Israelis Must Act Now to Prevent a Bloody Awakening

No one knows exactly how the calamity will look, whether a political downfall, a popular uprising or a violent clash.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Can Israel's internal rifts be mended?
Can Israel's internal rifts be mended?Credit: Dreamstime
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

The significance of the 2015 election is clear: There will be no change in Israel before a harsh blow of reality hits Israel. The hope of changing direction before the crash is receding. The chance of generating change before calamity strikes is fading.

No one knows exactly how the blow will look, whether a political downfall, a popular uprising or a violent clash. No one knows when the blow will fall; maybe in another two or three years, maybe in another two or three months. But it’s perfectly clear that on March 17 the last chance was missed for an awakening that isn’t painful, bloody or life-threatening.

Without knowing it, Israelis chose in the last election to bring a deep national crisis upon themselves. The sobering up will only come later.

And yet the people who say salvation is concealed in the inevitable crisis are wrong. Beginner’s logic: The fact that there will be no awakening before agony and misery does not mean that an awakening will come after agony and misery. Lacking an ideological alternative, the crash into the wall of external reality could actually intensify the internal disintegration.

American back-turning will only increase the sense of Israeli desperation. European hostility will only deepen the sense of a Jewish ghetto. Arab violence will only fan the flames of messianic zealotry. If Israel’s enlightened people don’t know how to propose a comprehensive political, social, economic and identity for the Israeli people, then even when the ship hits the first ice floes, it will sail straight into the iceberg.

That’s why the weeks since the election have been no less depressing than Election Day. There has been no deep soul-searching, not even the beginning of new thinking. The air is more toxic than ever. Evil, pettiness, bitterness and acerbity.

And to improve the soul, there is the old-new phenomenon of Ashkenazi-Mizrahi racism. Us and them. Brother against brother. A never-ending dance of scratching at sores that spreads hate and despair and ruins everything that is good.

Enough. There is no credibility in peace-seeking that indulges in such verbal violence. There is no chance in the struggle against the occupation that goes against everything good and beautiful in this country. There is no moral validity in talking about loving other people and human rights when it goes hand in hand with such ugly hatred for so many people.

And it’s not just the right that needs to wake up (from its messianic delusions and hatred of the other). The left must also wake up (from its messianic delusions and hatred of the other).

There is no similarity between the two. None at all. But the center-left must take advantage of the shake-up and look in the mirror, see its defects, learn from its mistakes and rehabilitate itself ideologically, morally and politically.

We cannot know how much time we have. We cannot know when reality will strike. But since the journey toward the renewal of hope is a long one, it must begin right now. We cannot wait again until 100 days before the next election to invent some new anti-Bibi, one superficial and hollow. We cannot sit, do nothing and become addicted to the lethal opium of hatred and despair.

The awakening won’t come if enlightened people don’t give themselves a good shake and open their eyes and hearts. Only if we repair and restore ourselves right now can we repair and restore Israel.

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