Opinion

Against the Occupation? You’re Bitter

Opponents of the Netanyahu regime in Israel are cast as miserable losers who must be removed before they infect the country with their feebleness

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaning on a can of pickles (hamutzim).
From the Prime Minister's Twitter account

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now lays claim to the word hamutzim, meaning sourpusses, to denigrate his political opponents. But the tactic isn’t a new one for the extreme right, which has become a majority in Israel’s Jewish population. Opposition to far-right rule isn’t about the standard of living in Israel; those who complain about the high cost of living here do not complain about the extreme right being in control of the government.

The same is true for opposition to corruption. To be far right is to support the perpetuation of the occupation and apartheid, and a willingness to harm and weaken democracy in order to allow the occupation to continue, as well as elevating religious values above democratic principles. This has nothing to do with the cost of housing or cottage cheese. Netanyahu will be replaced by an honest person who will perpetuate the occupation.

It is irrelevant to the opposition, which shrinks in the face of the far right, that the proverbial cabdriver is happy. Opposition to the extreme right is grounded in moral and ethical principles, not considerations of comfort and a desire to raise the happiness level of Israel’s Jews. Integrity, not joy, weighs in the balance.

The ethical position, which rejects unequivocally the continuation of the occupation and demands basic rights for Palestinians – including the right to vote and to be elected (whether in a binational framework of some kind or in a two-state solution is a practical issue, unrelated to the matter of principle) – is not affected by the question of how many times a year the average Israeli goes abroad or how good he has it here.

It is a demagogic manipulation to reduce those who oppose Netanyahu’s rule to being sour or embittered. It completely distorts their arguments – as if their opposition is the result of ignoring the contentment of Israeli Jews, or of a personality flaw that makes them focus on the negative and inflate it to the point where it assumes the weight of fact.

The majority reduces the political position of the minority to a depressive episode whose motivations are psychological, not ideological: to be against Netanyahu is to look at the world through dark glasses.

Habitual internet commenters often accuse those who are against religious indoctrination and the extreme right of being “bitter.” And so, a nonconformist who refuses to fall in line with “the people” is mentally ill in a way. And since the people who are against the occupation are always portrayed as traitors or enemies of the people, their conduct can be explained as a mental illness that causes damage to the sacred national unity and weakens the people. They must be silenced, by any means necessary. Legitimacy for this silencing begins with calling them “sour” or “bitter.”

Their only problem is that they’re hungover. In contrast to the bold and the beautiful who were chosen by God to rule the land, the sour-bitter hungover resisters are sick; they must be removed from the nation before they infect it with their feebleness.

Opponents of the regime are cast as miserable losers. You’re against the occupation? You’re just sour! You oppose creeping religious indoctrination? You’re bitter!

What does that mean? It means you belong to the minority; that you lost the battle for the character of the state; that you don’t have a chance to implement your policy in the government. In democracy, the minority has value. But in the authoritarian regime taking shape in Israel, it’s unnecessary. Surplus.

Social Darwinism has always been a facet of fascism. The people supporting Netanyahu are seen as strong and emotionally healthy, while his detractors are depicted as sick and weak, and that’s why they lost the battle for survival to the extreme right. According to this social Darwinism, the far right won because it is the strong and the good. (Indeed, Yigal Amir was stronger than Yitzhak Rabin.)