Nearly two weeks ago, Israel marked a new low point in the way it chose to contend with its domestic and external policy dissidents.
A state that will not let its citizens protest, demonstrate and demand justice, a state that is busy composing loyalty tests for its citizens and passing laws to limit the freedom of expression, failed again in the real test and stopped a protest fleet of civilian ships at the cost of more than 10 lives.
The fleet that left Turkey a few days earlier had managed to anger even me. Hundreds of pro-Hamas activists challenged Israel blatantly and outrageously. Not a word of censure of the Hamas government, not a word about Gilad Shalit, and not a word about the desire for peace.
Nonetheless, a sovereign state cannot treat every show of protest, however outrageous and irritating it is, as a terrorism event that has to end in bloodshed. Instead of using the fleet to generate an internal Israeli discussion about the effectiveness of the policy of the siege of Gaza and its moral and political implications for Israel, all of the government spokespersons chose to focus on the handful of activists on the ships and grace them with the title of existential threats to Israel’s security. From here to unnecessary bloodshed, the path was short.
It is not the soldiers’ fault, nor the commanders’, nor the heads of the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli society as a whole is responsible for the grim results of the IDF takeover of the protest ships. The radicalization of Israeli society is yielding its fruit. The message to the soldiers and police is crystallizing. When Arabs are involved in an activity, the hand on the trigger is light. Determination boards the ship while sensitivity stays in the water.
With the use of our repressive mechanisms and the encouragement of the IDF spokespersons, we will again dissociate from reality and the world and manufacture our own unique script in which we are the victims and the whole world is against us as usual. Will the outcome of Sunday night’s confrontation end with an official commission of inquiry? No chance.
The price for the unfortunate results of the fleet will be paid primarily by the families of those killed at sea. Next in line to pay the price will be the residents of Israel who want peace and the end of the conflict with all their hearts, and who wish to stop the cycle of bloodshed and live in a saner country.
We, the silent majority, watch with despair as Israel with its own actions justifies the brutal and violent image it acquired in the last years and gives our biggest enemies in Hamas and Iran a reason to rejoice.
If the miserable naval clash had any winners, they are in Tehran, in the bunkers of Beirut, and in the Hamas headquarters in Gaza. The Hamas government succeeded with the Israeli government’s active support to receive international recognition, to gain the support of the Arab world, and to be seen as a hero standing up to Israel.
The enemies of peace and the extremists on both sides can again find reasons to attack each other and deepen the hatred and hostility between Jews and Arabs in Israel and outside of it. Again the moderates on both sides are silenced and the voice of reason is drowned out by the voices of incitement and hatred.
Without a loud voice of protest by a patriotic Israeli public calling on its leaders to change course, we will all find ourselves in a morally and politically decadent country, slowly sinking into the depths.