Opinion

How Israel Really Cleaned for Passover

Israeli police didn’t search for bread or clean cooking utensils for the holiday, but they cleaned up our streets

File photo: Armed Israel Police officers.
Olivier Fitoussi

Ahead of Passover, along with all observant Jews in this country, the police embarked on “Operation Leaven Removal” (“biur hametz” in Hebrew.) They didn’t search for bread or clean cooking utensils for the holiday, but they cleaned up our streets. The police were so proud of this new operation that its spokesman disseminated an email to the media on the subject, with an accompanying video clip.

Border Police commander Maj. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai told how 2,300 policemen and volunteers from all units took part in this campaign. Shabtai didn’t rush to explicitly point out the purpose of the operation and to explain who the leaven was and how it was removed, but the photos did the job: torchlights in hand, festive command posts and undercover policemen emerging from their cars, pouncing on workers without permits in the middle of the day, surprising the leaven at the least-expected moment.

The Israel Police located and cleansed the country of Palestinians without work permits. This was the mission of “Operation Leaven Removal.” This isn’t the first time Israel’s security forces picked a provocative name for their operations, but this time it seems they outdid themselves, in complete concordance with the Israeli mindset.

Palestinians, whether illegally here or citizens, were never really wanted in the Jewish state but today, their presence among us, just like that of other non-Jews, is forbidden and dangerous, requiring extirpation. For the benefit of the purity of the Jewish nation not even a single crumb of leaven-Palestinians may be left here.

An armed operation bearing the name “Operation Leaven Removal” is not something new. In fact, the use of this term will mark its 70th anniversary soon: It is 70 years since the Haganah set out on “Operation Leaven” to expel the Palestinians from major cities. Removing the leaven is meant to get rid of filth. Using it as a parable for getting rid of human beings is part of a dark pit containing severe expressions of hatred throughout history.

More than anything else, this operation, from the choice of its name to the dissemination of news about it to the public, can be viewed as a disgusting corollary of the oxymoron “Jewish and democratic,” which defines and legitimizes the racist country we are maintaining, one that justifies its actions in a religious ideological context, with a resultant obligation of removing the leaven, of catching every Palestinian.

This is the observation of Israel’s military doctrine, in a society that sanctifies its security at the expense of the means used to obtain it.Thus, from the linkage between ultra-nationalism and religion comes a feeling of constant persecution, in which paranoia becomes the default option. Thus, every non-Jew becomes an existential threat, yet another enemy arising to annihilate us. Dangers lurk around every corner, which is why the sword, unsheathed in any case, is put to use daily.

When anxiety is greater than compassion, when hatred is larger than decency, when the security forces present Israeli violence as a Jewish religious obligation, pulling the trigger becomes much more natural – today near the border fence, aiming at Palestinians, tomorrow at asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv and ultimately, when it comes, at our doorsteps.

This is but one more sin, perpetrated in our names this Passover. Israelis must understand that even the pursuit of security has its limits and that our country exceeds them time after time, in the name of the rights given our forefathers, in the name of the belief that we’re a chosen people and under the shadow of the historic trauma that led to our independence.