Once Again in Israel, Hate Meets Fear and Sanity Is Lost

Carolina Landsmann
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A torched police car in Lod, this week
Carolina Landsmann

“The silent majority is in shock and can’t believe its eyes,” President Reuven Rivlin said when asked to comment on the violent riots in Israel. This of course doesn’t mean that the silent majority is divorced from the situation, or shielded from it. The members of the silent majority hear the sirens and run into their shelters; the danger hovers over their heads and lands on some of them.

The silent majority can fall victim to a loud minority. I just received footage showing an Arab family fending off Jewish rioters trying to break into their home and harm them. The family that fell victim to violence is in the center of the drama, the situation forced them to participate, but still, we can see the silent majority in it. So what does it mean to be the silent majority?

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Rivlin was certainly referring to the shock that stuns anyone who watched the mob stampeding through the streets as in a trance, like someone directed by a frequency that the silent majority simply doesn’t hear. From where does this enormous energy flow, the kind that gets a group of people to run in unison and attack someone, punching and kicking in a rage that doesn’t end until the victim lies dead or half dead?

After all, we know how much energy is needed to leave the house to buy a carton of milk, so try to imagine how much energy is needed to answer a WhatsApp message from the La Familia group that invites you to take part in a pogrom. “Friend, we have a chance to get into their houses and stab them!!” The chain of actions requires an enormous accumulation of energy, like a volcano or tsunami wave, that the silent majority doesn’t seem to feel, that’s not channeled through it.

When this happens in someone’s personal life, we call it a crime of passion; the lover goes crazy with jealousy or a fear of abandonment and kills the person dearest to him or her – usually it’s described as temporary insanity. The silent majority doesn’t kill the person it loves when it’s rejected. In the nonpersonal, i.e. the political life, this accumulation of energy, this passion, is channeled into a hate crime. The group goes crazy with rage and kills a random victim, nothing personal – an Arab or a Jew, depending on who you hate.

Still, when we look carefully at what’s going on in the streets, it’s clear that the passion to destroy or kill doesn’t always burn inside those who have been going wild in the streets and dragging Israel into a civil war. Something ignited them at a specific point in history. What was it? What happened?

I’m not sure there’s enough historical perspective to answer this question. Still, a possible answer is related to one of the possible consequences of recent events: preventing cooperation between Jews and Arabs in the government. After four elections in two years, three indictments and – especially – one pandemic that managed to crack the Berlin Wall that separated Jews and Arabs and kept Arabs out of the cabinet room, Israel was its closest ever to a breakthrough. It wasn’t clear if this would be through a link-up with the right or the pro-change bloc.

It was almost like an intra-Israeli Oslo Accords, or at the very least an attempt to sign a memorandum of understanding. Didn’t a similar thing happen when the real Oslo Accords were signed, when the enemies of peace, the enemies of cooperation from both sides, spontaneously joined up to undermine the process? The energy in the streets looks like a reincarnation of the exact same energy from history, hate meeting fear, or fear meeting hate. It has caused groups to lose their sanity temporarily.

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