The Myth of Israeli Solidarity

It was a necessary decision, dictated by the situation, confirmed by public opinion, validated by the media. All the cabinet did was add its stamp.

Once again we came out of it the best − no one can match us. “We’re different,” “The world watched in wonder,” “A moral victory for Israel.” One could see it that way, or a little differently.

All in the name of our unparalleled solidarity, by whose words all things came to be. Already it’s not clear why a mass protest movement was formed here in order to restore the old solidarity to its glory days. If the crown hasn’t fallen, then why restore it? Why leave one’s home and one’s apathy in order to pursue social justice and redistribute it?

Choppers Shalit Hila AP 18.10.11

Israeli solidarity was a lovely fairy tale, flattering to the national ego, told to a million poor children before bedtime. Are these children also all-our-children, even though they haven’t been drafted yet? The fate of a civilian, whether big or small, is always less distressing, less frightening, than the death of a soldier, which is why his life is less valuable.

“All Israel are guarantors for each other,” limited by guarantee. Love thy neighbor as thyself? That too assumes that your neighbor is like you, not different or other, and preferably exactly like me.

Who this week has not quoted Isaiah, saying of the soldering, it is good − but Israeli society was and remains torn: Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, sabras and immigrants, supporters of Greater Israel and of dividing the land, neo-liberals and social democrats. And every camp is divided internally, and anyone who is not with us is against us. That is the way of a society that privatizes property and the soul.

There can be no solidarity in a state that is notorious for the gap between its rich and its poor, that leaves behind millions of its people, that forces Holocaust survivors to fight for their dignity and crusts of bread. Look at what was done to the Zionist enterprise, which aimed for relative equality; it became Treasure Island for the few, and an island of inequality for the many.

Solidarity is not melting from the bottom up, it is collapsing from the top down. We look to the leaders that we raised up; they misused us, they feathered their own nests in between terms, and sometimes during them as well. Who wouldn’t want to imitate them, to feast and filch? No one wants to be a sucker.

Gilad Shalit fell into this vicious vacuum like a gift from the heavens to us. It was no accident that we pounced on him like treasure hunters − Gilad still lives, the people of Israel lives with him. And it was no accident that a representative of Shas was in the studio of one of the local channel’s live broadcasts, like someone whose politics are the symbol of national unity. For a moment, thanks to Gilad, we are a united people, and no one else will ask to have their personal status details on their identity card changed.

“Paying such a high, painful price for his release reflects the deepest feelings of the Jewish heart.” The exact reverse is also a possibility, that the release reflects a dread of the loss and disintegration of solidarity. The shoulders are slumped, therefore they are desperate for a congratulatory self-patting. A society that is afraid of itself seeks affirmation of its cohesiveness, its vitality. Too many Israelis feel as if they are in a pit, not necessarily one in the Gaza Strip, and are calling for solidarity from the depths of their solitude, because it is not good for people to be alone. “Only a strong society could have done this” − or maybe only a weak society that desperately needs positive reinforcement.

Gilad Shalit was immediately dressed in an army uniform, thy son’s last garment, for it is only by the color and the rent and the blood that we can still know him and identify with him. In that way the entire Israel Defense Forces can salute, as a single soldier, the prime minister who made the right decision and not necessarily a “courageous and leaderly decision.” It was a necessary decision, dictated by the situation, confirmed by public opinion, validated by the media. All the cabinet did was to add its stamp.

How is Gilad now to be rescued from his Israeli captors?