Israel’s ‘Deterioration’ Has Actually Been Going on for a Long Time

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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The Iron Dome operating this week
The Iron Dome operating this weekCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

Without knowing how the fighting would develop as I wrote this late last week, the word being repeated in the media seemed to be “deterioration.” “A deterioration of the situation,” “a sudden deterioration,” “a deterioration in the south.”

There’s something mesmerizing about this word, in the profound passivity it implies, in its ability to create a feeling of a reality devoid of context and responsibility, something that arises out of nothing and isn’t going anywhere, something just crumbling like a rock in the desert.

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It’s not purely by chance that this is the word being used by the media – which serves the government – when seeking to describe the current state of affairs. With this language, the media numbs the mind that tries to understand, to ask, to draw conclusions, to criticize.

The media whispers the magic word – deterioration – and all the listener can do is nod in submission. But actually, anyone paying a little attention to the situation in the past month, and certainly anyone paying attention for years as crumb by crumb accumulated, knows that the current situation is practically anything but a passive deterioration devoid of context and cause.

How can one talk of “sudden deterioration” when things have been seething for a month and everyone with any understanding of the complex story has been shouting that this is exactly what the result would be? How can one talk of “sudden deterioration” when for years life in Israel’s Arab communities has been a nightmare, with murders almost daily, while we go on with our affairs as if it were no big deal? Did we think this would never reach us? That this violence had no wider implications?

How can one talk of “sudden deterioration” without recalling that for a brief moment a Palestinian election was scheduled, after who knows how many years of totalitarianism, and that in a flash this vote was postponed on pretexts based on the desire to maintain power and tyranny? Has this outrageous decision received due attention? Have we on the Israeli left ever raised an outcry about Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian tyranny in the West Bank?

And how can one talk of “sudden deterioration” when for more than two years now Israeli politics has been a total quagmire, when trust in the system is at an all-time low, when so many proposals for one type of accord or another are stuck in the rusty pipeline and far-rightists are inflaming the atmosphere unhindered?

As has been written here again and again: Everything is interconnected. These examples are only a small part of a large cloth. All of us, on every side, have to ask ourselves: Is it really possible to ignore the fact that the “deterioration” is occurring just as Israel is on the brink of a change in government?

And what does this say about the Israeli government, the prime minister and the right wing when Hamas is actively working to keep this team – the supposedly strong and patriotic ones – in power? What does it mean that the Palestinian Authority is lending a hand to this? What mix of interests is served by all this? What about the general interest of the military force – on both sides – that was irrelevant over the past year amid the challenges of the coronavirus? And what about the deep erosion in trust and national feeling?

As the Prophet Amos cried: “Will two walk together, except they have agreed? Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion give forth his voice out of his den, if he have taken nothing? Will a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where there is no lure for it? Will a snare spring up from the ground, and have taken nothing at all? Shall the horn be blown in a city, and the people not tremble?”

The basic assumption of every Israeli who fears for this place must be that everything that’s happening here derives from interests largely hidden, and that, to one degree or another, it all serves other forces, not the average Israeli. All people who refuse to see this and chatter about a “sudden deterioration” are consciously abandoning their freedom and ours.

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