Opinion |

Who Are You Applauding, Israel?

Israel is giving the state’s highest accolade in the realm of social affairs to an accomplice of the occupation and an accomplice of the army. That says a lot.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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David Be'eri.
David Be'eri.Credit: Emil Salman
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The selection of this year’s winners of the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and exceptional contribution to the nation should not be taken lightly: For the first time in its history, the state has decided to award its highest honor to the occupation. It has never done that before, certainly not so crassly, without a whit of shame, without downcast eyes, blinking, stuttering or beating around the bush.

The prize is to be awarded to an occupier and his accomplices. One is a direct accomplice, a racist and deeply malicious ultranationalist. The other is an accomplice of the army, an indirect accomplice of the occupation, filled with good intentions. Both will receive the Israel Prize, setting a new record in Israel’s moral decline. An enterprise that began in secret, hesitantly and with a hint of shame, gradually gained legitimacy and ballooned to monstrous proportions, now garners awards.

In a normal country, David Be’eri’s place would be in court. The history of Elad, the association he founded, is paved with typical settler fraudulence: straw companies, collaborators, forged documents, extortion, bribery and greed, together with violent security companies, militias that wreak terror. This rot will now get a prize. Be’eri’s patently immoral goal justifies any means, in his view. Under the guise of archaeology, beautification and tourism, his vile and transparent aim is Judaization, in other words ethnic cleansing. Transfer in Jerusalem. The judiciary made it legal, the state cooperated and is now cheering as well.

For whom do you cheer, Israel? For the man who expelled thousands from their homes and made miserable the lives of tens of thousands? For the man who turned a Palestinian village into a Jewish tourist site? It’s a pity the prize jury didn’t bother to visit Silwan. Their prizewinner is the one responsible for violently goading residents of the weak and downtrodden neighborhood, where Israeli flags and armed guards bully them day and night.

It’s a pity the jury members never witnessed people being turned out of their homes and into the street, on the orders of Be’eri and his gang. Be’eri doesn’t care, but awarding the prize to someone of his ilk, who supports and carries out population transfer, redefines Israel: From now on it is proud of its crimes. That was never the case before.

The winner of the year’s second Israel Prize for lifetime achievement is undoubtedly well-intentioned. Zvi Levy is a kibbutznik and a senior officer in the reserves, who decided to devote his life to helping lone soldiers — soldiers without family in Israel — and the needy. Nothing wrong with that. But why, of all the needy people of the state and its victims, did he choose soldiers? Not the poor or the disabled, not refugees or old people, not Ethiopians or Palestinians, but soldiers. Thus Levy continues the inglorious tradition of begging on behalf of the last group to need aid.

The army, drowning in its allocations, cannot be counted among Israel’s needy. Soldiers, some of whom carry out evil acts of the occupation, do not deserve it. The decision to give the prize to Levy, who uses a wheelchair and a respirator, while touching, is questionable.

That decision, too, is not coincidental. The state, which in this case (and others) is Education Minister Naftali Bennett, decided to give its highest accolade in the realm of social affairs to an accomplice of the occupation and an accomplice of the army. That says something about the state’s priorities and everything about its values.

And who is cheering this dispiriting trumpet blast? The opposition. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, of course: “You are the proof that love of country and unity are the way,” he declaimed, as he does about everything, and the masses of fools who follow him stuck his words on their refrigerator doors.

But Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog won the contest for “most cloying” by a knockout. He called Be’eri “a scholar and revealer of Jerusalem’s secrets,” after congratulating “Zvika and Davideleh,” for “their great projects for the people and the state.” The transfer contractor is the “revealer of Jerusalem’s secrets,” and Herzog is the revealer of Israel’s secrets: The entire state is Elad.

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