Opinion

Illegal Bereavement

Last year's joint memorial service held in Tel Aviv.
Ofer Vaknin

Benjamin Netanyahu has denied entry to all Palestinians seeking to participate in the joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony, scheduled to be held in Tel Aviv this week on the eve of Memorial Day. The security excuse for doing this is the closure that has been imposed on the West Bank, but in previous years Palestinians have been permitted to enter Israel for the ceremony, after intervention of the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu is wily: The ban forces the organizers to appeal to the court, thus reinforcing its image as a leftist body. If the court overturns Netanyahu’s decision, then he can assault it for its leftiness. But beyond this tactical maneuver, how else may we interpret his directive? It discriminates between the bereavement of families who participate in official ceremonies, and the bereavement of Jewish families that participate in the alternative Israeli-Palestinian ceremony.

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For now Netanyahu is content with disturbing the ceremony by mistreating the Palestinian participants, who lack any civilian or other basic rights. They’re easy prey. But the message he’s giving the Jewish families is clear: The ceremony through which they wish to express their grief is not legitimate in Israeli society.

Hence, the Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony is not an alternative. It’s illegitimate – a ceremony conducted by opponents of the regime. Netanyahu has no respect for the bereavement of the Jewish families who participate and wants to censor their freedom of expression. What is this ceremony if not political expression? Netanyahu is trying to shape a regime that is unwilling to include any expression of opinion going against the opinion of the majority or the “state,” which is defined as those views that are totally identified with the majority.

After he removes the Supreme Court from his path by allowing the Knesset to override its decisions, Netanyahu can proceed to repress the minority in a more effective way. In his Israel, bereavement isn’t a private matter. It’s a national matter, governed by an official committee. Netanyahu is also paving the way to silence the Israeli left, claiming that its positions encourage murderous anti-Semitic attacks like those in Pittsburgh and San Diego. On the pages of his propaganda broadsheet Israel Hayom he is already conducting a blatant campaign of accusing the Israeli left and American “progressive Jews” of bearing responsibility for the deaths of Jews in anti-Semitic terror attacks. Without the protection of the court, Netanyahu can legislate laws that would ban the expression of opinions that incite to global anti-Semitic terrorism – in other words, left-wing opinions.

The opposition won’t complicate things for Netanyahu in this regard, only providing him with a tailwind to embitter the lives of the left-wing minority. “Opposition” leaders like Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon strongly support silencing organizations opposed to occupation and apartheid such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem – and defining Israel as an “apartheid state” is considered one of the main aids to murderous anti-Semitism. It is likely to be ranked first on the list of sayings that will be outlawed in Netanyahu’s Israel.

The Israeli-Palestinian memorial service will also be rejected as identified with the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. Furthermore, since it doesn’t distinguish between one side’s blood and the other’s, refusing to view Jewish blood as superior, the ceremony ruptures a consensus that has become a flagship of the new Israel: Jews are a supreme race. The proof: Netanyahu has not condemned the racist rabbis from pre-military academy in the settlement of Eli. They are legitimate.