Shaking Israel's Silent Majority

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A Tel Aviv cafe. Life is pleasant for the silent and indifferent majority. Credit: David Bachar

Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen has stated clearly that “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is not encouraging terror and is not interested in encouraging terror, not even ‘under the table.’”

This, however, has not deterred incitement expert Benjamin Netanyahu from continuing to ascribe the current wave of terror to the Palestinian Authority and its head, Abbas. No one knows better than Netanyahu that it is possible to “dispatch terrorists” not just by giving them orders, but also by words that incite. Neither B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories nor the Shin Bet will prevent Netanyahu from continuing to violate this reality.

We must hope that the nation will not be dragged by Netanyahu and his government into regression, hypnotized by the murderous realization of our collective fears. We must hope that the world will also not regress now that it has finally started translating its historic guilt into responsibility, now that it has begun taking cautious steps against Israeli policy, so that the silent majority here might understand the message without need for another round of violence.

Netanyahu and his cronies must not be allowed to confuse the public with their favorite trick of changing the context. The conflict with the Palestinians is not a religious conflict. The current wave of terror is another wave in the Palestinians’ national struggle for independence. Terror is also hurting innocent people, because terror is also directed at innocent people, since in a democratic state the people who elect the government are responsible for the government’s actions. Responsibility is inherent in the right to vote. The only way to stop terror is to get to the root of it. Like combatting the spread of disease. Like combatting poverty.

The Jewish democracy headed by Netanyahu has decided that the status quo is sustainable; that is, it is possible to live with it. The message of this wave of terror is clear: For the Palestinians, it is intolerable. What the Palestinian terror and in effect the entire world are trying to explain to the Israelis is this: They, the Israelis, do not have the right to decide, even democratically, that the status quo is sustainable. The right to judge the degree of oppression that is tolerable is reserved solely for the oppressed side.

We have already seen how life in society continues as usual even at a time when the state is engaged in massive oppression; the pleasure domes of Tel Aviv are no livelier than those of cities in other oppressive societies were. But the silent majority's indifference has never reflected the extent of the severity of the oppression. Same in Israel. The silence of the majority does not testify to the reality, but rather to the majority. From the fact that most Israelis are willing to tolerate the situation as it is, it is impossible to conclude that the situation is tolerable. It is precisely because of this reason that terror arises – in order to fight the silent majority’s indifference, in order to thrust all those involved in the present situation into a whirlwind. Only in this way, only when there is no scope for indifference, is there a chance of bringing about a change.

Netanyahu’s diplomatic obduracy and the continuing oppression under the auspices of the silent majority are exposing Israel to terror and international sanctions. Both terror and international sanctions harm innocent people. Terror uses physical violence, sanctions – economic violence. The aim is identical: to jolt the society out of its indifference, to cause the innocent people to stop the crimes that are being committed in their name.

The silent majority – which looks like it is beginning to wake up and understand that for 20 years now it has been a willing prisoner in the hands of a destructive politician – must not let the fear of the terror attacks knock it back into Netanyahu’s world of distorted causality. It must welcome the fact that Europe is beginning to formulate a policy of imposing sanctions in Israel and see these steps as strengthening the emerging political move to topple Netanyahu.

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