Opinion |

The Occupation Is Still the Elephant in the Room

The ministers didn't show up to the funerals of the four officers killed in Jerusalem because they were afraid of criticism.

Nehemia Shtrasler
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Israeli soldiers stop Palestinians at the entrance of Yatta near the West Bank city of Hebron June 9, 2016.
Israeli soldiers stop Palestinians at the entrance of Yatta near the West Bank city of Hebron June 9, 2016.Credit: Mussa Issa Qawasma / Reuters
Nehemia Shtrasler

The truth is, I wasn’t surprised. It was clear to me that no minister would attend any of the funerals this week. Why should they have? What did it have to do with them? They’re just the ones setting policy, and we’re the ones paying the price.

They didn’t come to the funerals of the four officers killed in the Jerusalem truck-ramming attack because they were afraid of the criticism. They knew that some people would blame them for the four unnecessary deaths and shout at them that they weren’t doing anything against terror not demolishing enough houses, not evicting enough families and not killing all those Arabs fast enough.

So they preferred to stay in their warm offices, sip coffee, nibble at cookies and watch television. What’s so terrible about that? After all, they have top-notch security and protection there.

It was also astounding to see how everyone adopted the prime minister’s version of the event and I don’t mean only Likud people. I mean the opposition – Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid – and the vast majority of the media, headed by the television news outfits. None of them dared to say the painful truth – that the four officers’ deaths are the price of the occupation.

The fear of public opinion paralyzed them. They have completely abandoned the truth.

They all adopted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interpretation – that there’s no elephant in the room. No occupation, no nothing. So what if we’ve been oppressing, humiliating and imprisoning people for 49 years? That has nothing to do with it.

According to our intellectual Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Facebook is to blame for everything. If Mark Zuckerberg would only prevent the incitement on the web, the Palestinians under occupation would turn into happy people and wouldn’t even think about committing a suicide attack on a group of soldiers.

Family and friends of Yael Yekutiel mourn her death at her funeral in a military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul, January 9, 2017.
Family and friends of Yael Yekutiel mourn her death at her funeral in a military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul, January 9, 2017.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

Netanyahu has been championing this interpretation for years. According to him, the lot of 2.5 million West Bank residents a brutal occupation, blatant discrimination, poverty, unemployment, a wretched undignified life, no sovereign state, constant raids by the Shin Bet security service, army and police, endless arrests and no hope has nothing to do with the uprising. It even sounds amazingly logical to all those who see the Arabs as subhuman with no honor or national desires.

The astonishing thing is that this racist thesis has been so well taken to heart. The occupation elephant that takes up the whole room has completely disappeared. Instead, all kinds of “global” arguments have been brought into the room: the Islamic State, Islamic terror, and even a simple car-ramming trend.

But what can you do? The murderer Fadi al-Qanbar of Jabal Mukkaber had nothing to with all this. He was a simple family man, a father of four who bought a truck a year ago to make a living. But the occupation drove him crazy.

He saw the oppression and degradation around him and his hatred grew until he was ready to commit suicide, knowing that the authorities would come after his wife, children and parents after his death. And all this was brushed aside with the dismissive comment: That’s not the reason. There’s no elephant in the room.

Likud, once the home of people like Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan, moral men of the law, was hijacked two years ago by Habayit Hayehudi and the settlers. Now they too are history. Far-right racist groups La Familia and Lehava dictate the tone today, and they were the ones to craft the suitable response to the ramming attack – heavier penalties, more oppression, more abuse, more home demolitions, more evictions, more denials of residency status, more arrests, more trials and raising the hate wall higher.

But the elephant doesn’t like being ignored. It grows and grows until it bursts out of the room and destroys everyone who ignored it. A dangerous elephant.

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