Secular People, Gays and Arabs Don't Have Feelings in Israel

I’m offended to the depths of my soul by what is done here in my name every day, but being neither religious nor right-wing, no one cares about offending my sensibilities.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

As with every other human thing in Israel, feelings, too, belong only to Jews. And, in fact, only to religious Jews. The meticulous will also add Holocaust survivors and bereaved families. It’s only their feelings that one is forbidden to offend. Everyone else has no feelings, or at least they needn’t be taken into account.

There’s no such thing as offending the sensibilities of secular people, leftists or just plain people, and certainly not of Arabs.

The Gay Pride Parade, for instance, is liable to offend religious sensibilities and therefore it can’t be allowed to march down the main street of Be’er Sheva. And in Jerusalem, populist mayor Nir Barkat will stay away from today’s Pride Parade so as “not to offend people’s feelings.

The Jerusalem Day flag parade through that same city seriously offends my feelings every year. It fills me with terrible shame. But the feelings of secular people, liberals or Arabs? There’s no such thing.

It turns out that I, too, despite not being religious, a Holocaust survivor or part of a bereaved family, have feelings. They even get seriously offended, day after day. But nobody pays any attention to my feelings or those of people like me. True, we’re a minority, but religious Jews are also a minority. It’s precisely minority feelings which ought to be considered, since a minority doesn’t have much else besides its feelings.

My feelings are hurt when a radio program about an eminent poet dear to my heart, Mahmoud Darwish, provokes such an ugly, boorish, nationalist storm. I’m offended by the thought that I live in a country whose culture minister is Miri Regev and whose defense minister is Avigdor Lieberman.

I’m offended to the depths of my soul by every additional day of the occupation, every additional day of the blockade of Gaza, every additional day of the executions, arrests, abuses, land expropriations and settlements. This offends my feelings, but nobody pays any attention to them.

I’m offended to the depths of my soul by what is done here in my name. I’m offended every time I come to Hebron and see the apartheid neighborhood there. I’m offended when I visit the land of the cave dwellers in the South Hebron Hills and see the abuses committed there. I’m offended by every settlement. Every soldier who barks at a checkpoint offends my sensibilities. They embarrass me. Every visit to the occupied territories deeply offends my feelings, but nobody pays any attention to them.

I’m offended by the anti-democratic, nationalist atmosphere that has taken over my country. It offends my sensibilities. When opposition MK Yair Lapid spouts nationalist nonsense, my feelings are offended. When Channel 2 military analyst Roni Daniel speaks, I’m also usually offended, albeit less so. Every news broadcast by Channel 2 and every edition of the dailies Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth are an offense against my sensibilities. The McCarthyism of Ilana Dayan’s investigative television program “Uvda” offends my feelings.

I have a hard time with the incitement, the brainwashing, the propaganda and the inflaming of passions by Israel’s mobilized media. They offend my feelings, as a human being and as a journalist. The cult of death and the cynical way people wallow in it also aren’t easy for me. And ditto for the abuse of African asylum seekers. The thought that since the start of the year, a country of refugees hasn’t approved a single one of the 15,000 asylum requests submitted to it rouses feelings of shame and guilt in me.

The lynching of MK Haneen Zoabi offends my feelings. The “Zionist Union” party offends my feelings. Sometimes, so does Zionism. The thought that Nava Boker and Anat Berko are members of Knesset offends my sensibilities; so does the screaming of MK Mickey Levy and the shameful silence of MK Ofer Shelah.

The justice minister is also an offense to my sensibilities. And so is hearing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say he wants peace. And house demolitions. And the unending siege of the West Bank town of Sa’ir. And seeing the shepherding communities of the Jordan Valley without water. And thinking about who cruelly confiscated their water tanks, and seeing the settlements round about them. And meeting the families of a mentally ill boy, a Down syndrome child and an infant with cerebral palsy and knowing that soldiers abused or shot them. All this offends my sensibilities.

I will relinquish my feelings. But the next time anyone talks about offending someone’s sensibilities, it’s worth remembering that everyone here has feelings – even liberals and Arabs.

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