The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights is now 47 years old. Two generations of Israelis have grown up, matured and been educated in a country depriving millions of their political rights. In Israel’s political leadership, settlers residing in the Occupied Territories and recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union are over-represented. No wonder, then, that basic notions of democracy have been virtually abandoned.
For example, in a step highly reminiscent of anti-Semitic boycotts against Jews in Eastern and Central Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Israel’s foreign minister Lieberman explicitly urged Israelis (i.e. Jews) to boycott businesses of Israeli Arabs. Having grown up in a Soviet dictatorship, it is the same Lieberman who found Putin’s 2011 elections in Russia fair and democratic.
Given this kind of inspiration from one of Israel’s most influential politicians, one should hardly be surprised by reports of neo-Nazi Jewish gangs practicing manhunts and lynchings on Arabs and “leftists” in the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Persecution of ethnic, religious and political minorities and dissidents – whether carried out by the state through legislation or advocacy by the likes of Lieberman, or privately, in the form of discrimination and planned street violence – is completely incompatible with any concept of modern democracy.
Media Mobilizing the Masses
Almost totally absent from the Israeli media’s discussion of these issues is good old-fashioned critical thinking. The only exception is Ha’aretz, who apparently remain open to diversity of thought in their news and op-eds. The remainder of the Israeli media appears mobilized for war. Where critical voices are heard, they are immediately dismissed, ridiculed or violently silenced in real time.
As a result, the narrative fed to the Israeli public becomes whatever the Israeli political leadership decides it ought to be that day. They are apparently ignorant of the ancient rule that a liar should have a good memory. Netanyahu and his cabinet can’t even manage to stick to their own lies, jumping from one to another in a matter of days, all with the support of an obedient Israeli media.
This time, it started with the kidnapping of three settlers in the West Bank, two of whom were minors. True, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but this did not give anybody the right to kill them. The fact that they were already murdered was known by Israeli authorities within a matter of hours, but they hid this information from the public, cultivating the illusion that the victims might still be found alive. The charade continued for almost three weeks.
This period of planned national hysteria was used, first, to incite the masses against “the kidnappers” of “our children”. Whipped up by the hysteria and taking the law into their own hands, Jews burnt a teenage Arab boy alive. Second, the drama enabled Netanyahu to blame Hamas for the kidnapping – an outright lie, since the names of the kidnappers were known to Israel all along. Clearly they were not Hamas activists. Third, the run-up period was used to drag Hamas into the fighting: Hamas (in Gaza) denied responsibility for the kidnapping (which took place in the West Bank) and refrained from firing at Israel (it was the Islamic Jihad who fired), yet Israel still attacked Hamas targets, in an obvious effort to drag them into the war.
Just as perfidious was the original aim of the Operation. The real motivation seems to have been to sabotage the conciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It seems “divide and rule” continues to be the motto of Israel’s colonialism, having already divided the Palestinians into so many groups and subgroups with conflicting interests (refugees outside Palestine vs. those inside it; those with Israeli citizenship (inside Israel) vs. those without it (inside the Occupied Territories) vs. the East-Jerusalemites with only partial citizenship; and now, Christian Israelis vs. Muslim Israelis). Israel simply cannot tolerate any unification or reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza, or any of the various Palestinian sub-groups.
It was clear that this purely political justification wouldn’t be sufficient from the Israeli public’s viewpoint; the kidnapping, therefore, came in an excellent timing. Then once the murdered settlers were found, and it appeared that tragedy may no longer have legs, the aim was updated to stopping the missiles shot on Israel. This despite several previous operations which had failed to achieve that end (the best way to stop the missiles – what a surprise – has proved to be indirect agreements with Hamas).
When the army inevitably failed to stop the missiles which continue to be fired even after 24 days of scorching the Strip from the air, sea and land, the “terror tunnels” were introduced as the newest aim. Israelis have been persuaded that the tunnels from Gaza have their mouth in nearby Israeli towns and villages, more specifically near Israeli schools and kindergartens. The fact that these tunnels end miles away from any inhabited place has been blurred by the army, who prefer that the nation remain seduced by this made up nightmare scenario. Also lost in all this is the fact that a new tunnel takes only a few months to dig, so whatever might be achieved by temporary dismemberment of the tunnels will be fleeting.
All these deceits and manipulations escaped the attention of the Israeli mainstream public, brainwashed as it is by an endless march of military “experts” on the TV screen. I believe the desperate moderators, having exhausted all imaginable veteran officers, would now give a microphone to a veteran sergeant as long as he promises to recite the desired slogans (“We can’t stop now!" etc.).
So while Israelis sound as bloodthirsty as medieval Crusaders, Israel’s “democracy” looks more and more like one of the former “democratic” Soviet republics, and its media as pluralistic as North Korea’s. So much for the only democracy in the Middle East.