At first I thought it was a joke: A huge sign was put up in Rabin Square: “We are the hope.” At its foot was a “protest exhibit,” whose title was as modest as the rest of the display: “A free people in our own land.” Gilded pillars, like at the Oscars, lead to an exhibit of photos and signs that documented the protests on Balfour Street. The statue of a person and an Israeli flag stood at the center. Not a single cliché was missing, including quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, to singer-songwriter Shalom Hanoch, to poet Natan Yonatan, to Yitzhak Rabin. One would think this was an exhibit of the Tibetan people’s long-awaited freedom after a bloody struggle.
And the slogans: “We came to cleanse”; “You ruined and we will repair”; “You are the despair and we are the hope”; “No forgiveness”; “Our finest hour.” A model of a submarine bore the words “the submarine of corruption,” on another were the words “Israel Navy Vessel Liberty,” with typical understatement. Protest T-shirts were prominently displayed like souvenirs from the invasion of Normandy or the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It’s good that those who launched the protest put up this exhibition: It rightly reflects the spirit of the Balfour Street demonstrations. Now that the goal has been achieved in its entirety and Benjamin Netanyahu is the head of the opposition and no longer even lives in the Balfour residence – certainly thanks to their protests, which didn’t stop until they saw him leave – they can find the time for a victory exhibition. Victory albums after the Six-Day War included less self-aggrandizement than this ridiculous display.
Know this: Self-aggrandizement is the beating heart of the Zionist left. Nothing compares to its complacency. After all, it’s so enlightened, peace-seeking and just, full of good intentions. After all, a minister on the left telephoned Mahmoud Abbas and wished him well for the Muslim holidays – surely the footfalls of peace and the height of enlightenment.
Nothing could explain better why the Balfour Street protest was so off-putting. It was exaggerated and unrealistic, its boundaries limited to comfort zones, its focus fixed on a single goal, one that was much less crucial than it was represented to be, and the protesters didn’t stop delighting in themselves and exaggerating their importance. It wasn’t the Balfour Street protest that brought down Netanyahu; Netanyahu fell because Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar decided for their own personal reasons to join forces with Yair Lapid. The protest had a marginal effect, if any. You have to appreciate those people, who ruined their Saturdays for many months over a goal they considered incomparably important. Some of them paid by spending the night in police detention or getting beaten. But there was no connection between their pathos and reality. They were protesting in neutral.
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Netanyahu wasn’t what they said he was; the outcome was certainly not worth such an uproar. Everything has already been written about their focus only on bringing down Netanyahu. But what about the day after? We are living it, and this protest movement, which went into retirement on waves of victory, now has nothing to say.
You promised hope, you brought Avigdor Lieberman in as finance minister. You came to uproot corruption and you brought in greater corruption. You promised a dove, you brought in Bennett and Sa’ar. You promised peace, you brought in a government arranging its surrender to the illegal outpost of Evyatar, abusing a Palestinian prisoner who lost her daughter, and that continues to snipe at Palestinian teenagers like on Friday at Nabi Saleh. You promised change and you brought no change at all.
So where does all this complacency come from? How have our lives changed for the better since they got rid of “the tyrant”? Has the great danger to democracy been removed, in a country where one-third of the people live under permanent tyranny? “We are the hope”?