The Shame of an Israel Dripping With Venom

A new protest is forming, and not just against the occupation. It's against the racism that’s erupting everywhere.

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Palestinian protester scuffles with Israeli soldiers at Nakba protest in al-Walaje, May 15, 2014.
Palestinian protester scuffles with Israeli soldiers at Nakba protest in al-Walaje, May 15, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

The tension is affecting us all, regardless of our political opinions. When the bombing of Gaza and the rocket fire at Israel cease, the question will be asked once again – did the terrible destruction wreaked on Gaza change the rules of the game? What are those rules? A cease-fire for a year or two? A budding insurrection against Hamas in the Strip? No one can tell.

What’s clear to me is that the past two months can’t be ignored as if they didn’t happen. We should be ashamed of an Israel dripping with venom toward the other, an Israel that easily moves on after the Facebook comments about the burning to death of an Arab boy.

I tried to think up a response to these questions, even a partial one, involving a wider opposition, an enhanced Jewish-Arab solidarity. I was told I had to wait because the entire country was anxiously waiting to learn about the fate of the three kidnapped teenagers.

When their bodies were found I was told the pain would make any protest seem pathetic. Then came the military operation with its bombastic name and unattainable goals, during which real or phony patriotism extinguished every other aspect of Israel.

Suddenly, however, came articles by young writers expressing shame and scorn about the Internet comments by paid hacks or volunteers. There was a feeling that something was brewing.

The 2011 social protests revolved around one issue: the way of life of Israel’s productive sectors – young people who won’t ever be able to afford housing or enjoy a secure pension. So when the match was lit it showed the way for many people.

The current protest isn’t the usual one of the left protesting the occupation’s evils. It’s one that addresses the country’s basic values and the path it’s following. It’s targeting the racism that’s erupting everywhere, the hatred and disregard shown toward the pain of others.

Many people yearn for a different kind of Israel. The protest won’t succeed through decisions by opposition parties or parties that joined the Netanyahu government and are now straddling the fence. The protest will come from a wider community that's ashamed of an Israel that has abandoned its democratic goals. These people are ashamed of an archaic, faith-based interpretation of concepts such as Zionism and Judaism.

The slogan “We want a different Israel” could attract tens of thousands of people — or more. Clearly this would be an anti-establishment protest, and some people would try to steer it in totally different directions.

Astute commentators have stated recently that the left no longer exists in Israel. This may be true based on the way these writers define the left and its objectives. Their left is clear and concrete but powerless to attract communities that don’t think the way it does, despite the common revulsion for the new right, for hysterical Economy Minister Naftali Bennett or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fails to confront the filth. In every corner one can sense anger, fury and shame.

“We want a different Israel” can be a rallying cry for Israel’s Arab citizens who, according to opinion polls, seek to integrate into the country’s fabric. When an Israeli cabinet member visits the family of the murdered Arab boy that minister is hit by threats to his family on Facebook, we can’t remain silent. This isn’t the Israel envisioned by its founders, and something needs to be done about it.

In the Haaretz supplement that accompanied the paper’s Israel Conference on Peace, writers seemed divided on the solution. They offered models for attaining peace, but all seemed anachronistic and unfeasible. A nation that desires peace is one that will fight for a different kind of country and society. The new mutation on the extreme right, whose rabbis have contempt for anyone different, demands a clear statement: This shall not pass.

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