The Palestinian Authority is the best thing that ever happened to the Israeli right. Any doubts about such an assertion evaporate instantly when one watches a series of reports, aired this week by the newly established Kan public network, marking the 30th anniversary of the first intifada.
- Palestinian involved in Breaking the Silence scandal: I was arrested and beaten by Border Police
- How Israel avoided breaking the silence about the occupation
- If you served in the army, you know: Breaking the Silence is telling the truth
They depict the reality that existed before the Oslo Accords, before the advent of the Palestinian Authority when Israeli soldiers clashed daily and directly with thousands of Palestinian assailants and hundreds of thousands of their supporters. In those days, it was hard to conceal the occupation. In those days, everyone was Dean Issacharoff, the spokesman of Breaking the Silence, whose recent portrayal of his own assault as an Israel Defense Forces soldier on a Palestinian detainee in Hebron is now the focus of national controversy.
How times have changed since then. Now there is a PA that relieves IDF soldiers of most of its need to confront Palestinians. Now there is a harsh right-wing government in Israel that wants to beautify the occupation, and if possible, to make it vanish from Israeli minds altogether.
So now it’s acceptable to take one solitary combat soldier, such as Issacharoff – who seeks to protest the occupation by relaying his experiences as an occupier – and to depict him as an exception that proves the rule. He is being turned into a scapegoat that “shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited,” as the Book of Leviticus prescribes. One person is stained, but the entire community is absolved. One will be condemned, and everyone else can get back to turning a blind eye, as usual.
To her credit, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was the first to recognize the potential in Issacharoff’s testimony. Shaked realized that it’s a win-win situation for her and her radical-right fans. Either Issacharoff will be prosecuted, showing the world that Israel deals harshly with “deviant” behavior such as his, or he won’t be prosecuted, in which case Breaking the Silence will be cast as a bunch of liars.
In its formal announcement that the investigation will be closed, to which it added a highly unusual refutal of Issacharoff’s testimony, the State Prosecutors Office, out of pure negligence or criminal kowtowing or both, gave Shaked much more than she could have hoped for.
Next came Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, who may have been jealous of her coalition colleague. On a Saturday night television appearance opposite Breaking the Silence executive director Avner Gvaryahu, Hotovely showed that the potent compound of incitement and hysteria is not unique to Likud men alone. Hotovely then ignored Gvaryahu’s warning that the Palestinian who “proved” that Issacharoff was lying wasn’t actually the one he claimed to have attacked, and ordered an immediate diplomatic initiative that aims to use Issacharoff as leverage to persuade European governments to stop funding Breaking the Silence.
In this way, Hotovely gave right-wing sadists another source of entertainment, along the lines of the biblical story of Abraham and the binding of his son Isaac, ordering Israel’s newly installed ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, to act against Breaking the Silence and to portray his son as a liar.
Netanyahu and his cohorts on the right are building up Breaking the Silence as a terrifying bogeyman with which they can scare the natives and drive them to frenzy. After the New Israel Fund, Breaking the Silence has also been inducted into the sinister international conspiracy that wants to topple Netanyahu and/or destroy Israel – or both. They and their lies, not us and our deeds, are responsible for international condemnation of the occupation. It isn’t 50 years of controlling another peoples’ lives, avoidance of peace, assault on democracy and the rule of law, lack of pluralism or the persecution of anti-occupation “informers” that gives Israel a bad name. It’s Issacharoff, that unrepresentative freak, who is responsible.
Contrary to historical experience around the world, simple logic and thousands of witnesses who have served in the territories, the Israeli occupation – if you believe Issacharoff’s detractors – is apparently a model of good manners and genteel supervision devoid of violence and coercion. It’s more Disneyland than Gehenna, apparently.
Netanyahu and his ministers have a vested interest in making the occupation disappear, and much of Israeli public opinion is only too happy to play along with the big lie. If there is no occupation, one doesn’t have to contend with the havoc it is wreaking on the impressionable soldiers who serve it, with the lasting damage it has caused in Israeli society as a whole, or with the destruction that it portends for the concept of a Jewish and democratic state.
To paraphrase a familiar call used by anti-Semitic White Russian marauders a century ago, the current catchphrase in government circles is “Smite Issacharoff and save the occupation.”