The painful truth

July 19, 2009

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

By Gideon Levy

Really, who needs all this? The U.S. president is devoting a considerable amount of his precious time and goodwill trying to be persuasive about the need to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Europeans are ready to act, half the world is waiting, but let’s admit the truth: Why all the commotion about us? The settlers might scream and block highway intersections. The Israel Defense Forces would become less important and the news could actually become boring. The vineyard in the Golan Heights is liable to close, as might the boutique winery in the settlement of Ofra.

Life in Israel is just peachy, and who wants to think about peace, negotiations, withdrawals, the “price” we have to pay and all this unnecessary mess? Cafes are bustling and restaurants are packed. People are vacationing. The markets are surging. Television dumbs us down, highways are jammed, and the festivals are blaring. La Scala performed in the park and Madonna is to follow, and the beaches are full of foreign tourists and locals. The summer of 2009 is wonderful. So why should we change things?

The Israelis aren’t paying any price for the injustice of occupation. Life in Israel is immeasurably better than in most countries. The global financial crisis has hit Israel less than other places. It has poor people but not like in the developing world, and the rich and middle class here have not been critically harmed.

The security situation is also in good shape. No terrorist attacks. No Arabs. And when terrorism subsides, as it has over the past several years, who remembers that there is a “Palestinian problem”? The army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can continue to scare us with the terrorism threat, but for the meantime, at least, it doesn’t exist. The Iranian nuclear threat is also just a vague option at the moment. Life in Israel is currently secure.

True, every few years a wave of violence erupts, but it usually happens in the country’s outskirts and doesn’t interest anyone in the center. Qassam rockets in Sderot or Katyushas in Kiryat Shmona? Who cares? This is followed by another period of quiet, like now. The separation fence, media, education system and political propaganda do a great job in creating an illusion to make us forget what we need to forget and hide what needs to be hidden. They are there and we are here, and here life is a bowl of cherries, if not a blast. Like Switzerland? Even better.

We always knew how to add a measure of significance to the pleasures of life. We practice the cult of security, society’s true religion, and we perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust. You can enjoy yourself in Israel and also play the victim, party and gripe. Where else is there a place like this?

The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before the Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative, and why should they?

Even the most cruel terrorist attacks to befall the country haven’t instilled an understanding among the Israelis about the connection between cause and effect – between occupation and terrorism. Thanks to the media and the politicians – two of the worst agents for dumbing down and blinding Israeli society – we learned that the Arabs were born to kill, the whole world is against us, anti-Semitism determines how Israel is dealt with, and there is no connection between our actions and the price we pay.

Neither an international blockade nor terrible bloodletting appear to be on the horizon, to our great fortune. So why should we worry? It’s true that the world is beginning to scowl at Israel. So what? The world hates us anyway, Israelis are convinced. As long as they are not deprived of the world’s pleasures, there is no reason to worry. Try to ask them why they are ostracized and you will immediately hear scorn about the world, rather than any self-criticism, God forbid. The Israelis are not only enjoying themselves. They are also very satisfied with themselves – over their level of morality and that of their army and state.

All this really could have been peachy if not for the fact that blindness is dangerous and the not-so-good ending is known in advance. It’s another wonderful summer in Tel Aviv – and Gaza and Jenin – but a part of the world will blow up in our faces. And then we will pretend to be amazed, miserable victims, as we so much like to be.