Israel's Social Protesters Mustn't Forget the Occupation

The highly polarized sentiments contained in this word turn the occupation into an invaluable electoral asset.

Why does the protest movement ban the word "occupation"? Because using that word would dramatically reduce the number of protesters; it would stir disagreement and splinter the movement. Such factionalism would turn the protest into a "political" entity and expunge its populist character.

So we have to ask questions about the occupation's other function, the one that complements "security needs" and "ideological fulfillment." It appears that the "no" implies a "yes" - that is, if it is forbidden to say "occupation" to avoid dividing the public into factions and disuniting the protest movement, it follows that the occupation's role is to divide the public and eliminate all possibility of protest against it.

The occupation is the means by which division and factionalism gain strength and preserve political power. The automatic way the public splits the moment the word is mentioned lets the heads of one of the two camps perpetuate their power with relative ease. After one faction gains the ability to forge a government, it gathers together sectors with narrow partisan interests and sends its leader to serve as prime minister. The occupation enables the government to have its way with matters that have nothing to do with events in the territories; any complaint about socioeconomic matters that might turn into a popular protest, as in the current case, threatens to fade away when it confronts the word that can't be said.

The highly polarized sentiments contained in this word turn the occupation into an invaluable electoral asset. The use of appropriate ideological and biblical trappings conjure up a historical-ideological ambience; this transforms the occupation into a political asset that can never be forfeited, even if conceding it would improve the lives of the people who suffer under it. A built-in conflict of interests has been created between the government's interest in perpetuating it and the humanitarian arguments seeking its end.

It's no accident that the outlines of extreme capitalism, a policy based on the continual splintering of society due to competition among people, is inherent within the occupation. Anyone who travels around the West Bank and the Jordan Valley can witness capitalism's geographic manifestations. Cantonization, the proliferation of checkpoints and the bureaucratic control of traffic are all components of separation designed to make survival difficult and perpetuate control by the central authority.

Also, the "free market," one of the main topics addressed by the protest movement, is linked to the process of division and splintering. Alongside the chaos inherent in the concept "market," there is the ironic use of the word "free" - the worker is forced to compete against his peers at any given moment knowing that the victory of one means the defeat of the other. Can the term "free" really be applied to principles that advocate constant competition and struggle for survival between individuals?

During his first term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used phrases that exposed his tendency to divide parts of the population to bolster his authority. ("Leftists have forgotten what it means to be Jews," "They are afraid," and so on ). Since then, he has learned an important Machiavellian lesson: Do what you think, but say whatever the public wants to hear. This has made his current term far more destructive. Instead of whispering words of disunity and polarization into the ears of Shas' aged religious leaders, he has, with the help of people such as MKs David Rotem and Zeev Elkin, devoted himself to acts that divide the population.

The current protests stem from feelings of isolation that are based on the splintering of Israeli society. The occupation, the symbol of that disunity, is not mentioned in the tent camps because it threatens to eclipse the protest. This ongoing paradox spells its ultimate demise.