Israel today has no independence and no memory, but it excels in ceremonies

The past two days have reminded us how good we are at bowing our heads sadly, but terrible at preventing the next death. Also: It turns out that being an Arab is unethical.

The Palestine Project
4 min readMay 17, 2024

By Yonatan Englender • Translated by Sol Salbe

A special breed of independence

For obvious reasons, the Independence celebrations of the last two days were not very festive. Although the parks were filled, the barbecues were lit and, the meat was grilled, around the tables there was talk of abductees, dead soldiers, Rafah, and where this country is heading. Accordingly, Memorial Day, or Memory Day as we call it in Hebrew, did not focus on the past, but on the here and now. Neither those killed in the War of Independence in 1948 nor those killed in the Valley of tears on the Golan were at the centre of national pain, but the Nova murdered and dead soldiers that Israel continues to count among the ruins of Gaza.

In the reality of 2024, these two days, cleverly coupled to mark the link between independence and its price, present a false illusion. Israel today has no independence and no memory. The state, which marks 76 years since David Ben-Gurion proclaimed its establishment, is bound by chains, some of which were forced upon it and some of which it forged all by itself. In the north, entire communities have been abandoned; In the south, sirens sound daily; A bloody war is raging in Gaza, and it is unclear how or when it will end; In the West Bank, gangs of hill-top youths scoff at the law. And the heaviest shackles of all, millions of Palestinians whom Israel decided to occupy but not liberate — it is chained to them, like a pair of prisoners in an old American movie. Together we fall, together we get up, together we get stuck on the spot. If this is independence, it is of a very strange, very bitter strain.

There is no memory either. It is customary to say that Israelis have a short memory when they go to the polls, but the problem of memory is much more difficult and wide-ranging than the question of who will be the next prime minister. Israel excels at ceremonies and at reading out the names of fallen soldiers, but it is terrible at doing what is necessary to prevent the next death. No one — not among the contributors to this newspaper, not in the current Israeli garbage government and not in the White House — has the magic formula that will solve a religious-territorial conflict that has been going on for a hundred years and more. But we can be sure that it will not be found in Rafah, Jabaliya or the Philadelphi route. It will not be found by the leaders who brought this great black cloud upon Israel, and it will not be found among the piles of bodies and the rubble of buildings in Gaza. There, you can find more death.

The charge: Being an Arab

The Education Ministry will explain that Sabreen Masarawa was summoned for a clarification interview because she violated some clause, or showed insensitivity during a sensitive period, or perhaps they will not explain at all. But to put the truth simply, Sabreen Masarawa, a middle school teacher in Ganei Tikva, was summoned for a clarification interview because she is Arab. She’s not the kind of Arab that the State of Israel can live with, like a pharmacist or doctor who dutifully pays taxes and mostly shuts their mouth about the fact that they are an Arab, but one who insists on remembering and reminding that they are Palestinian.

Masrawa participated yesterday in a march marking Nakba Day in Shefa-Amr. Students and parents were exposed to her in marching in a video clip (she marched, no less, on her own two feet.) They complained, and the Education Ministry did exactly what is expected of it today: summoned her for a clarification interview to find out whether she dared to march despite the incriminating fact that she is a Palestinian Arab. The ministry’s response to Haaretz’s request is amazing. Is there any record of Masrawa chanting anything inciting [which would be illegal] (as some parents claimed)? No, but the ministry intends to investigate the matter. What is certain is that “the conduct of the teacher is contrary to the rules of professional ethical standards expected of an educator.” What conduct? Marching? Showing solidarity? Acknowledging the pain of your people? If all these contradict the Ministry of Education’s professional ethical standards, all teachers who participated in ceremonies commemorating fallen IDF soldiers in both primary and secondary schools should be sacked.

We can go on here — about the ignorance of the dobbing students, the racism of the complaining parents, the obtuse automatism of the ministry’s response — but it would be better to let her, Sabreen Masrawa, the Arabic teacher, speak in Hebrew for herself: “It’s OK for me to share the pain of the Jews, but when it comes to identifying with the pain of the Palestinians, one is not allowed to be with them. When Israelis raise their flag, I don’t run away. True, there is no place for me in that flag, but I remain standing. And when I’m with my people, I’m there, when that flag is displayed. This country failed to create a flag that combines the two peoples, that’s not my fault.”