In nearly every conversation about Gaza, whether in television studios, around the Shabbat table or in the cafés, there invariably comes the moment when someone says that the people in Gaza are “captive to Hamas.” And always, or almost always, this word, “captive,” this distinction being drawn between the leadership and the public it holds captive, is said in a tone that is patronizing and self-important, mixed with artificial pity, essentially expressing the superiority of the supposedly free and independent speaker.
But if there is one central, fundamental takeaway from the latest operation, from the entire situation, from a year in which thousands died from the coronavirus, from four elections in a row and counting, from the Israeli discourse that continually strains toward blindness, it is how captive Israeli society is. Not captive in the physical sense, not aware of the captivity, but conceptually captive to an extreme degree, ostensibly of its own free will.
Just turn on any television channel to see what a large gap there is between reality – in which much of Israel has been shut down for more than a week due to the threat of rockets fired by a terrorist organization – and all the talk about “severe blows,” “setting them back years” and “victories.” The disparity between the Israeli discourse and the Israeli reality is akin to that between a banana and a watermelon. When someone is holding a banana and keeps insisting it’s a watermelon, and everyone submissively nods their heads, we’ve got a problem.
When Israeli television reporter Zvi Yehezkeli, for instance, says disparagingly of Hamas that it will celebrate victory regardless of the outcome, one can’t ignore that the same thing will happen here. The victory speech is already written. The supportive voices are all ready to cheer. So what if, as Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn so aptly pointed out, this is “Israel’s most failed border war”?
And what does this say about Israelis? The same goes for all the talk about the IDF’s “unending” capabilities, the assumption that if the IDF wants to, it can do “anything.” As in the fable about the emperor’s new clothes, here, too, all heads nod in agreement when this axiomatic idea is voiced, and to hell with the facts.
Also regarding the timing of this military campaign, the context in which it is taking place, the conduct of all the important bodies, not just the government leadership – here, too, a majority of Israeli society is captive to an unwillingness to ask the most basic questions, and to reach the conclusions that a free-thinking person who is bold enough to seek answers would reach.
The same goes for the blindness toward the situation of Arab society. And not just from the self-styled patriotic right, which is captive to its conception of itself, to the story it tells itself, to the uniform, superficial message seen on their screens. Even those who think that this Israeli situation, as a whole, is a consequence of this or that leader, or this or that leadership, are also captive to an empty conception.
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The illusion that there is some “magic solution” that will turn back time is even more dangerous. The present situation, on every level, is an outgrowth of deep processes of disintegration, throughout the Western world. Without acknowledging them, it won’t be possible to move forward.
The lack of understanding that the situation in Israel today is a consequence of systemic corruption, self-delusion and manipulation by various bodies with the aim of increasing their power and share of the budget, of the vast disparity between promises made to the public for years and the actions that followed – this lack of understanding first of all serves the current government, which is exploiting the disintegration to suit its needs.
The best analogy for the deep-seated trends in Israeli society and the conceptual captivity that Israelis are in was reported as a marginal news item this week, even though it stands at the heart of our survival: By 2043, the National Insurance Institute coffers will be empty. A year earlier than what was already expected. But we will, of course, continue to pay.