Since last Passover, over the first year of Benjamin Netanyahu's prime ministership, Israel has slid almost inadvertently a long way down the slope that leads to McCarthyism and racism.....It's hard to tell hasbara from naiveté but I think the guy is raising a genuine concern about Israel becoming nastier and nastier and that the increasing nastiness is threatening the gains of earlier nastiness to establish a state predicated on nastiness.
Inadvertently. That must be the explanation. Otherwise, how to explain the dismal fact that during this year a heinous travesty was perpetrated against Naomi Chazan - and the streets of our cities weren't seething with mass demonstrations? Major crossroads around the country were adorned with a literally Sturmer-like cartoon portraying this hitherto respected and distinguished woman, until recently a deputy speaker of the Knesset, who heads a fund that pours millions of philanthropic dollars into educational and civil, social projects in Israel - and thousands of decent people were not out there shouting, 'Fascism shall not pass!' One needn't like all of the organizations that Chazan's New Israel Fund supports to be outraged and disgusted and frightened by the style of the campaign that was mounted against her. (Full disclosure: I've lectured on occasion for the New Israel Fund.)
What's so depressing about the Chazan affair is not so much the crude brutishness of her adversaries as the limp impotence of the many people who tut-tutted - and did nothing.
In our own case, this past year, Netanyahu has incessantly repeated his mantra that he's merely doing in Jerusalem "what all my predecessors have done for 43 years." The purpose of this pretense is to erase from the public mind, at home and abroad, the fact that two of his predecessors negotiated with the Palestinians and the Americans over dividing the city. The purpose, too, is deliberately to blur the hugely significant difference between building in the Jewish neighborhoods that have been developed over decades and forcibly inserting Jewish settlers into all-Arab neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah. The purpose, basically, is to obliterate any chance of implementing the "Clinton parameters" - Jewish areas to Israel, Arab areas to Palestine, Holy Basin to God [or an international consortium representing Him] and thus reaching a fair compromise on Jerusalem.
The demonstrations taking place on Fridays at Sheikh Jarrah offer some smidgen of hope that not everyone has been duped and silenced. The Naomi Chazan front was abandoned. The "Nakba Law" front was lost without a fight. The battle line in Israel's war of survival as a Jewish and democratic state now runs through the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
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