Last week the March of Hope organized by Women Wage Peace ended in Jerusalem, after thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women walked for two weeks to demand under the slogan “We won’t stop until there’s a political agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians.
The march ended with a rally outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home, where participants were greeted by a strange sight: A black screen had been stretched across Balfour Street, separating them from the imperial residence. No metaphor here, there was an actual black screen. Obviously the barrier was not just meant to block the marchers from beholding the beauty of the residence, but to hide from its occupants the intolerable sight of citizens protesting peacefully.
Residents related that the screen is a relative innovation, employed during visits by VIPs. But the black curtain also came down on it was also used on Yom Kippur eve, presumably to protect the premier’s family as it walked home from the synagogue. Another local explained that the screen serves to conceal the arrangements of the motorcades. It all makes sense, but still — a black screen? What was wrong with the previous security arrangements? Is there a concrete threat to the prime minister and his family that did not exist before? And if so, how will a piece of black cloth protect them?
The continual tightening of security around Benjamin Netanyahu and his home generally flies below the radar and is reported, if at all, as an annoyance to the neighbors. The motorcades, the sirens, the roadblocks are all needed to protect the prime minister. But not the black curtain. In fact, it may be the most blatant illustration of the nature of Netanyahu’s interminable premiership.
A black curtain is especially fitting for the man who arranged for the dissolution of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and is now trying to bring down the curtain on the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, known as Kan, even before it goes on the air. It suits the man whose patron, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, almost darkened the screens of Israel Channel 10 television in 2011 by threatening to sue for libel; who filed a personal libel suit against an Israeli journalist over a Facebook post and during whose tenure Palestinian and Israeli-Arab citizens Facebook users have been arrested for posts that are little different from those of right-wing Jewish extremists.
The black screen is appropriate to a prime minister who spends huge sums to address the United Nations (6.7 million shekels, or $1.74 million for one week in New York), but who sics his supporters on the director of B’Tselem who addressed a UN conference (without using taxpayers’ money); who make personal attacks on investigative journalists; who puts Israeli history through a meat grinder and removes it distorted and bent so as to memorialize his late father and his late brother.
According to British legend, the Tower of London remains standing thanks to a flock of ravens that live there. If they leave, the story goes, the tower will collapse.
Netanyahu believes that he is the one holding up the state. In 2002, a conversation his wife, Sara, had with a Likud activist was leaked to the media. In it, she said, “This country can burn; without Bibi the state won’t survive. We’ll move abroad.” Today, Netanyahu is the state, there is no one but him. And when the country starts to burn, there will be no need to move abroad; you can always put up a black curtain to hide it.
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