There Is No 'Israeliness' Without Equality

There is nothing that serves the Israeli regime better than divisiveness. Anything that brings this about (texts, ideas, protests, arrogance) is a reward for the rulers

An Israeli holds a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a rally to protest against inequality for the LGBT community in Tel Aviv, Israel. July 22, 2018
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

In the LGBT protest and its important call for equality, one must constantly remember that this protest must be waged from an Israeli standpoint, seen through Israeli eyes. This is not a closed sectorial campaign and it’s not just another power struggle. It mustn’t be. Equality is an essential Israeli interest. Without equality and a sense of egalitarianism, without this ethos, there is no “Israeliness” in the sense of an identity composed of people who are Israelis. This is an important point.

Therefore, there can’t be a call for LGBT equality without a call against the nation-state law, for example, or without fighting all inequality in Israeli society. If one issue is not linked to the others, it’s doubtful anything can exist here. It doesn’t matter how many people turn out. It doesn’t matter how powerful it sounds. The basic principle is that equality is indivisible. Either you have it or you don’t.

I’ve heard people say one shouldn’t link too many issues together and dilute the effort. These are people who supposedly understand, who know the rules. They don’t.

The Israeli experience shows that the separation of issues, particularly in public protests, is always a weak strategy. I’ve seen how parties with vested interests almost immediately tried to pigeonhole such protests into familiar and automatic slots, giving them labels that allow a divide-and-rule counteraction that erodes the protest while blocking loopholes and clearing obstacles.

The issue of social equality is not one of clearing a blockage. It can’t be resolved with one sweep. Anyone not fighting for equality for Ethiopian Jews, for example — suffice it to watch the important TV series “Eretz Levana” (“White Land,” Channel 8) in order to understand where we are in this context — has no place in fighting other battles for equality.

There are other groups in Israeli society that want to be a separate group. They imagine it’s the only way they can look after themselves. Why “imagine”? There’s stronger than a society showing solidarity. There is nothing that serves the Israeli regime better than divisiveness. Anything that brings this about (texts, ideas, protests, arrogance) is a reward for the rulers. Israeli society is us. It’s not a corporation, something imaginary or theoretical. We live it every day, one way or another. It seems naive or simpleminded. But this is reality at its most focused. This is what one must strive for. This is the only key to change. Anyone talking about a struggle for the sake of struggle, a struggle not being waged for the benefit of the entire society, not fought for the day after while embracing the language of the right, is someone dealing in illusions.

The Israeli-focused struggle is the only one possible, the only one standing a chance. It’s the only one grounded in reality, even if it takes longer and is more complex. The lazy man does not plow and cannot sow and reap. Regime representatives, in turn, continue to laugh all the way to their next flight overseas.

One should be precise, for the benefit of anyone who will wonder one day, out of defiance or naivete. It doesn’t mean one can’t criticize or that one shouldn’t struggle. On the contrary, one must criticize and protest. However, it’s always important to ask to what end, what does it serve, is it really compatible with what one cries out about, does it advance things or bog them down? And even just protests, if wrongly formulated, if their intent is impure, can cause harm. One mustn’t forget that.

The big question is always the intention. People, citizens who understand that in the absence of equality and a sense of equality, that without a common story in the deepest, existential sense of this term, there is no significance to talking about the concepts of statehood and national resurgence — this is where it should start and end.

I saw that they want to increase the defense budget by $15 billion. The reasons for this are obvious. The words are big. It’s easiest to escape reality. However, without education, equality and dialogue, without unconstrained art and respect for all human beings, it’s doubtful whether any of this will be significant.