Opinion |

Thank You, B'Tselem, for Exposing the Skeletons in Israel's Closet

If not even the opposition is willing to air Israel's dirty laundry, we may all choke on the stench.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid in the Knesset.
Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid in the Knesset.Credit: Olivieh Fitoussi
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is, heaven forbid, far from being an Arab dictator who throws his opponents in prison. As is fitting for the leader of a democracy, he’s simply inciting people against his critics. At the moment, he has his sights on Hagai El-Ad, the head of the B’Tselem rights group who spoke against the occupation at the United Nations.

After one inflammatory speech, the who’s who of the loony right are thinking about how El-Ad can be punished. And instead of entrusting the situation to one cop, a thousand loons are roaming the streets.

If the worst occurs, Netanyahu will be the first to condemn it and the first to be astonished. There’s no one like Netanyahu. He has kept up his tradition of incitement since 1995. Incitement brought about the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, yet today the prime minister is a sought-after speaker at ceremonies in Rabin’s memory.

We live in a democratic country with freedom of the press, which includes freedom to incite. In a headline whose font size was hitherto reserved for the dropping of the A-bombs, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily screamed “B’Tselem vs. the State of Israel.”

For your information, Yedioth is an anti-Netanyahu newspaper. Therefore, instead of a situation in which one servant has two masters, as in the Moliere play, we have two servants – Yedioth and the free daily Israel Hayom – serving a single master.

There is democracy in Israel, knock on wood, and a wonderful parliamentary opposition. Yet the head of one such opposition party, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, accuses B’Tselem of cavorting with anti-Semites. If the media has two servants for one master, nearly the entire Knesset opposition serves that master.

With an opposition like this, the right will be in power forever, if not under Netanyahu then under Lapid. And if not Lapid, you’ve got the Labor Party, the senior partner in Zionist Union, which in the face of such a wanton attack has no one to utter a word, even among its sworn opponents of the occupation.

B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad addressing the UN Security Council, October 14, 2016. Credit: Chelsea Berlin

Paradoxically, the conduct of the governing coalition, (most of) the press and (most of) the opposition confirms comments by the B’Tselem director, who has concluded that without international intervention, the occupation will never end. It turns out that nearly all Israel is confirming that it supports the continuation of the occupation.

If things were otherwise, at least one large opposition party would have said something opposing the government’s stance. But as Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion once said, “The entire nation is an army, the entire country the front line.”

And when it comes to the uproar over hanging out dirty laundry, remember that it was only after abused women stopped hiding their plight in embarrassment and exposed their scars did society become healthier and more humane. The same holds true for those courageous people on the Jewish street who have stopped hiding the dirty laundry.

After all, if the laundry remains inside, the people there whom the right allegedly seeks to defend will choke on the stench. In the meantime, all these injustices are being committed in the name of the Jewish people, including the mute “opponents of the occupation.”

Even more ridiculous is the claim that the world is preoccupied with Israel’s occupation and is forgetting about Bashar Assad, who is slaughtering Syrians with the help of Vladimir Putin. This “innocent” claim implies that Assad and Netanyahu are leaders of the same ilk (meaning that both are dictators), because when you make a comparison, it’s between comparable things. So anyone making such a complaint is revealing the essence of the occupation.

Here’s the situation as it stands now. The world realizes that there’s a cruel occupation that must end. No less importantly, Israeli “patriots” of various kinds openly acknowledge that Israel is an occupier.

So thank you, Hagai El-Ad, who in one speech at the United Nations has revealed all the skeletons in the closet. Now the picture is clearer, as is the choice. And the question has to be posed to the good people, and there are such people, Zionist Union and Yesh Atid in the opposition. What the hell are you doing there?

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