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Israel Has Become Numb to This Cycle of Violence

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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Home demolition in Jerusalem.
Home demolition in Jerusalem.Credit: Noam Revkin-Fenton
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

The deaths of young soldiers in the territories are as terrible and unnecessary as the deaths of three young men on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, or as the death of a mother of six in Bethlehem. We greet every such death with surprised faces. But we aren’t zombies, we’re from here. And we know that we too are responsible for their deaths.

We too are responsible, because we’ve ignored and repressed and left our governments free to make excuses like “there’s nothing to do” and “there’s no one to talk to” and “we need an iron fist.” The only one who did try, we murdered. The deaths of those three men weigh on our consciences too. Demolishing homes won’t cleanse them.

Lawmaker Gaby Lasky (Meretz) said last week that she opposes demolishing terrorists’ homes. She was rebuked and apologized. The timing was wrong, but the substance was right. What was she supposed to say – that she’s in favor of demolishing homes, but only Arabs’ homes? That child allowances should be paid only on behalf of children of Jewish murderers?

People got angry at her. She made a mistake. It was wrong to talk about the murderers’ punishment when our astonishment and outrage at the Dizengoff murders were still at their peak. Once again astonishment, and once again outrage. Just like in Be’er Sheva, Hadera, Bnei Brak and hundreds of murders before them.

We’re always surprised, we never understand. Why do they do this to us? What have we ever done to them?

What have we done? We’ve killed and destroyed and uprooted and imprisoned. Demolishing homes doesn’t prevent attacks, but it does create generations of highly motivated terrorists whose homes were destroyed when they were children.

Home demolitions began in 1967. In 2005, a committee headed by Maj. Gen. Udi Shani concluded that both the legality and the effectiveness of this practice are dubious. But three years later, it was resumed.

In 2016, a study by Prof. Amichai Cohen and Dr. Tal Mimran of the Israel Democracy Institute concluded that there’s no evidence of terrorists being deterred by our punishing innocents. Such punishments are a war crime. Every punishment of a group of people just because of its nationality is a crime. Lasky apologized even though she was right, even though such punishments are forbidden under the Geneva Convention, which Israel signed.

And what about Jewish terrorists? At a Supreme Court hearing on whether to demolish the homes of the murderers of a Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the state’s lawyer was asked to comment on the difference between Jewish and Arab terrorists. He replied that we demolish in order to deter, and “the Jewish community is already deterred.”

Tell that to the Jewish terrorists from the West Bank hilltops. It turns out that demolitions aren’t meant to deter Arabs, but to make Jews happy – and the Jews who are happy are the majority.

They’re the majority, and it’s hard for the minority to admit this. It’s easier to talk about Benjamin Netanyahu and mock his wife Sara. It’s hard to acknowledge that every second Israeli thinks “democracy” is idle chatter, lip service to those stupid non-Jews. It’s frightening to think that every second person who passes you on the street is your enemy.

There are enemies in the street, and then there are members of Knesset. The street is loyal to its ideology, our Knesset representatives aren’t. Their desire for jobs, power and a set-up for life is stronger than ideology.

Ordinary people don’t change their worldviews with the frequency that Knesset members do. People who voted for Yamina didn’t want an alliance with Meretz, nor did Labor voters want an alliance with New Hope. But their representatives did.

They wanted it because they’ve been taught that in a democracy, “the majority decides.” They weren’t taught that in a democracy, it’s impossible to uphold one rule and violate the others. There’s no such thing as “somewhat democratic.” It’s either everything or nothing.

Israelis are divided into those who accept this principle and those who reject it. The process of division is complete; there are now two hostile camps. The enemy can also be your neighbor from across the street.

Seventy-four years are a long enough time for processes to come to fruition, and the processes here weren’t processes of coming together, but of falling apart. The large minority is pessimistic (it calls its pessimism “looking reality in the face”), while the small majority is paying the price of this pessimism.

By the very fact that it is sitting in the government, the minority is legitimizing our nonexistent democracy. Supporters of democracy are asked to make concessions. Only leftists, secular people and Ashkenazis are asked to “meet the other halfway.” Belonging to even one of these categories will earn you the title “traitor.”

With eyes wide open, the majority is marching toward the abyss, and en route, it will sweep all of us along with it. Our idiotic routine won’t be halted somewhere on the way to its bitter end. They’ll murder us, and we’ll murder them.

In her rendition of the traditional Pesach song “Chad Gadya,” Chava Alberstein asked, “How long will this terrible cycle continue / persecutor and persecuted, beater and beaten / When will this madness end?” Apparently, the answer is never.

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