One Racist Nation
By Gideon Levy
Contrary to appearances, the elections this week are important, because they will expose the true face of Israeli society and its hidden ambitions. More than 100 elected candidates will be sent to the Knesset on the basis of one ticket—the racism ticket. If we used to think that every two Israelis have three opinions, now it will be evident that nearly every Israeli has one opinion—racism. Elections 2006 will make this much clearer than ever before.
An absolute majority of the MKs [Members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament] in the 17th Knesset will hold a position based on a lie: that Israel does not have a partner for peace. An absolute majority of MKs in the next Knesset do not believe in peace, nor do they even want it—just like their voters—and worse than that, don’t regard Palestinians as equal human beings.
Racism has never had so many open supporters. It’s the real hit of this election campaign. One does not have to be Avigdor Lieberman to be a racist. The “peace” proposed by Ehud Olmert is no less racist. Lieberman wants to distance them from our borders, Olmert and his ilk want to distance them from our consciousness. Nobody is speaking about peace with them, nobody really wants it. Only one ambition unites everyone—to get rid of them, one way or another. Transfer or wall, “disengagement” or “convergence”—the point is that they should get out of our sight.
The only game in town, the “unilateral arrangement,” is not only based on the lie that there is no partner, is not only based exclusively on our “needs” because of a sense of superiority, but also leads to a dangerous pattern of behavior that totally ignores the existence of the other nation. The problem is that this feeling is based entirely on an illusory assumption. The Palestinians are here, just like us. They will, therefore, be forced to continue to remind us of their existence in the one way they and we both know, through violence and terror.
This gloomy chapter in the history of Israel began at Camp David, when Ehud Barak succeeded in planting the untruth that there is nobody to talk to on the Palestinian side, that we offered them the sky and they responded with violence. Then came the major terror attacks and Israeli society withdrew into a sickness of apathy never before known to it.
While it used to demonstrate complete indifference toward Palestinian suffering, that apathy spread and intensified to include weak Israelis—Arabs, the poor, the ailing. From that aspect the current election campaign, more boring than ever, seems almost like an expression of the state of public caring.
Nothing can awaken the Israelis from their coma—not the imprisonment of the nation next door, not the killing and destruction that we sow in their society and not the suffering of the weak among us. Who would have believed that in Israel of 2006, the killing of an 8-year-old girl at short range, as happened last week in Yamoun, would barely be mentioned; that the ruthless attempt to expel an Ethiopian with AIDS who is married to an Israeli, just because he is not Jewish, would not raise hue and cry; and that the results of a poll showing that a majority of Israelis—68 percent—don’t want to live next to an Arab, did not raise a stink.
If in 1981, tomatoes were being thrown at Shimon Peres and in 1995, there was incitement against Yitzhak Rabin, now there are no tomatoes, no incitement and not even any election rallies. Nothing can get the Israelis out to the streets, nothing can enrage them. An election without involvement and interest is more dangerous to democracy than any tomato. It is a demonstration of apathy and indifference, which the regime can exploit to do whatever it wants. The fact that there are no real differences between the three main parties, with this one saying nearly the entire country is mine, and that one saying nearly the entire country is mine, is bad news for democracy.
The coming elections have been decided already. A massive majority will cast its vote for the racist arrangement that ignores the Palestinians, as proposed by Kadima, Likud and, to a large extent, Labor. None of them tried to propose a just peace; their leaders never said a word about the war crimes and suffering caused by Israel. They’ll be joined by the extreme right and the ultra-Orthodox, and there you have it: a nation in which racism is the real common denominator uniting us all.
Nearly everyone will say no to peace, yes to the continuing occupation (even if it is in new camouflage) and yes to the total focusing on ourselves. Morality has become a dirty word, and the worst corruption in the country’s history, the occupation, was never mentioned. Only one-sided maps, similar to one another, all including the humongous “settlement blocs,” a withdrawal based on “our needs,” with a separation wall and the frightening air of indifference hovering above it all.
—Ha’aretz (Israel), March 21, 2006