Thoughts in the Wake of Ali’s Murder
Zehava Galon, leader of the Israeli left wing party Meretz, had this to say today in response to the burning of Palestinian toddler, Ali Saad Dawabsha, and the stabbings at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade: “I say to Netanyahu and to MKs from the right: We don’t want your condemnations and we don’t want your soul-searching… Netanyahu has made a career out of inciting against Arabs and leftists – from the balcony in Zion Square to campaign videos comparing Arabs to Hamas, to ‘the Arabs are voting in droves.’”
Any sensible person can see the direct link between decades of incitement led by Israel’s right-wing leaders and the systematic violence that Palestinians suffer on a daily basis. If Israeli opposition leaders, such as Galon, can see the direct link between Netanyahu’s political rhetoric and the ensuing violence perpetrated by settlers and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, then the obvious thing to do is to hold Netanyahu and his right wing government directly responsible for the systematic attacks against Palestinians. Today, across Israel, but mainly in West Bank settlements, a culture of hate, racism, and outright rejection of the other has peeked to unprecedented levels, all thanks to the racist and apartheid policies of Netanyahu’s successive governments. The international community should take notice and rethink its policies towards the current Israeli government. Surely condemnations have zero clout and are no longer sufficient, as if they ever were.
It is noteworthy to remember that Israeli soldiers who participated in last summer’s war on Gaza had Netanyahu’s speeches and his right-wing rhetoric on replay in their pre-war preparations. This right-wing rhetoric of violence and incitement provided Israeli combatant soldiers with carte blanche to spare no soul and maximize the carnage in Gaza. Anyone doubting this should hear the testimonies of Israeli soldiers to Breaking the Silence. The rhetoric of self-righteousness coupled with the portrayal of the other as perpetually in the wrong, as sub-human with no rights, has provided Israel’s politicians, its settlers, its soldiers, and its general public with the notion and deep-rooted conviction that Israel does not err. It does not commit war crimes, it does not promote racism and separation, it does not incite, it does not break international law, and it is always justified in its actions, its policies, and its decisions. This is the rhetoric which dominates Israel’s political sphere and aggressively bullies anyone who opposes it – one can only witness how vocal leftist Israelis are ostracized in their own society. This political rhetoric has nurtured a sense of denial within Israel’s political establishment about Israel’s politics of the past two decades which have contributed directly to the current state of its society, to the impunity of the settler community, and to Israel’s increased pariah status in the international community. This is the same sense of denial that refuses to entertain any valid criticism of Israel and its policies, and portrays such criticism as anti-Semitic, as an attempt to delegitimize the “only democracy in the Middle East”, as an ad hominem attack on the Jewish people.
Despite the tragic events of the past days, perhaps Ali’s painful passing will ignite a mass self-reflection within the Israeli political establishment and the wider Israeli society on where Israeli politics and society stand today. On the other hand, perhaps this is too optimistic. Nonetheless, a vision for a better tomorrow starts with a serious self-reflection, a social auto-critique, and the nurturing of a culture of self-criticism. This is severely lacking in Israel today, and perhaps it might require another tragedy or two of the sort we witnessed to awaken a dormant society that is in a deep state of denial. On the other hand, the international community can no longer stand idle in the face of the Israeli government’s destructive right wing agenda. This is a government that rejected the Iranian nuclear accord, rejected the two-state solution, has publicly declared its intention to expand settlements, demolish Bedouin villages, force-feed Palestinian prisoners, and the list goes on and on. How can this government be considered one that contributes positively to the global community? It offers no solutions, no vision, clings to the status quo and thrives on waging periodic wars and conflicts as though believing that it can bomb its way to a more secure future. The international community should make it very clear that the policies of the current Israeli government are unwelcome and will bear severe consequences should they continue as they are. Perhaps, that too is a tad optimistic and asking too much of an indifferent international community.