The Occupation Makes Israelis Stupid

It is the settlement enterprise which runs the occupation. And it is the occupation which now runs Israel.

Bradley Burston
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Demonstrators with the Palestinian flag.
Demonstrators with the Palestinian flag.Credit: Reuters
Bradley Burston

There are things which even your best friends won't tell you. 

Maybe they won't tell you because they fear you'll take it wrong. Or be unwilling to listen. Or cease to be your friend.

But these people I live with, my people, the Israelis, always say just come out with it. So here it is:

The occupation makes Israelis stupid.

These are not by nature stupid people far from it. They are, or at least they once were, shrewd, adaptable, pragmatic, innovative and independent thinking people. But the occupation makes them stupid.

For most Israelis, the occupation is unseen, literally walled off from view. It is the swamp to be avoided, the painful sore best left under the cover of thick bandages.

It wasn't always like this. But the more it gets like this, the more entrenched the occupation becomes. And the more hidden and misrepresented and unreal it becomes to most Israelis, the more the occupation makes Israelis and the occupation's rightwing supporters abroad stupid.

It is the need to defend the occupation which compels intelligent people like Benjamin Netanyahu to insist that "wild and false" Palestinian incitement, coupled with "the will to have us exterminated" are solely to blame for the wave of knifings and car-rammings against Israelis over the past month.

Of course, we realize, the attacks cannot be a result of anything else. Because if they were, we might have to do something about that particular Anything Else which is the occupation.

It is the effort to defend the occupation as opposed to defending Israel - which brings the government, and many of its supporters abroad, to stridently deny that a principal driving force of the violence is the systematic, permanent, and ever-expanding deprivation of the most basic rights of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It is fostering occupation as opposed to working for a society, in the words of the Declaration of Independence "based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel"  that keeps millions of Palestinians from rights to property, employment, freedoms of expression and movement, the right to vote, the right to elemental due process of law. In all, a system which we have come to know as the occupation.

Just last week, Israel's Chief of Military Intelligence was attacked in Netanyahu's cabinet for telling the ministers that there were three main triggers of the eruption of bloodshed: tensions over the Temple Mount, the late July firebombing triple-murder of the Dawabsheh family of the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma, and "an overall sense of hopelessness and frustration among the younger generation of Palestinians," senior Israel journalist Ben Caspit .

Many of the young Palestinians decided to carry out attacks because they were in despair over the state of things “and felt they had nothing to lose," intelligence chief Maj. General Herzl Halevi .

Cabinet minister Ze'ev Elkin, angered that Halevi had not laid all of the blame on incitement, reportedly declared that Halevy's view was essentially reciting "the Palestinian narrative." Elkin was further quoted as saying that it seemed as if Halevi were "a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority and not the Israeli government."

Ze'ev Elkin is not a stupid man, far, far from it. But the power of the occupation is such that it grants him the authority as a man who entered the IDF as a private and finished the IDF to lecture the chief of Military Intelligence on security issues.

Ze'ev Elkin is also a settler. It is the settlement enterprise that runs the occupation. And, through people like Elkin, it is now the occupation which runs Israel.

The settlement enterprise is, when all is said and done, the only reason for the occupation, which is the settlements' servant and Golem.

The occupation makes Israelis stupid. Because they know where it's leading us. They know that it will cost us in children, children drafted to enforce the occupation, children endangered because of the evils of the occupation, children who leave Israel because they don't want their children to be victims of occupation.

Late last month, when Benjamin Netanyahu finally unveiled his of the Israel to come (" we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future we will forever live by the sword ") it was the occupation speaking, clear as day.

It was, in fact, an unintentional echo of former Alabama Governor George Wallace's 1963 inaugural address, in which he declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Occupation makes Israelis stupid. It makes them into what they fear the most what they think us native North Americans and other "Anglo-Saxim" are at heart freiers, chumps, easy marks.

What Netanyahu is selling is an amalgam of evils, slavery, segregation, and apartheid, each one of which seemed permanent in its time. And because occupation does what it does, Israelis are still buying it.

I'm not immune. I watched it happen to me. I served in sorry, I occupied southern Lebanon, northern Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And in each case, it seemed permanent. At the time.

But the occupation had made me stupid. And I didn't account for the unforeseen. Just as one day, I believe, the combined efforts of a phalanx of worthwhile NGOs and, who knows, an asteroid hitting earth, will break the occupation into all of the millions of broken shards it deserves.

As it turns out - and I know I've both said and forgotten this in the past - there's no such thing as permanent anywhere. Not even stupidity.