Israel's Festival of Hatred Has to End

Rift between the crudely divided left and right, discovered during Gaza war and made so much deeper after last elections, is more frightening than Israel's outside enemies.

Reuters

Israel is on the brink, or perhaps already at the height, of a civil war. Ostensibly, as the prime minister put it, there’s an ideological abyss between the two camps, which can be crudely divided into right and left. Nevertheless, all the issues under dispute – territory, the status of the Supreme Court, discrimination against Arabs, the question of religion and state and more – are, despite being both numerous and important, no more than footnotes, dabs of color adorning the stark outline.

The truth is that a primeval folk hatred exists in Israel – the word “cultural” is too weak, as it depicts the phenomenon in a cool, sterile light – between the nationalist-traditionalist camp and the secular-liberal camp.

During Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer, I was less frightened by Hamas rockets than by the depth of the hatred that erupted here. “Not Hamas but the leftists are our biggest enemies,” many people wrote on social networks. And that’s a gentle example, albeit a distilled one, of the magnitude of the rift. And this despite the fact that even those who thought this war wasn’t their war, even those who believed that attacks on non-Jews were no less grave than attacks on our brothers in the south, even those who believed that children in Gaza, like children in Sderot, deserve to live, stood alongside their revilers in shelters and stairwells and called their relatives with fearful hearts to find out whether the soldier who was killed was their nephew, or the brother of a colleague.

Last month’s election tore open the barely-healed wound. Many members of the nationalist camp who didn’t want Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister voted for him nevertheless, because they wanted even less to bolster the white Ashkenazi Tel Aviv camp, which waged an ad hominem war of annihilation against Netanyahu. The leftists who felt as if they had been punished by a “tribal vote” indecipherable to them returned fire aggressively with their own weapons: op-eds and initiatives whose gist was separation from Israel’s periphery, and arrogance that was shocking in its tone-deafness, as reflected in the statements of various public figures.

It’s now impossible to wait in line at a Tel Aviv’s bar without getting into an argument with someone over whether Udi Pridan does or doesn’t represent the left, or whether Anat Waxman said what I really think. This violent seesaw never stops, its sharp movements only becoming more extreme.

Who are you really, you social-network warriors who wish death or deportation on all who think differently from you? And who are those people who think that 10 measures of wisdom and enlightenment were bestowed on them, and that all the rest, all those animals devoid of understanding, are waiting for you, in your goodness, to show them the way? Is this really how you’ve chosen to live your lives – in violence, constantly striking out, always waiting for the next blow that will recharge your hatred?

Many left-wing voters have no in-depth knowledge of Likud or right-wing voters, and vice versa. According to many members of each camp, the opposing camp’s members are faceless demons who want to destroy them.

My father, who used to put me up on his shoulders every Independence Day eve so that I could see the fireworks, is a sworn Likud voter. I ended up supporting the left. This fact, which stems from differing views in almost every realm, has led to explosions at many holiday meals and unbearable heartache. After the election results were announced, he consoled me, because he knew I was in pain. As we grew older, we learned to hate less, because time is short, and to spend it in hatred is a sin against the sanctity of life. I am anchored to him and he to me.

This conclusion isn’t a “false consciousness” or an emotional euphemism meant to serve as a Band-Aid. It’s a necessary practice, not only from a utilitarian standpoint, so that we can continue to live here together, but also from a moral standpoint, one that complies with both the humanistic values important to one side and the religious and Jewish values important to the other side.

Enough of this festival of hatred. Enough already!