What Really Scares Me (And It’s Not Im Tirtzu)

The campaign against human rights activists? That is nowhere as frightening as the occupation, of indifference to injustice, sanctimoniousness and passing shock.

Hagai El-Ad
Hagai El-Ad
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A screenshot from the Im Tirzu video, 'outing' four leftists as defending terrorists. Caption reads: 'When we fight terrorism, they fight us.'
Illustrative: A screenshot from an Im Tirzu video, 'outing' four leftists as defending terrorists. Caption reads: 'When we fight terrorism, they fight us.'Credit: YouTube
Hagai El-Ad
Hagai El-Ad

Since Im Tirtzu launched its campaign labeling human rights activists as “moles” I keep being asked if I’m afraid. The truth is that many things frighten me a lot, and this is an opportunity to write about them.

It scares me that the government is preoccupied with incitement, while it has no plan apart from more occupation and more military rule over millions of disenfranchised subjects. This bankruptcy has already exacted a toll on human life – most of it on Palestinian lives. And most of the time, when we’re dealing with Palestinian lives – and deaths – it doesn’t make any headlines here.

It scares me that most of the “opposition” is busy with the same game – sometimes like Yair Lapid, the opposition joins the slander and incitement spree. Sometimes, like Isaac Herzog, it tries to appear more rightist than the right, yet always portraying itself as an enlightened alternative (especially abroad, of course). But in fact they all, together or in turn, take part in maintaining the occupation.

It scares me that Israel’s justice system – the attorney general, High Court of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Military Advocate General - are–no longer merely a rubber stamp for the occupation but has become its greatest legitimizer. Demolishing houses, imprisonment without trial, abuse during interrogation, whitewashing investigations, taking over more lands in the West Bank, you name it. All the occupation mechanisms have been legitimized with dozens of verdicts and endless procedures. It may be the most legalized occupation in history, because it’s important to Israel to brandish that deception, especially abroad.

It scares me that the world is largely indifferent to this horrific reality. Contrary to the government’s propaganda, the world is doing very little to challenge the occupation regime and actually lives with it in relative calm. All the absurd cries against “international intervention” won’t hide the fact that already there’s considerable international intervention in the goings on in the territories, and economic, diplomatic, academic and military support that helps to maintain the existing situation instead of ending it.

It scares me to see how vulnerable the Palestinians’ lives are under the occupation. They’re exposed even in their own homes – any soldier can enter any house in the territories at almost any time. They’re exposed to soldiers’ and settlers’ violence and know that even if any of them are killed, no one will be accountable or have to pay, in almost all the cases. Their basic possessions, tents and water wells can be destroyed with impunity and no state will protect them.

It scares me to see the desperation and acceptance in the Israeli public - the loss of hope for another future, even when people understand that it means more suffering and violence. Don’t the parents of this generation understand what kind of world they’re leaving their children? In any future, in any future political configuration you can think of, there will be 12 million Jews and Arabs living here. What could this life look like if all those living between the Jordan River and the sea know that their lives are not cheap, that they have freedom and rights and political ways of expressing themselves?

The talk of “the end of democracy” in Israel scares me. As though if only the rightists’ campaigns were more polite and MK Moti Yogev didn’t talk of D-9 bulldozers, then what – this would be a democracy? What exactly is democratic in ruling millions of people with no rights for almost 50 years? The fact that we vote on issues that determine their future doesn’t make our elections democratic. It only stresses who’s a subject and who’s a citizen.

I’m not afraid of Im Tirtzu. I’m afraid of the occupation, of indifference to injustice, sanctimoniousness and passing shock. I wish I could rely on one percent of the sympathetic attention I’m receiving now on just another ordinary day in the territories, with nobody getting killed and no headlines. Just another day of masters and subjects, and another week, another year goes by.

I’m not afraid of Im Tirtzu. I’m afraid of the next 50 years of occupation. What are you willing to do to make that future different?

The writer is B’Tselem executive director.

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