Opinion |

Israel's Civil War Has Already Begun

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
Clashes erupt between Jews and Arabs during Jerusalem's Flag March on Sunday.
Clashes erupt between Jews and Arabs during Jerusalem's Flag March on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The optimists still view the conflagration in the streets of Jerusalem as a struggle by religious Zionists that has to do with specific dates and sites. All we have to do is to make it safely through those days. In other words, to load up the city with thousands of soldiers and police officers equipped with the appropriate amount of aggressiveness; to warn Hamas; to speak politely with the heads of the Arab community, with Jordan, with the Muslim Waqf in Jerusalem, the religious trust that manages the city’s Muslim holy places – and the horror scenarios can be shelved until the next sacred date.

The naive among them prefer the microscopic perspective. If we can only neutralize MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and eliminate the far-right Lehava organization, we will be able to control this flesh-eating bacterium and life will continue as usual. Look, they say, there were only a few clashes, some beatings, a few wounded, no missiles were fired and nobody died.

But this bacterium grew on a fertile culture medium that spread the pandemic, and what really happened in Jerusalem is a continuation, and not yet the peak, of a process that in other countries and at other times gave rise to civil wars. The religious or ethnic arm wrestling between Jews and Arabs is only the warm-up act for the violent conflict that is brewing between Jews. Waving the Israeli flag in the faces of Palestinians, attacks on Palestinian shops a la Kristallnacht, the routine calls of “Death to Arabs” and “We’ll burn down your village” – all of these conceal the real message of the rioters. Today it’s the Arabs, tomorrow – and in fact, already today – it’s the self-righteous, leftist, Ashkenazi, Bibi-hating, bleeding-heart Jews, those traitors who have forgotten what it means to be Zionists, who hate the state and who did not agree to wrap themselves in the Israeli flag.

The wild stares of the flag bearers were directed at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who are “worse than Nazis,” to quote Rabbi Meir Mazuz; at the “government of traitors” and at anyone who is not fully right-wing. During those hours, wrapping oneself in the Israeli flag was like wearing the battle dress uniform of militias that have a monopoly on the absolute truth. Israel’s Ku Klux Kan, with one difference: They don’t settle for defining Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular as an enemy that must be eliminated, they use Arabs to differentiate between loyal Jews and Jews who don’t deserve to live here.

But the flag bearers also don’t settle for the nominal Jewish supremacy of the nation-state law or for the banal custom that has turned Arabs into tolerated indigenous persons. As they see it, it’s not the fault of the Arabs that one of their parties is in the governing coalition. Rather, it’s the Jews who gave them this status who are responsible and should be hanged.

When Channel 12 News asked “Do you believe the government is dependent on supporters of terror?,” the question ostensibly referred to the United Arab List’s participation in the coalition. Wrong. According to the definitions of Benjamin Netanyahu, of Ben-Gvir and of the organizations they head, the terrorists are the Arabs themselves and the terror supporters in the government are the Jews who cooperate with them. That’s the way to create a narrative that authorizes violence against Jews and against leaders who violate the rules of racial segregation.

But it would be a mistake to imprison the thousands of ecstatic flag dancers in the narrow definition of “militia.” Because when that same TV channel reports that according to a survey it conducted, the “Netanyahu bloc” is expected to win 59 Knesset seats, that’s already half the population.

Here even the old distinction between right and left and between religious and secular Jews evaporates. Because even in the existing coalition the right and religious Zionism are present in great force. The separation barrier passes between the “Netanyahu bloc,” a term reminiscent of Benito Mussolini’s National Bloc, among other things.

In that way we can point to the enemies of the flag sharply and clearly, without nuance and without bending over backward. All that’s left is to declare the start of hunting season.

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