Opinion |

It's Not Netanyahu. It's the Nation

Most Israelis, who have never spoken to a single Gazan, only know that the Gaza Strip is a nest of terrorists. That’s why it’s OK to shoot them. Shocking? Yes, but true

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinian protester runs for cover during a protest at the border between Israel and Gaza on April 4, 2018.
Palestinian protester runs for cover during a protest at the border between Israel and Gaza on April 4, 2018.Credit: Khalil Hamra/AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

One can lash out at the prime minister as much as one wants to — he deserves it. But ultimately one should remember: It’s not Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s the nation. At least most of the nation. All the displays of evil in recent days and all the farce were designed to satisfy the meanest desires and darkest instincts harbored by Israelis. Israelis wanted blood in Gaza, as much as possible, and deportations from Tel Aviv, as much as possible. There is no way to embellish it; one mustn’t blur the facts. Netanyahu – feeble, pathetic, evil or cynical – was propelled by one motive: to please Israelis and fulfill their desires. And what they wanted was blood and deportation.

If only the problem lay with Netanyahu and his government. Then, in one more election, or maybe two, the problem could be fixed. The good guys will take over, Gaza and the asylum seekers will be liberated, the fascist incitement will die out, the standing of the courts will be assured and Israel will again be a place to be proud of. That is a pipe dream. That’s why the campaign against Netanyahu is important, but it’s definitely not a fateful one. The real battle is much more desperate and its scope is much more widespread. This is a battle over the nation, sometimes even against it.

Even Netanyahu’s critics admit that he knows how to identify the wishes of the people. He recognized that the majority wants ethnic cleansing in Tel Aviv, ultra-nationalism, racism and cruelty. Netanyahu, being not quite as bad as his supporters, tried another way for a moment — a more humane and rational way. But when he got burnt and realized that he’d disregarded the desire of the people, he recovered in record time and returned to himself. The base, the electorate, the majority want evil. This is what he provided, and this is something that no election will change. The true calamity is not Netanyahu — it’s the fact that any display of humanity in Israel is political suicide.

A straight line of evil and racism runs from the Gaza border to Tel Aviv. In both cases Israelis don’t see human beings in front of them. The Gazan and Eritrean are one and the same – subhuman. They have no dreams, no rights and their lives are worthless.

In Gaza, Israeli army snipers shot unarmed demonstrators as if they were on a shooting range, to a chorus of rejoicing by the media and the masses. In south Tel Aviv they are back to arrests and deportations — this, too, to the sound of cheers.

This is what the nation wants and this is what it will get. Even if soldiers kill hundreds of demonstrators in Gaza, Israel will not bat an eyelid. The reason: evil and hatred of Arabs. Gaza is never perceived as it really is, a place inhabited by people, an enormous and terrible prison, a huge site of human experimentation. Most Israelis, who — just like their prime minister — have never spoken to a single Gazan, only know that the Gaza Strip is a nest of terrorists. That’s why it’s OK to shoot them. Shocking? Yes, but true.

It’s the same in south Tel Aviv. When one speaks of “the residents of south Tel Aviv” one means only the racist Jews among them. The blacks living there aren’t considered residents any more than the mice living there. The degree of evil harbored toward them was apparent in the responses to the deal Netanyahu presented. Why deport them to Europe and Canada? Why not to Africa? Why not by force? It’s a sentiment that’s difficult to fathom. Netanyahu only rode the wave of these despicable sentiments. He didn’t generate them. Obviously a leader of stature would have fought them but such a leader isn’t even on the horizon in Israel. Replacing the nation is also not a feasible option for now.

Opposing all this evil there are, of course, other Israelis as well. There is no reason not to label them by the right name: better, more humane, compassionate, conscientious, moral leftists. They are not a negligible minority but the war waged against them by the majority and its government has paralyzed them. Radio anchor Kobi Meidan’s apology for feeling shame indicates that this camp is defeated. If the massacre in Gaza and the deportation from south Tel Aviv doesn’t bring them to the streets enraged, just like after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, they are a species on the verge of extinction.

We remain a nation of the majority.

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