The Israeli-Palestinian joint memorial ceremony is growing from year to year, but along the way it has established itself as a magnet for incitement, incrimination and persecution of leftists.
It’s not just Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in his role as defense minister blocked the entrance of some 100 Palestinians from the territories who wanted to attend the ceremony and afterward lashed out at the High Court of Justice, who did the minimum expected of a democratic country. It’s not just his son, who called the bereaved families who attend the ceremony “mentally ill.” It’s the whole right wing, which in recent years has attacked the ceremony, which took place for the 14th year, with pursed lips and furious rage.
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This ceremony drives the right crazy, as demonstrated by its pathetic representatives who stood – as every year, like a backdrop pressed into service – wrapped in flags and went wild outside. I tried to get near them so I could see them up close, but one of the private security guards hired for the event warmly suggested that I keep my distance because “They’re violent and throw stones.”
Indeed, when I tried to approach, a pretty full and heavy water bottle sailed very close to my head, along with a message, “Hey you leftist bitch, you should die.”
Despite the narcissistic difficulty of detaching myself from this rather magical moment, I must admit that the repertoire was richer and included mainly more rhythmic and orderly calls like, “A Jew is a soul, an Arab is an S.O.B.,” “Leftists, go to Gaza,” “We won’t light a candle for your dead,” and of course, “Death to Arabs,” and “They should burn your village.”
Despite this disgraceful performance, despite the shame of people cursing those who have lost what’s most precious to them and the shame of having future Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir take part, despite the fear that indeed exists, one can also see the weakness.
When I arrived to the generously spread out lawns of Park Hayarkon, in truly beautiful Tel Aviv, I no longer wondered why a person would spend Memorial Day eve behind a fence just to curse bereaved families and others. I no longer wondered why they would want to stand cordoned off throughout the ceremony – and even afterwards – screaming and honking bicycle horns.
They wanted to invade this space and touch the audience there. Though their intention is to hurt, they still want to reach this audience – mostly Ashkenazi, well-off, educated and cultured – who to the demonstrators' dismay, prefer even Arabs to them.
Leah Shakdiel, a religious-Zionist woman and an activist who spoke at the ceremony, admitted that she was a strange bird as someone who was harnessing her faith to recognize the suffering of another people and the struggle for universal justice and welfare. She told me that she had been detained at the entrance. The shocked security people were afraid to allow her and her kippa-wearing husband, who had come from the southern city of Yeruham, to enter.
And yes, the Arab representation was more numerous on the stage than in the audience. Most of the audience was from the left, the cultural elite that is currently fighting for its life, which has no connection to the demonstrators outside, as if they were residents of two different galaxies.
As I sat inside, I asked myself who was essentially being fenced off here. Was it the demonstrators outside who have no way of communicating with this audience except by spitting and throwing things? Or was it the audience inside - the leftists, the remaining opponents of the occupation, who will soon lose even that shaky defense and be abandoned to the angry mob.