Listen to a joke: Israel is against the occupation
(It takes a Palestinian to explain: The Israelis are not being hypocritical; the situation is worse.)
A rare spectacle happened this week: Israeli Jews came out against the occupation, thinking that Molotov cocktails were sexy, that a soldier who blew himself up was a hero, that popular resistance was something to be appreciated. In a demonstration of tens of thousands of Israelis against the war, they even called on the UN, [Um in Hebrew] which is usually rendered as Um-shmum , to intervene. Where is the free world, they asked, how can they not stop the neighbourhood bully?
In short, I was really moved by the solidarity of the Israelis with the Ukrainian people, who are fighting for their right to live a free life. Only that there is a twist to the tale: it is interesting that Israelis recognise tyranny only when it is not theirs. And indeed the Israeli dissonance in the story with Ukraine is simply amazing: responses ranging from “now the world will understand how we in Israel feel” to “no nation in the world deserves wars.” Well, maybe except for the Palestinians.
Quite a few Israelis believe that the images from Kiev are identical to the images of the impact of the Qassam rockets fired at the country’s south from Gaza and that Israel is Ukraine in the equation. I don’t know, but images of a city in the dark, lit by explosions in the sky and deadly smoke strands stretched from them to the ground, look more like Israel’s annual crushing of Gaza and not the other way around.
This is the depth of denial: (justified) solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who are fighting against the occupation of their country and homeland, while shooting at Palestinian youths who are rising up against the longest occupation in modern history. When Palestinian youths throw stones, not Molotov cocktails, they are terrorists, and not an unarmed people fighting for the exact same right. Calling on the free world to intervene — the same free world, whose human rights organisations recently determined, in the Amnesty report, that Israel runs an apartheid regime in both the 1948 and 1967 areas, and Israelis were offended and even rejected their antisemitic determination.
Israelis are unable to recognise this dissonance because they have repressed it so well. I do not think it is hypocrisy, because hypocrisy is usually a conscious process. Hypocritical people know they are hypocritical. In the case of the Israelis and their attitude toward the Palestinians, it is more blindness. Something created by a combination of a sense of being an eternal victim, a deep inner conviction in Jewish justice, all accompanied by the hermetic indoctrination of the education system.
This creates a situation in which Israelis look at Vladimir Putin and do not recognise him as themselves, because had Syria placed Iranian missiles in the region bordering Israel, the IDF would have long ago been sent to do exactly what Russia does, for the same security reasons as “self-defence” “kill or be killed”, “or any other tall tale. For just as the God of territorial imperialism gave the entire territory of the former Soviet Union to Putin, the biblical God gave this land to the Jews.
The gap between the self-image of Israelis — morally superior, an eternal victim — and the reality on the ground is abysmal and astonishing every time anew. It’s a gap that is well recognised not only by the Palestinians but also by the rest of the world. But in Israel, pink glasses are distributed to the populace, and thus a new equation was born: a people who have long ago ceased to be a victim but the one who assails others with a strong and powerful state, crushing to the ground a weaker population, believe they are the “Ukraine” in the current story.
I’m not a comedian like Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but here’s a joke to conclude: perhaps the “awakening of the sense of justice” among Israelis will lead to a sobering up, or at least to the beginning of the process of bringing back what has been repressed.
Sol Salbe • Middle East News Service
Original article from Haaretz Hebrew edition