+972 Magazine / May 9, 2023
The Israeli right and center left have learned time and again that the best way to paralyze the opposition is to launch an assault on the blockaded strip.
It was only a matter of time before Jewish Israelis — socially disintegrated, politically divided, economically sinking, and diplomatically entangled — would once again gather around the common denominator under which they can all embrace: the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.
Once again, Israel has set out to “eliminate senior jihadists.” Once again, the army has killed women and children with indiscriminate air strikes. And once again, Israel’s political opposition is cheering from the stands.
The circularity in which all of this is being carried out clearly proves that Israeli political leaders are not looking for security. After all, even the most foolish of the death mongers on both the right and left must understand by now that these strikes are incapable of eliminating Palestinian resistance, so long as oppression itself continues. Rather, these leaders are looking for blood: revenge for the Palestinians’ insistence on existing, living, and demanding their freedom.
The Israeli right has greeted the current round of carnage in Gaza with horrifying glee. “A nice start,” said Itamar Ben Gvir, our pyromaniac National Security Minister, as if it was the punchline of a lame joke.
The bearer of the minister’s fuel barrel, MK Almog Cohen, used the moment to pretend to be a considerate statesman, announcing that he would close his office in the southern town of Sderot in compliance with the instructions of the IDF Home Front Command. “It was an excellent response,” Cohen gloated in an interview about the massacre that has so far claimed the lives of 13 people in Gaza. “I don’t think this is the time to talk about politics. We should all support the army, and congratulate the prime minister and the defense minister.”
‘A hasbara problem’
As is customary in Israel, the motto of “This is not the time to talk about politics” was immediately picked up by the opposition, too. The supportive response of Yair Lapid on Twitter almost reads like a parody, as if the man did not even bother to draft the statement himself but rather assigned the task to ChatGPT:
I am supporting the security forces for the operation against [Islamic Jihad] in Gaza. The terrorist organizations in Gaza learned this morning that the intelligence community and the security forces are following their every move and that they will be punished. A strong Israeli response at a place and time that we see fit is the way to deal with the terrorism from Gaza. We will support any operational activity for the protection of the residents of the south.
Every sentence in this statement is a masterpiece of fraud and lazy thought. Did the “terrorist organizations” only discover this morning that the Israeli army is following their every move — something that even a Palestinian child in Hebron knows? Does Lapid really think that it was only this morning, through this assault, that they suddenly became aware of the sophisticated facial recognition technology that Israel uses to spy on its Palestinian subjects? And what is a “place and time that we see fit” exactly? How will they face the Palestinian resistance forces better this time than the countless previous rounds? How does this operation protect Israeli residents of the south, who are once again forced to flee to bomb shelters?
Lapid wasn’t even the worst of the opposition members who cheered the current round of violence; that title probably goes to Labor MK Efrat Rayten. “The IDF is carrying out a successful operation to eliminate senior jihadists,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thank God our soldiers returned safely. I wish peaceful days for the residents of Israel and especially for the residents of the surrounding area [near Gaza]. Complex work for Israel in the context of the killing of children, including a 5-year-old and women by our forces. Difficult images for hasbara [to explain].”
One can almost marvel at Rayten’s ability to cram such amounts of vileness into a few dozen words. Successful operation? By what parameter? Israel’s southern residents are sitting in shelters, and the danger to their safety has increased following the military assault. What makes it successful apart from the mere shedding of Palestinian blood? And our soldiers returned safely from where exactly? Did the air force pilots fight face-to-face with Palestinian militants in the alleys of Gaza? From where are the soldiers, who shell a civilian population using the most advanced weapons and are protected to the bone, supposed to be safely returning?
It is also abominable and nauseating to see the killing of women and children being discussed as a “hasbara problem.” Fortunately for Israel, it now has, like the best dictatorships in the world, a propaganda minister — our Minister of Information, Galit Distel Atbaryan — to deal with those “hasbara problems,” those shattered families who will soon be buried in the ground.
Reaping the rewards
The complete disintegration of the Israeli opposition in the face of a military operation is not just a moral abomination, but political folly of the first order. The Zionist center left has taught the right wing, time and time again, that the best way to completely paralyze the opposing camp is to start a war, because then “there is no coalition and no opposition.”
Indeed, less than 24 hours since the gates of hell opened over Gaza again, Netanyahu is already starting to reap the rewards. After threatening to stop cooperating with the coalition, Otzma Yehudit, Ben Gvir’s party, announced that it would return to support the government in the Knesset. Anti-government protesters, too, announced that they were canceling a demonstration planned for Tuesday in front of the Jerusalem Security Conference in light of the operation.
The tragedy of the Jewish center-left camp in Israel is thus not only that it does not know how to lead, but that it does not know how to serve as an opposition. In this regard, it can learn a valuable lesson from the right.
A year ago under the Bennett-Lapid coalition, when the “settlement emergency regulations” — the laws which institutionally apply apartheid in the West Bank — were about to expire, the right led by Benjamin Netanyahu did not blink in voting against their renewal. Right-wing voters did not accuse their leaders of neglecting the settlers, or harming vital national interests, or even rejecting the apartheid laws. But politicians knew very well that, when playing this game of “chicken,” the coalition would blink first. They were right, of course: the “government of change” sacrificed itself on the altar of preserving apartheid in the occupied territories.
Today, there is no real political opposition in Israel, except for the Arab political parties. And as long as Palestinian blood continues to be the unifying glue of Jewish Israeli politics, no serious opposition can ever be established here. Until that changes, the Jewish parties in opposition will continue to be humiliated by their moral promiscuity and political exile.
Orly Noy is an editor at Local Call, a political activist, and a translator of Farsi poetry and prose