April 17, 2009
By Gideon Levy
The 18th Knesset is different from all its predecessors. It is the first that does not have a Jewish MK whose guiding principle is the struggle against the occupation.
Since the 7th Knesset, the first to be elected after the Six-Day War, we have not had a parliament like this one, devoid of Jewish anti-occupation activists. As such, the new Knesset precisely reflects the popular zeitgeist, in which the occupation is completely missing from the national agenda, and there is no reason to disturb our legislators with the issue.
Nonetheless, the fact that the most pivotal issue facing our country and society does not warrant a solitary feeble voice, the fact that not even one Jewish MK, let alone one Zionist party in the Knesset, was elected to battle the occupation cannot but arouse surprise and concern. We have representatives for the environmentalists and settlers, the religious and social-welfare issues, for feminists, gays and people with disabilities. Only the occupation has been left without a voice.
There was always at least one Knesset party that raised this banner. There were always MKs who viewed this as their central issue. Now the occupation has nothing. Even the Jewish MK from Hadash waves the green flag only. Meretz has three MKs – one environmentalist, one waving the social-welfare banner, one focused on the economy. None represent the most important struggle of all. The occupation remains the domain of the marginalized Arab parties in the Knesset.
This is a shameful development for Israeli democracy, one in which 120 witnesses can attest to the Knesset’s hollowness. At a time when half the world is preoccupied with the Israeli occupation, the Israeli voters make their position clear: This struggle does not interest them in the least. The occupation can wait.
Our decline to this state was gradual. From the 1970s, when the conversation at every Friday night gather quickly turned into an charged, emotional discussion over “the future of the territories,” when it was said that for every two Israelis there were three opinions, we have reached the point where for every Israeli there is barely one opinion, certainly with regard to the future of this country’s dark backyard.
This wretched backyard casts its pall over what occurs on center stage, from defense to economics, from terror to tourism. Yet why should we exhaust our empty, tired minds by pondering the connection between these issues and what is being done just 15 minutes east or south of our homes?
The media was of course the main agent in removing the issue from our agenda. A rare, wall-to-wall coalition of the defense establishment, editors, writers, broadcasters, viewers, readers – especially viewers and readers – who do not want to write or read, hear or be heard, report or know, came together for the mission of removing the occupation from our world.
Under a marvelously effective self-censorship, the media decided to make life pleasant for its consumers and patrons and not to bother them with trifles. As a result, the left is starving to death, protest has been rendered passe, the town square is empty of demonstrators, most of the media is devoid of uncomfortable reports – and now the Knesset is joining them. The most painful topic is left without representation. No lobby nor party, not even one lone fighter.
Occasionally our false serenity is interrupted with a fresh wave of terror attacks or a small war, but even then nobody bothers to make the connection between cause and effect. The Arabs were born to kill, and that’s it. This is the way to perpetuate the occupation: The Palestinians are behind their fences, they are there and we are here, we don’t hear from them nor are we interested in their fate. Three and a half million people without basic human rights, a situation that has no equal in any democracy, is not enough to warrant even a discussion. There will be no one in the 18th Knesset who will submit the subject for deliberation.
It is much safer to win election on the fight against water pollution or corruption, much more popular to win office with the fight for social or ethnic justice. Even the representatives of the alleged left are too cowardly to make this struggle a cause celebre. Why should they? There are no takers anyway.
One day, when a historian examines what happened here, he will pore through the newspapers and television tapes and he will not understand a thing. Then he will read the Knesset protocols and he will pinch himself in disbelief. As in “Where’s Waldo?” – where the dickens is the occupation hiding?