On the Unavoidable Path to Israel's Nightmarish Future

The meaning of the election results is that before it gets better in Israel it's got to get worse. Much much worse.

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Palestinian protestors throw stones at an IDF bulldozer during clashes following a weekly demonstration against land expropriation, Kfar Qaddum, the West Bank, March 20, 2015.
Palestinian protestors throw stones at an IDF bulldozer during clashes following a weekly demonstration against land expropriation, Kfar Qaddum, the West Bank, March 20, 2015. Credit: AFP
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

The desire to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Isaac Herzog was an attempt to take a historic shortcut: To imagine the absolute worst without having to visit it, to try to make things better before first making them much worse.

The effort failed. Perhaps it was doomed to fail from the start. Maybe it is impossible to tear free from the chains of the historic dialectic, and in order for things to get better they really must first get worse. And it doesn’t matter how much we have complained and how bad they seem to be, we are still far from the absolute worst, which must be visited before we can arrive at better times.

We tried to teach ourselves a history lesson through words. To scare ourselves. To explain to ourselves, the way you explain to a child, that fire is dangerous. We tried to prevent the burn, to learn about the danger without having to experience it, to feel the heat and the flame of sparks and through those to draw conclusions about the pain of the burn. But the attempt failed. Israel is determined in its conviction not just to touch, but to dive headfirst into the nationalistic and racist fire. Like the arrogant tragic hero, Israel is hurtling toward a certain nightmarish future convinced “it won’t happen to me.”

The odds for the Jewish democracy were against it from the start: The dramatic circumstances of its birth sealed its fate. The intensity of the memory of the Holocaust is so strong that in comparison no collective experience seems real. After all, what evil are we capable of doing compared to the absolute evil that our people suffered in the flesh.

If only we had been wise enough to repress the historic memory and keep silent, we could have developed in a healthy manner. Instead, we let the memory of the Holocaust define our identity and determine our moral standards. Maybe we did not really want to give up on our historic uniqueness and be a nation like all other nations.

Since where else in the world can the prime minister speak the way our prime minister does? Where else on earth can the prime minister warn about the civil right and democratic duty to vote when it is exercised by a minority that makes up some 20 percent of the entire citizenry of the country? But in the Jewish state everything is permitted, for the Jews. After all, this is a moral no man’s land of the Western world.

But no matter much we try to evade the final scene, we will fail since it is already written. Justice must be poetic. Sadly, it's becoming clear that the historic period will not come to an end, until we complete our transformation into an absolute monster. Only then will we succeed in breaking the chain of heritage of moral innocence and win the chance of real political emancipation.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and maybe even the founding of the State of Israel, are just subplots in the Jewish tragedy, and the Palestinian and Israeli victims — supporting characters. How many more victims will be required before we learn our lesson? What level of pain do we need in order to feel it? The future will tell.

In the 2015 election we learned that it is impossible to complete historical processes through imagination. Maybe it's only natural: Has anyone ever really learned something from the experience of others? It has become clear to us that the time has not yet come for a dramatic political change and that Israel needs to see with its own eyes what is at the end of the path it is treading down with ever widening strides.