Right wingers in Israel have a delightful pastime. They wait for someone to protest the rising extremism, the violence, the muzzling and the weakening of democracy and then they come out with a triumphant cry: “The very fact that you can openly say what you’re saying shows how democratic Israel is! Let’s see you talk like this in Syria.”
Since the civil war in Syria began, it has become an even more attractive destination than Gaza for relocating anyone who doesn’t think that house at Balfour Street 14 is registered under Netanyahu’s name. Here you have unarmed 15-year-olds who are shot? There you have 1-year-old children who are gassed like you-know-where. Here you have Knesset members tweeting in support of kneecapping a girl for slapping a soldier? In Syria she wouldn’t have managed to get close to one – an Assad bomber would have descended on her from above. Here the government maliciously incites against citizens? In Syria there are no more mouths left to muzzle or ears to hear. So be thankful you’re not in Syria. Oh Syria, I love you.
All the right wingers making comparisons with Syria elegantly skirt one issue: Is Syria the model Israel wishes to emulate? Just recently, during the 70th celebrations that have barely subsided, we read and heard day and night how wondrous Israel is – the jewel in the global crown. It has high-tech and Eurovision, drones and Omri Casspi, Gal Gadot and Natalie Por ... never mind. All year long we’re inundated with relentless messages of success and victory over the gentiles. We’re the best, better than America and definitely better than Europe. If the GINI equality index or OECD poverty stats tell a different story, it’s because of George Soros.
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On one hand, Israel is always the champion and the CSKA Moscow basketball team is always defeated. Israel is an empire whose long arm can reach anywhere on the globe. But the same Israel is also a perennial and miserable victim, a scraggy Jewish child with arms raised as he exits the bunker. Israel will always push itself up front when it comes to cyber and cherry tomatoes, just like Netanyahu did in that march in Paris, in order to stand alongside the enlightened nations of the world. But as soon as it is asked who gave it VIP status and what about the millions of Palestinians without human rights, then, peeping from behind its decorous suit, it goes on the offensive.
Who are you anyway, we didn’t hear you while Assad was murdering thousands of children, so shut up (and pray we don’t sell weapons to your enemies. Just ask the Rohingya). In none of our neighboring countries could you ask such questions and remain alive so that you could carp about it on Facebook. And it’s not just among our neighbors: Anyone speaking ill of Putin, for example, may find himself targeted by polonium, even if they’ve lived in London for 20 years.
Once, during a particularly upsetting debate with someone on the right about the asylum seekers, he claimed, “Your own poor come first,” followed by, “Why aren’t you worried about the Syrian refugees?” Thus, in the same breath, came the ultimate reason for doing nothing (since who are our own poor but the ones the right wing will never look after, only using them as a pretext for not acting on other issues), followed immediately by a glorious display of shaking off any responsibility. What do they want from us? All we want to do is live our lives. Let’s see you do that in Syria.
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