July 18th - About Harsh Words

Many visitors to the www.seruv.org.il website who read this “Editor’s Word”, are shocked by the style and by the harsh language. Often, these visitors hold opinions quite similar to ours. But they do not understand, how can someone who grew up here, who still performs reserve service and sees himself as an integral part of Israeli society – how can he write so blatantly against state symbols, verbally attack IDF generals, and be so emotional about it.

In the Israeli public sphere there is a subliminal expectation, that criticism from the left will always be respectable, moderate and polite. The major proponents of the establishment Left – Beilin, Sarid, “Haaretz” editors, “Peace Now”, and even many of the refuseniks appearing on the media – follow this etiquette almost religiously [I must comment here in amusement, that this etiquette is completely one-sided; it’s enough to mention Tommy Lapid, who as a talk show panelist screamed at Shimon Peres in 1995 “you are a Judenrat government!”, without any base in reality whatsoever, and now he’s the successful leader of a liberal-centrist political party].

I, too, approve of a respectable and polite discourse. When a car rudely bumps into my car, I try my best to keep it cool, to speak calmly and evenly. When people shove me on the line in the supermarket, I try to comment politely, if at all.

But, dear friends: Since the end of September 2000, some 2300 people have been killed in this country, most of them unarmed. Between 500 and 600 Israelis, between 1700 and 1800 Palestinians. There’s no use to provide exact figures, because horribly enough they keep rising on a daily basis. About half of the dead were killed in the last five months. An insane and disastrous escalation. My government has produced this escalation and continues to feed it, to maintain a dialogue of blood and fire with the Palestinian terror organizations, but to prevent any dialogue of reconciliation with other Palestinian bodies. Last, but worst of all: During the last two years, the Israeli Government and the IDF, using my tax money, have been locking up and starving Palestinian civilian populations – and in the last few months we are talking about two million men, women and children. This is supposedly done in order to keep us safe (what a lousy excuse, with barely any relation to reality!), but in fact it is a calculated attempt to subdue a whole nation and break its spirit.

So what do you say, perhaps a polite discourse is not quite adequate here? As Nurit Peled-Elhanan said [with regards to the murder of five Palestinian children in Khan Younis by an IDF booby-trap in December 2001, after which the IDF first denied, then apologized]: “Apologies are meant for foul play in a ping-pong match – not for the murder of children!” When my country, the home of these two peoples, turns into one big slaughterhouse and torture camp, with all the ensuing collapse of social, political and economic systems, a polite discourse is the ultimate display of tastelessness.

Moreover, we already know too well what this politeness, respectability and indirect talk causes in our country. This type of talk allows for crimes to continue happening, and effectively pardons them afterwards. The so-moderate talk from the Left, always accompanied of course with an inability to ‘play the bad kid’ – allowed Ehud Barak to take the Left and Palestinian votes that elected him, and then continue implementing Netanyahu’s policies as if it’s the most natural thing to do. The adherence of Meretz [moderate Left party] et al. to the loyalist line, its failure to ‘break the fence’ before, during and after the Camp David 2000 catastrophe – allowed for the complete takeover of the public sphere by the false mantras “there is no partner, it’s either Us or Them”. The verbal detachment of people like Beilin and Sarid during the early stages of this Intifadah, has allowed the Army to freely begin a general war against civilian population – live fire shooting on demonstrators, siege without time limitations, bombardments at the heart of residential neighborhoods, and so forth. Once the IDF staff saw that everything they do passes quietly without opposition, it was only a matter of time until they entered Palestinian cities, poked holes in all homes of the refugee camps, completely destroyed the Jenin camp and the Old City of Nablus, imposed curfews for weeks and months on end, and we haven’t seen the best of it yet! Because, except for this little website, almost the entire camp that calls itself “the Zionist Left” is still keeping a loyal silence, or occasionally mumbles some polite words.

It is not a coincidence that we are not silent, that we are so blatant and emotional. We are already outside the fence. We have already broken the corrupt rules that took root here. In order to do this, in order to refuse, you must hurt – believe me, you must feel a great pain. All the signatories have suffered through this pain, and experienced the rage that comes with it. The awareness that you have been the unknowing accomplice to a crime, the understanding that you have been betrayed all along, that they have taken advantage of your youth and loyalty. Many of the signatories who were interviewed so far, have preferred to hide and soften this pain. It’s a natural reaction, since these are very private and intimate feelings – but the listeners, the readers, the spectators, they need to sense this pain. Without it, they have a hard time believing us. In order to believe and internalize our message, the Israeli public needs something parallel to the mutilated body parts smeared all over TV screens and front pages following terror attacks.

Such a ‘something’ exists, albeit at a more abstract level. The body in question is the bleeding body of Israeli Democracy, the rotting corpse of the culture in which I believed I was living. The State itself is severely wounded – will our description of the ugly, dangerous gashes, succeed in shocking you enough to wake you up and make you tend to them?

That’s not all. As the incoming IDF Chief of Staff, Boogy Yaalon (professional officer or politician and media man?) keeps repeating, there is a war over our consciousness here. The establishment of this dark regime in our country relies first and foremost upon the creation of a false consciousness. This consists of a total de-humanization of the Palestinians, with denial and even glee at their suffering. Of the disconnection of any cause-and-effect relationship between events, especially between the Army’s policy of repression and provocations and the terror attacks by Palestinian organizations. Of the continuous nurturing of the feeling that “there is No Choice”, and as a result, the forcing upon us of a childish, helpless trust in our rulers, no matter what they do. The aforementioned spokesmen of the establishment Left collaborate with this false consciousness, especially when they speak to the general public. The most conspicuous display of this collaboration is the avoidance of any mention of Palestinians (except politicians or terrorists).

Not here. Not this website. We shall supply you more and more reliable testimonies (which the mainstream US and Israeli media cannot find room for in their reports), until you will understand exactly what we meant when we declared that the Occupation causes “the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society.” A substantial amount of testimonies will come from Palestinian sources, because what do you know – on the Other Side there are some people who speak the truth, too (what an outrage to say this! Against all that we were raised upon…)

And against all the mouth-shutting, the pretty words, and the convoluted account-keeping for “the day after” (a day that will never come, if we leave it up to the polite among us), we will re-connect cause and effect, will publicly doubt all the “truths” we are being brainwashed with, will call things they way the are and not using the “laundered” expressions invented by the regime, and so forth – and usually, we shall do it using impolite, harsh words.

Let me end with a little heritage: it is not I who introduced the use of harsh words to criticize a straying regime, to wake up the people to crimes done in their name, to serve as an alarm bell warning the public of basic rules not to be transgressed. I am proud to continue here a glorious Jewish and universal tradition, thousands of years old, a tradition that is one of the defining motifs of Judaism itself. It is the tradition of the Prophets.

 

Assaf