Opinion |

Raise the Black Flag at Home. Stand Up to the Tyrant Netanyahu

Corona, corona, the tyrant muses to himself, where have you been all my life?

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Protesters at the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 19, 2020
Protesters at the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 19, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

There’s a black flag outside our front window this morning.

It’s nothing but an old towel. But it’s as strong as everything we believe in.

This is about democracy. And how at risk we now know it to be.
Until now, until the coronavirus, democracy in Israel was sedated and on a respirator. This week, our tyrant of a prime minister pulled the plug.

We live in a country where his ruling party – which lost the March 2 election by a margin of 62 to 58 seats – has just locked out the nation’s parliament, obliterating, in the process, the entire legislative branch of government.

Nothing amiss there, the tyrant announces in that warm, would-be fatherly tone. Just going by the book. Following proper procedure.

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We live in a country where demonstrations are suddenly now illegal – not God forbid, because freedom of speech is compromised, but because it’s unhealthy to have more than 10 people in the same place and at the same time.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

We live in a country where schools nationwide are summarily and abruptly shuttered indefinitely, literally overnight  – except for some of the schools tied to an ultra-Orthodox party the tyrant needs for the fiction of his supposed Majority of the People.

And then, to add insanity to insult, when schoolteachers make herculean, magnificent, instantaneously creative efforts to remotely teach their classes and bring their home-bound students together, the tyrant’s people announce that the classes must stop because they government won’t pay the teachers.

Nothing to see here folks. Deal with your kids on your own.

The tyrant says nothing about the ultra-Orthodox schools still open and running, business as usual, until footage leaks out, showing not only hundreds of students congregating and potentially spreading the virus – but, to add contagion to contagion – the same holy figures who reply that Torah study is keeping us all alive, are holding weddings where incalculably more potential contagion is taking place, dance by dance, close embrace by close embrace.

And when the tyrant deigns to address this, when pressed to do so, he is careful always, always, to mention Arab citizens of Israel as prime offenders along with some Haredi Jews. And then he defers concrete action against his key political supporters.

In other words, no matter the issue, his defense is racism.

There’s a black flag outside our window this morning, in part because, while the tyrant told us on television he was closing down our workplaces, schools, malls, beaches, parks, and all entertainment and leisure venues, he neglected to tell us that hours later, in the dead of night, he had his sock-puppet of a Justice Minister, get the tyrant’s trial for grave corruption offenses, put off for months.

And, who knows, maybe forever.

For years and years, we wondered when the occupation would come home.

It happened this week.

As the settlers once said in a different context: Yesha Zeh Kan – Judea, Samaria and Gaza are here. 

One set of laws for the tyrant’s allies. Another set of laws for everyone else. Innocent civilians hounded. Their persecutor – never held accountable.

Raise the black flag. Stand up to the tyrant.

This is the fitting flag for this new Israel.

Legislative branch, gone. Courts, all but gone. Protests – like the motorists driving cars to the Knesset on Thursday in a black flag pro-democracy demonstration – prohibited. By the Health Ministry.

And now martial law is beginning to sound possible. Even inevitable.

Yes, a global plague demands a drastic, life-altering public health response. But to leverage the public's very legitimate fears to achieve wholly illegitimate personal political goals, is obscene, dangerous, and inexcusable.

Yes, part of Netanyahu is surely level-headed and broad-minded. But it's the other part, the tyrant, that must be confronted, even at a time like this.

And the tyrant? He’s on television tirelessly now, crowing, gloating, boasting. The whole world is in awe of us, of me, and how I’ve managed the crisis. I am the captain of the ship in the midst of a storm! How dare these petty nothings distract me, criticize me, and even attempt to mutiny against my hand on the wheel.

Finally, finally, to protect the People, which is to say, the tyrant, the sweepingly invasive surveillance and metadata resources of the Shin Bet, the Mossad, and, why not, military intelligence, are becoming available to control the once-relatively off-limits, once-privileged, once protected Jewish citizenry of the state of Israel.

Corona, corona, the tyrant muses to himself, where have you been all my life?

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