Over the past few weeks, as Benjamin Netanyahu has been cobbling together his coalition government, a series of unrelated events has highlighted the true substance of the country that the fourth reincarnation of Netanyahu will be leading, at the head of a reshuffled pack of the same old faces.
It is a nation incapacitated by decades of fear-mongering and brainwashing.
Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day were sad and somber affairs, as befits the memory of the fallen. They were also artificial and stage-managed spectacles – as befits a country in which memory and commemoration are political tools.
Far be it for Israelis to be left to mourn and commemorate as they see fit. Mourning in Israel is the prerogative of the state, which manipulates such occasions to deliver blunt, emotion-sodden messages.
Namely, that the invariable and inevitable fate of Jews is eternal hatred, if not outright extermination. Anyone who even contemplates compromise with Israel’s enemies – be it the leftists and Arabs inside Israel who proceed in droves to the voting stations or the bleeding-hearted Obamas of the world – is himself or herself an enemy of the Jewish people; a fifth-columnist opening the gates to the hordes of anti-Semites with bloody knives clenched between their teeth.
It is a nation in which a bloated and continually-nourished sense of victimhood suffocates empathy for others.
Shortly after Israel remembered the Jewish genocide, the global Armenian community commemorated its own genocide at the hands of the Turkish Ottomans, starting in 2015. No official Israeli representative deigned to attend the memorial ceremony in Jerusalem’s Old City, though two anonymous Knesset backbenchers represented Israel at the ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia.
Worse than that, all Israeli statements on the Armenian issue – including that of President Rivlin – carefully and deliberately avoided the use of the word “genocide,” using instead such palliatives as “tragedy” and “massacre.” Israel demands that the rest of the world remember and honor the Holocaust, but when it comes to other genocides it can’t bring itself to call a spade a spade.
In the Israeli weltanschauung, there is only one victim and that is the Jew. We don’t take kindly to pretenders and competitors.
It is a country that chooses its humanitarian causes with political precision and is incapable of acting humanely without an ulterior motive.
Israel was among the first countries to send medical and rescue teams to Nepal following the earthquake that devastated that country. It would – and should – have been a moment of quiet pride, had government spokesmen not gone overboard with their overtly self-congratulatory statements and egregious scoring of political points. (“Have you seen any Iranian rescue planes?” was one such comment.)
For the Israeli government, any opportunity for PR is a blessing, even if its manipulation of the situation for its own glory is tasteless in the extreme. But the back-slapping is pathetic. More than anything else, it points to Israel’s insecurity and troubled conscience. As T.S. Elliot wrote in “Murder in the Cathedral,” “That is the greatest treason – doing the right deed for the wrong reason.”
Beside which, where were the Israeli rescue and medical teams when Gazan children were being dug out of buildings just last summer? Why do we weep for the Nepalese but remain unmoved at the wholesale deaths of Palestinian civilians?
The easy answer is that it’s simply hypocrisy, but it goes deeper than that. (Not that Israel is incapable of hypocrisy, mind you.) When it comes to Palestinians – and Muslims in general, probably – Israelis are in denial. We don’t see them and we don’t hear them. Even when we see pictures of utter devastation in Gaza, we manage to file them away in some impenetrable corner of our national subconscious before they are processed by the small part of us that remains humane. For us, Palestinians are not our problem, even when we’re the ones doing the killing.
Which brings us to the Ethiopian protest of the last few days.
It is a country in which decades of racism and casual brutality have permeated deep into the society and are now being turned inwards.
A video of an Ethiopian Israeli soldier being beaten up by policemen brought thousands of Ethiopian immigrants and their children into the streets, first in Jerusalem and last night in Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv protest turned violent, prompting police to use stun grenades, water cannons and batons in an attempt to restore order. Some 40 people, including policemen, were injured in the clashes, according to news reports, none seriously.
The video may have been the catalyst but it certainly was not the underlying cause. Ethiopians interviewed by Haaretz newspaper told of lives blighted by institutionalized racism, police harassment, casual, everyday discrimination, forced religious education and a society that has never bothered to listen to the Ethiopians and deal with their specific needs.
For Israel, the Ethiopians who began arriving in the late Eighties were cannon- and Zionist-fodder, just like the Jews of North Africa and the Arab countries who arrived in the late Forties and Fifties. Their role was to serve the state; the state has never regarded itself as being under an obligation to serve them.
More immigrants means more money for the various government departments, municipalities, religious institutions, NGOs and all the other components of the infrastructure that lives like a gigantic parasite off the poor, confused immigrants it is meant to serve. The immigrant serves the Establishment, or a significant part of it, not the other way around.
When it comes down to it, Ethiopian Israelis simply want dignity, a commodity that has never been easy to come by in a country in which dignity is the monopoly of the state. Norwegians can live in dignity; in Israel the job of the citizen is to be a foot-soldier for the dignity of the state.
Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since David Ben-Gurion. Much of what the country has become is due to him. Israel may not have been created in Netanyahu’s image, but he’s done a pretty good job of molding it into the paranoid, self-obsessed, self-righteous and racist country it is today.
It’s not rational to expect the next Netanyahu government to do anything to change that.