Yitzhak Laor: The national choir

By Yitzhak Laor, Haaretz – 21 Sept 2009

Yitzhak Laor

Yitzhak Laor

If anyone thought our leaders and anchors compete in their poor taste only when a pilot’s widow is burying her pilot son, he should listen to them tussle like soloists in a lousy opera that could be called “That Awful Goldstone.”

Beyond the repetitive drone, the opera is remarkable for the paleness of its arguments, all of which appear to be based on one single axiom: “Everything they said is a lie, and anyway, we are allowed to.” The opera itself is built around a single motif, repeated by soloists and choir alike: “Israel was forced into Operation Cast Lead.” Was it, really?

Who still recalls that before the war, Israel rejected attempts to renew the tahadiyeh? Who still remembers that the months before the war were relatively quiet, despite the siege on Gaza? Who still recalls that the siege itself was a blatant violation of the tahadiyeh agreement, which Israel signed? Who can actually claim the operation was meant to release Gilad Shalit? And finally, who still remembers that the cabinet debates before the war sounded like an election campaign – with Kadima competing with its promises and vows to “tear out Hamas,” and Ehud Barak warning about Kadima and right’s “rabble-rousing”?

The reason no one publicly recalls these details is that the public memory needs agents, such as a party that opposed the war reminding us that they warned this would happen.

The national choir is only reinforcing a fact not mentioned explicitly in the Goldstone report, but embedded deep in the core of the growing calls for boycotting Israel and trying its military personnel abroad. Israeli democracy does not have a system of monitoring what the state does to its Palestinian subjects, and therefore the victims of the Israeli military machine must not be left to Israeli mercy, relying on a handful of well-intentioned locals who give the occasional interview to foreign media.

Anyone who thought the Israeli consensus – with the gradual muting of the Supreme Court (take the 2004 Operation Rainbow in Rafah, when the court refused to intervene in a massive house demolition spree, but made the “humanitarian decision” to instruct the army to allow Palestinians to bury their dead), and the vanishing parliamentary opposition to wars – will strengthen Israel is increasingly being proved wrong. Israel is perceived as monolithic, because it is – the separation fence, the “bypass roads,” the horrendous unemployment in the territories, the checkpoints, the starving of Gaza and the fancily-named operations are all parts of a mechanism virtually unopposed within the state.

Israeli democracy functions for Jews, who are well represented, but has been denying any representation to 4 million people for 42 years. It allows itself to do whatever it wants with them in the name of the democratic “national consensus.” Who will protect them?

Israel has pooh-poohed international law through decades of occupation. It has done so by legalizing the settlements, with Supreme Court help, and by increasingly touting every political or military move as being made “with no other choice,” with no internal opposition.

There is no better litmus test for how one-dimensional Israeli society has become than the cries against Goldstone, as if no one knew what we did in Gaza. The belief that “the IDF is the most moral army in the world” needs to begin cracking in foreign parts at last.

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