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Which Part of 'The State Is Against the People' Don't You Get?

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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A demonstrator at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2020.
A demonstrator at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2020.Credit: Jack Guez/AFP
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

The root and heart of all the protest activities taking place in Israel right now must, above all, be the realization that the root of today’s struggle is the state’s battle against the people. Everything depends on this.

LISTEN: Protests, pandemics and Netanyahu's day of reckoningCredit: Haaretz

This is the context in which we are acting; this is the lens through which we must think about and analyze the situation. And no, I don’t mean “the state against the people” in the superficial sense of more taxes, or the use of some aggressive tactic or another.

Today’s situation, which will only become more extreme, is that of a frontal clash – one that was nearly essential even before the coronavirus, and all the more during it – between the interests of the people, of society, and the interests of the nation-state. This state, which once pretended to be an almost neutral reflection of its citizens, has, with the accretion of time and corruption and existential changes, become an independent power center that seeks above all else to preserve its power.

The more the people, the citizens, human beings, seek to move forward, develop, grow and enlarge themselves amid the technological revolution that surrounds us, the more they seek to know and understand, the more preoccupied the state, the establishment, becomes with entrenching itself, fortifying its existing powers and weakening the people, their desires and their healthy instincts.

It’s important to understand that this isn’t just a matter of one particular person. The entity of the nation-state is much bigger than the sum of its parts. It has a life, desires and interests of its own. The man who puts them into operation is always much less important than the state or the context in which it operates.

In this sense, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “only” a parable of the actual situation of “the state.” His battle for survival, his Samson-like attitude of “let me die with the Philistines,” is a clear illustration of the aggressive battle the state will wage as it feels itself becoming less and less relevant, more and more disconnected from the people.

Just like a jealous spouse who feels that his partner no longer loves him, the state will employ more and more violence, more and more attempts to dominate, shut down and suffocate. This is what it means to be at the end of a political era, a sobering up from the grand, enveloping vision of a nation-state that takes care of everyone, a shattering of the old paradigm that put the state at the center of existence. It’s the end of an era, the end of a warped relationship.

The promise of a framework that would represent us, the citizenry, that would work for us and always be ready to sacrifice itself for us, just as we sacrifice ourselves for it, now lies crumbling on the ground in city squares alongside its helplessness and resounding hysteria. What was is not what will be.

And as with that violent, jealous husband, the moment must come when it’s clear that fixing the problem is no longer possible, so the only option is separation, introspection and thinking about a new framework that would be suited to this time, to our lives and consciousness at this time, to the enormous challenges we are facing. The creation of a new order based on social and economic covenants that until now may have seemed almost impossible.

If it doesn’t happen in the next two days, then it will happen in another two years. Anyone with eyes in his head understands this. When existence changes dramatically, as it has in the past few decades, then our organizing principle, our paradigm, our narrative must also change. Anyone who wants his protest to bear real fruit rather than turn into a tool to serve the old order – the one that is now guided solely by a strong urge to “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” – must understand this.

Anyone who tries to work against the times will ultimately lose. And as I tell everyone who consults me in an attempt to understand the present time, the first key is the ability, in extreme situations, to work against what you always thought of yourself as being, what has always defined you. “Cannibalism.”

Without that, there is no chance of being born anew. And that’s exactly what we need right now.

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