The Truth About Ourselves

We can only hope that when the truth about Gaza and about ourselves erupts through the cracks revealed in society, we do not discover that it, and not Hamas, is Israel’s greatest existential threat.

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Israeli residents, mostly from the southern Israeli city of Sderot, stand on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip, on July 12, 2014, to watch the fighting.
Israeli residents, mostly from the southern Israeli city of Sderot, stand on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip, on July 12, 2014, to watch the fighting.Credit: AFP

If we manage to emerge intact from the abyss into which we fell this summer, we won’t be able to avoid a deep examination of why so many citizens spontaneously signed up for the campaign to eliminate any possibility of self-criticism of Israeli society.

We will have no choice but to ask ourselves how, precisely when we realized that the real threat to our country was not Iran, as has been drummed into us for years, but rather the stasis in the peace process, which turned Gaza’s standing water into a swamp of resistance, we all suddenly felt secure under the baton of our deceivers.

We will have no choice but to ask why we remained silent when the government insisted on blaming Hamas for the June kidnapping of the three Israeli teens and dragged us back into the Gaza Strip, even though Hamas never claimed responsibility for the kidnapping (as every terror group has done after every such action since time immemorial).

We will have no choice but to determine how we didn’t lose our belief in our moral superiority when a group of Israelis seized an Arab teenager and burned him to death in an act of revenge.

During the generals’ reign of terror in Argentina, psychoanalysis was prohibited. The regime, which sought absolute domination over society, tried to send its military tentacles deep into consciousness in order to crush Argentineans’ capacity for self-reflection. In an unprecedented fashion, Israeli society circa 2014 voluntarily ceded this ability.

The people who threatened op-ed writer Gideon Levy and Haaretz were not acting in any official capacity. The people who extracted a public apology from entertainer Orna Banai for her remarks against the war were not members of the secret police. The people who went into a Netanya pharmacy in order to punish a young Arab woman for “liking” a Facebook post about soldiers’ deaths, were not Shin Bet security service agents. The people who sent threatening letters to university lecturers and students were not from the Education Ministry. The people who censor “radical” columns on news websites are not from the military censor’s office, and the people who withhold images of Gaza’s streets from the public are not the government. These are just a few examples of society’s willing submission to its own marching orders. One must ask, with a society like this, who needs a totalitarian regime?

The state’s PR line during Operation Protective Edge is that Gaza’s Palestinians are victims of Hamas, an Islamic extremist terror organization that uses Gazans as human shields. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett claimed Hamas was committing massive self-genocide against women and children. If so, how can we explain the waves of joy that flooded the Internet and the streets in response to the deaths of hundreds of victims — innocent ones, according to the Netanyahu government — including old people, women and especially children? And why are the few expressions of empathy that can still be heard in Israel for the dead Palestinians in Gaza perceived here as treason?

The government PR line is trying to describe a complex situation in a simplistic fashion, with only one guilty party, and the public hadn’t hesitated to buy into it. But the low level of tolerance exhibited by Israeli society for those who don’t join the consensus, to those who dare to express doubt or, God forbid, to offer a different reading of reality, raises the suspicion that this national unity and the consensus that we are more just and moral than ever actually mask deep fissures and guilt feelings. A just society isn’t afraid to examine itself.

We can only hope that when the truth about Gaza and about ourselves — the truth that’s simmering beneath the surface and whose signals we deny — erupts through the cracks revealed in society, we do not discover that it, and not Hamas, is Israel’s greatest existential threat.

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