There’s a strange dynamic going on within Israel. Every weekend for the past thirteen weeks, there have been massive protests by Israeli Jews against the democracy “steal” by the governing coalition. Even this past weekend’s protest–occurring amidst security threats ranging from brutal Israeli assaults on Al Aqsa mosque to multiple terror attacks inside Israel and Israel-colonized West Bank—brought out 150,000 (a quarter of the previous week’s total).
The repeated (over three days) state-sponsored terror attacks on Al Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan, incited a rocket barrage both from Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. It threatened to turn into a repeat of May 2021, when Hamas mounted massive attacks against southern Israel in response to similar violent incitement at the holy shrine. There have also been multiple acts of Palestinian resistance: two girls who lived in the settler colony of Efrat were killed in one attack. Efrat is built on land stolen from neighboring Palestinian villages. Those two phenomena are directly connected. Land and life are precious. If you lose one you will lose the other.
In another incident, a Palestinian driver killed one foreign tourist and injured several others in what was first labeled as a terror attack. His family denies the claim. An Israeli security source told me that while his agency believes it may have been a deliberate attack, evidence is not definitive. In other words, it’s possible the driver lost control of the vehicle and did not intend to drive into the crowd on the Tel Aviv boardwalk. Haaretz reporting confirms this as a possibility.
What Israeli media erase: that while 18 Israelis have been killed since 2023 began, 90 Palestinians were murdered during the same interval. That is SEVEN times the number of Israelis killed. https://t.co/bxFTYAs8Dn
— Tikun Olam (@richards1052) April 10, 2023
On social media, pro-Israel apologists posted pictures of the victims: two young teenage girls. It was a manipulative phenomenon designed to elicit sympathy, while eliding the underlying cause of such killings. Even more important, those Jewish victims cannot obscure the 90 Palestinian victims murdered by Israeli forces since the beginning of 2023. 18 Israelis have died in the same period in acts of Palestinian resistance. In other words, five Palestinians have died for every Israeli. Pictures of Israeli dead no longer elicit in me the sympathy they once did. Because I know that five Palestinian mothers endure five times the amount of grief. And I know that very few Israelis will care about that discrepancy. That, I’m afraid leaves me cold.
The divided Israeli psyche
Israelis thus live a divided existence: they treat their own domestic politics as life or death, with deeply personal implications. That’s what draws such large crowds to the weekly demonstrations. When the people believe their leaders want to steal their freedoms, they rally to protect them. Thus, pro-democracy activism has led to a grassroots national movement which may, if it succeeds, topple the fascist government.
While this to many Israelis would be a cause for massive celebration, that’s not how Israeli Palestinians or occupied Palestinians see it. For them, nothing will change. Their lives will not improve. The government will not, all of a sudden become less racist, more generous with government funding, or more serious about suppressing crime in their communities (which have been abandoned by Israeli Jewish police).
Israeli Jews, I’m sorry to say, want it that way. While they might wish that the Palestinian “problem” would just go away, they are willing to live with a permanent disjunction in which they enjoy supremacy, while non-Jews suffer as the permanent underclass.
As I watched the videos of tens of thousands of Israeli Jews holding aloft a massive banner featuring Bibi Netanyahu as Pharaoh, with the caption, “Let my people go,” I couldn’t help thinking that in the back of their minds had to be fear or anxiety about the security threat. How do you balance those polar opposites within one nation?
Not to mention that if the people you want to liberate are Jews, when will the other people, Palestinians, be liberated from their bondage? Though Israelis have lived such an existence for decades (perhaps even since 1948), it is difficult to see how they can perpetuate it forever. Eventually, such systems based on injustice and mass violence must collapse under the weight of their own contradictions, as have many societies before, going back to the Romans and Greeks, if not earlier. The arc of the universe may not bend toward justice, but given enough pressure, it will break.