inflicting. 

Look at the embarrassed heads of the opposition, who are abandoning their friends who came courageously anyway. Look at Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid, who wondered in a tweet “what would happen to someone who tries to march through the center of Ramallah with Israeli flags.” Such figures, beyond how pathetic they are – after all, no right-winger is going to vote for such a grotesque figure – have been defined in history as destroyers of democracy. Lapid’s contribution to the destruction of Israel’s democracy is no less than that of Netanyahu, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and far-right activist “The Shadow.”

When will they understand, all those lickers of right-wing boots, that the Smotriches and the Netanyahus will never stop tarnishing their image. It doesn’t matter how far away they move from the shadow of an Arab in the street. When will they understand that the right wing will always know better how to incite, to target and to skewer with short messages lacking complexity or truth.

The issue is the nation-state law – the despicable race law blackening Israeli democracy, splitting Israeli society and removing Israel from the family of nations. This is the issue and this is the debate. Anyone who cooperates with the attempt to turn the gaze away from this, cooperates with the destruction of Israel and its transformation into a horrible place.