Photo: Michael Kremer
Aviad Kleinberg.
Photo: Michael Kremer
Aviad Kleinberg

The comfort of the herd

Op-ed: If Israel’s political opposition continues to accept the Netanyahu narrative and refuses to fight for what it believes in, it will never be more than a pale, weak imitation of those in power.

The members of the opposition are deathly afraid. Not of policemen coming at night and throwing them in jail, but of something much greater: Not being a part of the national consensus. At the end of the Netanyahu era, the Israeli consensus is mostly demonization-based. The other side of the argument is non-human, in the full sense of those words. It doesn’t consist of men, women, and children who have been living under our rule without rights or hope for decades, but of bloodthirsty monsters.



That assumption started small: With a declaration, which has since become an article of faith, that “there is no partner (for peace).”  Suddenly, the world became simpler: We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys. Don’t nag us with talks of a solution. There is no solution.


PM Netanyahu. A mostly demonization-based consensus. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
PM Netanyahu. A mostly demonization-based consensus. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


The first thing to go was empathy – basic human empathy. Since “they” were no longer human, there was no need to treat them as such. Then we looked for ideological fortification for this belief, and found it: The Jewish religious leadership was eager to dish it out in generous portions.


Great Torah scholars stated that those who were not Jewish were not really people, that tolerance towards non-Jews is a sign of weakness. We used to dismiss these kinds of comments. Now we see the logic in them. Consensus.


Then came the expansions: Not only are the Arabs on this side of the Green Line (may it rest in peace) the enemy, but also the Arabs who live on or side of it and have Israeli citizenship. In quick succession, their “supporters,” whatever their religion, became outcasts as well.


This entire hysterical nationalistic concert was conducted by Netanyahu and performed by his orchestra of cheerleader-commenters, using their favorite rhythmic chants: Holocaust, a vital threat (Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Balad, BDS, Breaking the Silence, MK Zouheir Bahloul, Chanel 2 investigative journalism program Uvda), leftists.


MK Bezalel Smotrich. Racist statements? The opposition responds with a light finger-wag. (Photo: Amit Shabi)
MK Bezalel Smotrich. Racist statements? The opposition responds with a light finger-wag. (Photo: Amit Shabi)


Whoever wasn’t with us (that is, with Netanyahu, Smotrich, Bentzi Gopstein, and the Rabbis Shmuel Eliyahu and Yitzhak Yosef) was against us. Only a traitor would believe in something that makes us, the consensus people, feel bad about ourselves – even for a second.


The right to pass criticism was narrowed down to the point that it only applied to socio-economic issues. You may be against Netanyahu’s gas plan. But you cannot speak out on matters of the new consensus-religion (there is no solution, Arabs are animals, everything we and our dear children do is sacred). Those who separate themselves from the rest (by, for instance, not supporting the Hebron soldier) are committing a sin.


What is the role of an opposition in these cases? Its role is to smash the evil consensus, tear apart the net of prejudices that have become commonplace, and to offer an alternative – hope, a plan for the future. But the Zionist opposition in Israel feels bad being outside the consensus. It’s busy obsessively trying to clear itself of the accusations of treason that have been slung its way.


MK Bahloul said (correctly) that there’s an essential difference between attacking armed soldiers (resistance) and attacking civilians (terrorism)? Better state our shock at his comments and condemn him. Breaking the silence are labeled traitors and calls to execute them are heard? Let’s lightly wag our fingers. No, that’s not very good. An exaggeration. What’s that? MK Smotrich said something very very racist? That’s not great either. Another light finger-wag. And off we go to continue our behind-the-scenes unity-government negotiations with PM Netanyahu.


MK Zuheir Bahloul. Instead of standing by him, his fellow opposition members bow to the consensus and condemn him. (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson) (Photo: Knesset)
MK Zuheir Bahloul. Instead of standing by him, his fellow opposition members bow to the consensus and condemn him. (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson)


The state of Israel’s main problem is not that people act badly towards each other. It’s not even the fact that we have a violent public discourse. That discourse is problematic, but It’s merely a symptom of the larger disease.


That disease is the fact that Israel not only has exerted control over another people for decades, but has also denied them basic rights for all of that time. And we treat this fact as if it’s a rash, rather than a malignant tumor.


The Israeli disease is the fact that the Jewish state does everything it can to prevent any kind of diplomatic solution – by disinheritance, settlement, and theft. The disease is the fact that it’s convenient to say that a solution isn’t possible in order to justify its unwillingness to engage in a solution. It’s the fact that the state defines any resistance to this long-standing wrong as treason or terrorism.


An opposition that cannot and will not stand up and say these things loudly and clearly, without fear or shame, an opposition that sees its role as bringing an “enlightened” attitude to the occupation instead of ending it, is no opposition at all. It’s an imitation Likud. And when voters look at both, they’re going to prefer the original.



פרסום ראשון: 04.16.16, 15:56
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