Opinion

Is Israel's ‘Second Wave’ a Much Milder One?

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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People wearing masks near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on June 23, 2020.
People wearing masks near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on June 23, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

The coronavirus is influencing Israeli life more than any other factor right now. Over the past three months it served the government as an excuse for Shin Bet tracking and the denial of basic democratic rights, on the grounds that the closure was needed to save lives and prevent the collapse of the health system.

It also served as an excuse to establish a false “emergency” government, which utterly swallowed the alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu, the criminal suspect who was authorized to serve as prime minister, and as cover for turning the annexation plan that will create a binational apartheid state into official policy. The virus has also caused one of the country’s most serious economic crises, including a rise in unemployment from 3.4 percent to over 26 percent, with more than 1 million people out of work.

Further, the virus is causing ongoing uncertainty. People are afraid because the government is threatening that at any moment it can order them back into lockdown. Basic civic freedoms are now conditional. Within three months there has been a revolution of consciousness; residents have internalized their existential situation: helplessness before the regime, which can, based on its own judgment, crush their livelihoods, their spirits and the rules of the game they’ve lived by since they were born. And all of this – for what?

The claim that this is much ado about nothing is being referred to by the media – which is no more than a tool for fanning the panic – as “coronavirus denial.” The media seems to think there is very little difference between Holocaust denial and coronavirus denial, as if both involve a refusal to acknowledge facts that are documented and proven beyond all doubt. But while that definition is valid with regard to Holocaust denial, the label “coronavirus denial” is meant to silence opposition to steps the government is taking under the guise of fighting the virus, by portraying opponents as somewhat insane.

Who are the crazies here? At this point it’s hard to know what coronavirus actually is in Israel (and I stress, in Israel) – an illness whose danger is similar to that of the flu, or a mass neurosis causing as much damage as a totalitarian coup.

A medical worker at Magen David Adom Blood Services holds blood samples, in Sheba Medical Center Hospital near Tel Aviv, June 1, 2020.
A medical worker at Magen David Adom Blood Services holds blood samples, in Sheba Medical Center Hospital near Tel Aviv, June 1, 2020.Credit: AFP

It was reported that during a cabinet meeting Netanyahu banged his fists on the table and shouted, “The ships are coming!” and “The pandemic is returning.” What ships are you talking about, you hysterical diva? On June 15 there were 25 coronavirus patients on ventilators (or intubated) in Israel, compared to 23 on June 27. There were 35 patients in serious condition on June 15, and 41 on June 27. There were 299 deaths as of June 6, and 318 deaths as of June 28. The rate of deaths and intubations is low.

We can continue to diagnose and track and cut chains of infection and close cities and schools like zombies in a trance. The bottom line is, where is the danger? Where was it three months ago and two months ago, and where is it now?

Citizens of Israel, where’s your intelligence? They fool you once – shame on the government. They fool you twice, shame on you. The incidence of infection during this “second wave” is less serious than during the first. According to experts, it’s certainly possible that the virus has mutated, since the variety that causes milder symptoms has an evolutionary advantage over the variety that produces severe symptoms that lead to quarantine.

Perhaps during the summer the virus is weaker. Perhaps the average age of those infected has dropped. But even during the winter, ostensibly at the pandemic’s peak, there was no justification for the lockdown.

During the coming winter there will be hundreds of ventilated patients in internal medicine departments who will contract other winter viruses that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. A lockdown from November to February will save thousands of people. There’s never a shortage of reasons for a closure. Beware of the “state” that’s trying to “protect” you. There’s absolutely no reason to agree to another lockdown.