Unfortunately for the occupiers and those who preach about it, the Israeli occupation took place after the collapse of the empires based on occupation for the sake of settlement. The British and French empires collapsed not only because of military victories. Settling in a foreign country through violent measures, the empires realized, is not worthwhile. Not only did the settlement lead to bloodshed, it also depleted the national coffers. Even slavery did not disappear from this world for humane reasons, but because buying and keeping a slave became expensive and was not longer worthwhile.
We have poured millions into the settlements over the past 50 years at the expense of Israeli taxpayers, and especially at the expense of nurturing development towns and villages, poor neighborhoods and impoverished populations, including the elderly people who poured their hearts into building this country. The fruit of prosperity borne by this lost and deprived generation is now enjoyed by several thousand people who have become the masters of our fate.
I lived through the dangers my son the paratrooper had to face, and I am now anxiously living through the dangerous times experienced by my grandson, who has chosen to serve in an elite unit. I am familiar with the courage of most of our soldiers. But in the course of 50 years of occupation, the humane values that we meticulously maintained have worn out.
In the culture of occupation, a soldier who fires a lethal bullet at a dying rival gains admiration and popularity. This culture, which preaches abhorrence and hatred of the occupied rival, has infiltrated many institutions, from kindergartens to retirement homes, from schools to synagogues, from the army to the academia. The culture of occupation leads to internal hatred, leaving a region overflowing with empty words of cheap propaganda.
The occupation has deprived the State of Israel of the possibility to lead its life with sovereign borders. By turning occupied territories into “Israeli,” we are denying the Palestinians the protection and immunity granted by international law to occupied people. We are violating basic human rights: We are robbing lands from their Palestinian owners, we are imposing movement restrictions on the Palestinians within their home, we are not allowing them to use natural resources in their territories, and we use administrative detentions against them with no trial. On the other hand, the settlers, who are officially subject to military rule, are actually enjoying the democratic advantages of the State of Israel and receiving services from government ministries and from the army. We have created two separate legal systems for Palestinians and for settlers who live on the same territory.
Before the occupation, the borders were more or less clear, and the main violent conflicts were over the borders. After the occupation began, however, Israel as a whole turned into a front. We call on the world’s Jews to come and live in Israel peacefully, although Israel has in fact become the most dangerous place for Jews. A normal person looks for a peaceful home to raise his children and lead a quiet life. In spite of the bitter and horrific memories, there are those who even favor life in Germany over life in Israel. The fleeing population mostly includes the educated, creative and dynamic elite.
Every occupation is a crime according to humane, universal and democratic values. The moral corruption in Israeli society is reflected in the perpetuating the occupation, whose advocates have no problem using shameful incitement, intimidation and threats to that end.
Those in charge of the justice system are presented as traitors to their homeland and are forced to defend themselves against the government’s unrestrained attacks. In the occupation era, Knesset members enact totally undemocratic laws, like the shameful Regulation Law. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is doing everything in her power to undermine what remains of the checks and balances protecting the judicial system. I spent an important chunk of my life in Iraq, a country where the legal system was a tool in the government’s hands. The ordinary, moral citizen was more afraid of conscienceless judges than of muggers. Eventually, we might spill over into that dark hole of the third world.
Quite a few people will raise an eyebrow: Can this really happen here?
Yes, absolutely, even here. Not just because the occupation's proponents are united and have massive resources at their disposal. In the dark days, the occupation is everywhere and hardly misses any plot of land. Unfortunately, people of culture, artists, writers, poets and religious clerics are available and happy to serve the monster that has been fed ad nauseam and is unprepared to quit.
The education minister seeks to limit academic freedom. Poets and writers volunteer to serve as members in committees sorting permitted and forbidden books for schools. The culture minister has the help of conscienceless artists in her censorship work, in restricting freedom of speech, and in turning off the democratic lights in different cultural institutions. The government’s blatant attacks on journalists are spreading fear, and quite a few journalists are becoming a tool in the government’s hands. "Human rights" is a phrase that has become a derogatory nickname, and demonization against the other is increasing, starting from incitement against Arab citizens to those opposing government policies.
A great intellectual has said that a people that enslaves another people will never be free. Indeed, right before our eyes, inside our home, dreadful things are happening. We have become a terribly split society which is violent in its daily life. The violence against the occupied is coming back at us like a boomerang. There are even radical settlers willing to violently clash with the IDF, without which an occupation could never have existed, not even for month.
Fortunately for the occupying countries, they came to their senses at the right moment and knew how to withdraw, reaching peace and prosperity. In the modern era, we remain the only democracy with the stain of occupation. Unfortunately, within Israel, I don’t see a courageous and determined person on the horizon who will muster the courage to crush the snake that is consistently consuming our humane and democratic values and poisoning our life. All we can do is hope for salvation from the outside.
I spent half my life under the heavy shadow of the occupation. The Iranians are not the ones threatening our existence as a normal, civilized country. They are up to their neck in the thousands-of-years-old conflict between the Shiite world and the Sunni world. The occupation is the sworn enemy that could destroy the State of Israel.