Israel is making progress. It’s ashamed and is even beginning to protest. Only part of it, probably a minority, remains in its comfort zone; a new light seems to be breaking through the darkness.
All of a sudden they’re saying apartheid. They dare ask questions about Zionism. Now the term “Jewish-democratic” doesn’t seem so natural anymore. Something creaks when you utter these words. There’s some hesitation when you say “the only democracy.” The protest of the pampered marches on.
The rally Saturday night in Rabin Square was still within the confines of relative comfort and indulgence, but much less so than previous such events. It was two weeks after the LGBT community demonstrated in the same spot for equal surrogacy rights – under the sponsorship of Meitav Dash Investments. Then came the Druze community, the most privileged of Arabs but Arabs nevertheless, demonstrating for more meaningful equality, this time under the auspices of former heads of the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad and the army.
This is a hopeful development. It’s true that a demonstration for freedom, equality and fraternity under the helm of former defense chiefs is problematic, almost grotesque.
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When a former Shin Bet head like Yuval Diskin, a person responsible for despicable actions toward millions of people who have no rights, writes a pompous manifesto extolling “the value of equality,” “democratic protest” and “mutual respect,” reminding everyone that he’s the son of Holocaust survivors while talking about racism, it turns your stomach. The fact that most speakers at the rally were generals, both Jews and Druze, who during their service often brutally oppressed another nation, is also problematic.
It’s true that most of the Druze participants were demonstrating for their own interests, for the equality they believe is their due in return for their military service, without trying to serve as a bridgehead for a campaign championing equality for all, including Palestinians.
But we can’t ignore their contribution to the growing protest. Largely due to them the nation-state law has become possibly the most exciting civics lesson in Israel in recent years. Questions that were never asked are being raised, maybe only for a short time – yet this is really a shake-up. Maybe in response to the most ultra-nationalist government, a little opposition will finally make an appearance.
The elephant still stands silently in the middle of the room, with only a few daring to mention him, but some are throwing furtive glances at him. An establishment commentator on defense matters, Channel 10’s Alon Ben-David, has written that underlying the nation-state law is a strategic objective: “It paves the way for the annexation of millions of Palestinians and the loss of a Jewish majority. Will the law mark the beginning of the laying to rest of the Zionist dream?”
So we may be at the brink of an earthquake, more severe than the earthquake expected in Tiberias. The first signs on the seismograph have been noted. The road is still long, the agents of denial and propaganda are still well in control, but hope has been ignited.
Israel needs this shake-up so badly. We’ve had so many years mired in the muck amid the brainwashing, the lack of critical thinking and the civic indifference. We’ve had years of intoxication with power, moral arrogance, smugness and confidence that what was will continue, that everything is being done as it should be done and will continue forever. There has been a certainty that we’re right and the whole world is wrong. But maybe the time of doubts has arrived. There can be no better news.
Seventy years after the establishment of the state, the time has come for questions, for a real lesson in civics and democracy. Did we really deserve all this? Only we deserved it? Is it only ours? Is it only for Jews? By what right? Did all the non-Jewish people deeply connected to this land and who deserve the same rights, deserve everything we’ve done to them? Above all, hasn’t the time come to repair things?
This repair is still a long way off, but maybe it’s becoming clear that if it doesn’t arrive there won’t be a state here based on justice. Who knows, maybe Brig. Gen. Amal Assad, an occupation officer in Jenin and Lebanon and a Likud member, will herald the message: It’s apartheid or democracy.