The Only Semi-democracy in the Middle East

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Im Tirtzu activists clashing with students at Tel Aviv University while calling for closure of left-leaning Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University.
Im Tirtzu activists clashing with students at Tel Aviv University while calling for closure of left-leaning Political Science Department at Ben-Gurion University.Credit: Oren Ziv

It must be said out loud: The ascendance of the right is not temporary, the occupation is permanent and Israel is one state with two regimes: One is good, and does well by Jews; the other is bad, wicked and discriminates against Palestinians. Now it’s time to fight it.

Let’s say that everything the persecutors on the right dream of comes to pass. The New Israel Fund ceases to exist, likewise Breaking the Silence. Gideon Levy and Amira Hass disappear. Haaretz goes the way of Davar, Hadashot and Al Hamishmar, all of them newspapers of blessed memory. Meretz becomes moribund, Joint Arab List chairman Ayman Odeh complies with his detractors and shuts up, Isaac Herzog and his Labor Party maintain their chatty silence and Reuven Rivlin, our president, stops having opinions. The Messianic Age, indeed.

From early dawn to the last watch of the night we shall listen to the varied ideological range stretching from Erel Segal, Irit Linur, Hagai Segal, Sheldon Adelson and Baruch Marzel to Arieh Eldad, Yoaz Hendel and Israel Harel. No one will hinder them from turning Israel into a pariah state and from feeling, oddly enough, persecuted and pitiable because this strange world – democratic and law-abiding – will cast us out.

Dear readers, this is not some far-off nightmare of a persecuted leftist. This is the active ideal of many leaders and representatives of the right, perhaps even the majority of them. And I say: Let’s go. It’s important that this happens. We must not stand in your way. Just the opposite, you have our blessing, go forth and give it everything you have. You are in the government, you are the government, do with it what you will. And someday, perhaps, we will meet again in the voting booth (if such a thing will still exist).

For many years, the right could do whatever it wanted: to run riot in the territories, to annex and oppress, because the foolish left made it all kosher. When they built on the hilltops, stole land and disinherited the original inhabitants of the territories, we traveled the world and reassured Israel’s supporters and ourselves. “It’s temporary,” we promised. “Something will happen any time now.” Hillary Clinton will come and John Kerry will return, Barack Obama will speechify and Benjamin Netanyahu is at Bar-Ilan University.

And so, while the rhetoric of “two states” is victorious in the world of words, in the world of deeds the conquering right rules. And it is still hungry for more. The scorpion wants to kill the frog that carried it, over and over, across the pond.

The time has come for all the princes of the left and all its frogs to stop giving their services to the right-wing mechanisms of self-destruction that are being applied full-throttle in Israel today. We must admit, openly and unequivocally: The ascendance of the right is not temporary, the occupation is permanent and Israel is one state with two regimes: One is good, and does well by Jews; the other is bad, wicked and discriminates against Palestinians. From here on the battle is not over delusions of peace being just around the corner, nor over creating an illusory reality according to which any minute now, out of nothing, a separation agreement will appear and redeem us. This is a battle of life and death, between a bad one-state regime and one state that is good for both peoples.

The Israeli left (whose existence is uncertain) must say, without mincing words: We are fed up with being a little fig leaf for your big nakedness. Let’s see you go out into the world without our protection. Let’s see you boast again of Israel’s being “the only democracy in the Middle East.” A democracy of one vote, one ethnic group, one religion, one prime minister and one public opinion. There are models for this in the world, North Korea for example, and the international attitude toward it. You alone are responsible and you alone will bear the consequences.

It must also be said, to the same flaccid left: Don’t start now with empty claims of “responsibility” and “we must not abandon the state” and all the other things that end with sitting around the cabinet table. Israel’s hardball politics require two things that you don’t have. The first is to offer a full, complete alternative and to fight for it tooth and nail. The second is to allow for the ripening and completion of processes. No one appointed you the saviors of the right. Let Bibi-ism run its course and it will fall of its own accord. It will fall into your hands if you are ready with a worthy alternative.

Everyone must recognize the obvious. A cold (for now) civil war is raging in Israel, between Im Tirtzu and Breaking the Silence. The former is in power, and despite their whining they are the power and brute force at its worst. To defeat it, Breaking the Silence must become a large political movement that goes beyond the terrible “micro” of Hebron’s Shuhada Street, to completely break the silence surrounding the Israeli fraud: Israeli democracy is dying. In its current state it is the only semi-democracy in the Middle East.

And that is not enough. Whether we remain silent or not, whether we will it or not, these days are already here. The time has come to fight for the sake of a secular democracy that belongs to all its citizens, in which there is total separation between religion and the state, whose public resources are distributed fairly and transparently, where there is full constitutional equality between men and women, majority and minority, religious and secular, and which is peace-loving, generous, non-occupying and non-annexing.

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