Before the democratic camp storms into another project to save Israeli democracy from the clutches of the next attacker in line – this time MK Ayelet Shaked, who wants to add a clause to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom that would permit the Knesset to stop defending human dignity and freedom – perhaps we should stop for a second and think about the strange dynamics between the right and left in Israel, and whether it really advances the cause of Israeli democracy.
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Israel has been ruling over the Palestinian people by force for 47 years. Most Israelis don’t know or can’t remember a life that doesn’t involve controlling another people. That may be why Israeli society has internalized this situation as normal and can judge and evaluate itself, its achievements, and its failures, totally divorced from its central characteristic of being an occupier. But all that is an illusion, of course. Every act of life, creativity, or growth on the soil of the occupation is an act of death, destruction, and shriveling. This is the tragedy of Israel’s existence – the skeleton in our closet is alive, the Palestinians are still very much with us.
Israeli democracy was enlisted in the occupation of the Palestinian people and has turned all its citizens into the state’s partners in crime. The fact that control of the Palestinian people is maintained by a democratic Israeli government increases the responsibility of every one of its citizens for what’s being done in their name. After all, if there was a dictatorship here, at least we could say in our defense, “What could we have done?” “It was dangerous.” “We feared for our lives and those of our children.” But what words will defend us in the history books? This is a difficult situation, since the more democratic the state is, the more guilt we bear for the evils it commits.
It’s therefore no surprise that the left has taken to portraying the right’s control of government as a dictatorship. Only thus can it continue to murmur “what can we do?” instead of paying the price necessary to force a real change in the Israeli reality. Because what does it mean to be democratic? Are we expected to defend the state’s anti-democratic policies in the name of democracy? Are we expected to defend those who took democracy, stripped it of its soul, presented us with a corpse of a concept and expect us to rejoice in it, as if it was still a living creature? To those who believe this, we must declare that we aren’t necrophiles. If that’s what Israeli democracy has become, we don’t want it anymore.
Whoever is worried about Israel’s democracy must sever its connection to the occupation of the Palestinian people. It is political treachery to voluntarily defend the current regime from the ramifications of its policies. The latest example was the effort to foil the Swedish and British parliaments’ symbolic recognition of the Palestinian state. The camp that opposes the occupation must stop acting as a brake on the natural consequences of continuing the occupation.
On the contrary, one must allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his gang to slide down the slippery slope toward which he is leading the country. They want to build settlements? Let them build. Do they want to restrict the High Court of Justice? Let them restrict it. In fact, let the Supreme Court justices resign. Do they want to set the entire world against us? Let them. Link the Islamic State to Hamas? Go ahead. Do they want to see what will happen when the impoverished masses have nothing to lose? Or what happens when an occupied people has all its avenues of activity blocked? With pleasure, let them see.
It’s painful to accept, but it may be that only when the right crashes into the ground of reality – that is, when it runs the country into the ground of reality – will the conditions finally be ripe for political change and the possibility of being a free people in our land.