The Hard Lesson Of A Little More Force: Where There Is No Vision, the People Cast Off Restraint
Under occupation in Yatta. Photo by AFP
Israel's iron-handed punishment meted out to Palestinians after the Tel Aviv attack - revoking 83,000 entry permits and hundreds of student passes during Ramadan, bulking up troops in the West Bank and Tel Aviv, sealing off the perpetrators' entire town, eagerly measuring their relatives' homes for quick vengeful demolition, and, going one unfathomably grisly step further, refusing to return the bodies of the attackers to their families - is less than surprising. Historically, brutal collective overreach is, after all, what Israel does best. Similarly, many Israeli leaders stepped up to issue violent threats of reprisal to an entire people, from Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz's vow of measures “that will go down in history” to Culture Minister Miri Regev's suggestion Israel “burn into the enemy’s consciousness” the awful price that will be paid.
More notable has been the rising chorus of Israeli voices newly, stubbornly linking this and the many other recent attacks by desperate Palestinians to their legitimate source: an Occupation that has long been and remains untenable. One of the first to speak out was Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai, a Labor Party stalwart and former Israeli Air Force pilot, who on Army Radio pointedly noted, “We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights...You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright.” Speaking of a 49-year-long occupation in which he took part, he lamented the lack of Israeli leaders with the "courage to do what needs to be done" in order to establish peace.
Huldai was predictably ripped by rightist leaders - Deputy Defence Minister Eli Ben-Dahan called his remarks “bizarre” and “delusional” - but many others echoed his once-unimaginable suggestion that, in the words of Reform Rabbi Rick Jacobs, "The occupation threatens the very Zionism that we hold dear." A blistering Ha'aretz editorial charged that bellicose leaders' "impassioned and hollow talk" of revenge "has no real value...It will just increase the frustration and hatred among those forced to live under Israeli occupation. The terror will continue as long as the Palestinian people have no hope on the horizon." Others mournfully argued the Occupation has twisted Judaism into "a religion of hatred...transforming before our eyes from an ennobling path of wisdom, devotion and ethics to an angry, bloody weapon." Citing hundreds of so-called "price tag attacks" by messianic nationalists like the deadly one last year in Duma, they insist, "When people start quoting sacred texts to support the murder of children, it’s time for everyone to wake up."
And Yuval Diskin, former chief of Israel’s internal security force Shin Bet and current critic of the Occupation, shreds the current right-wing government's intransigence and the willful blindness it fosters: "Let's frighten the public over everything that's happening around us in the Middle East, let's prove that there's no Palestinian partner, let's build more and more settlements and create a reality that can't be changed...(Thus we have) the illusion that the government's inaction on every front can actually freeze the situation in place, the illusion that "price tag" is simply a few slogans on the wall and not pure racism, the illusion that everything can be solved with a little more force, the illusion that the Palestinians will accept everything that's done in the West Bank and won't respond despite the rage and frustration...that the Arab citizens of Israel won't take to the streets at the end of the day." He concludes, "Nothing could be more dangerous for the survival of the people of Israel than extremism, sectarianism, and hate." Just to be clear: Not that of "the other," but their own.