There is a myth, prevalent in Israel, that the status quo which has held ground in Israel for far too long is a tenable solution to the conflict.
That line of reasoning argues that the status quo is good enough to work for today. And tomorrow. Maybe even for years into the future.
To perpetuate this myth, Israeli society has created convenient fictions that play into that narrative.
- The “Arab-Israeli” population is conveniently docile and “happy” to live under Israeli rule.
- The status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is tenable. The problem may not have been solved, but it’s managed — and manageable — through Israel’s military superiority. With a wall and with good intelligence and with biometric surveillance. We have algorithms. They have crude knives. And so so long as we are smarter and the bigger and better funded guys in the fight we can win — and keep our population safe from attack.
Perpetuating this myth is also strategically sound from Israel’s standpoint.
It’s a way of taking a decision by doing nothing which is always the more convenient approach.
Under the current strategy, the PA and its aspirations of statehood will ultimately be destroyed by a combination of facts on the ground and its own ineptitude. But it’s the long and ugly way to that outcome.
The current strategy also allows Israel to tell the world that everything is in order. It’s the “הכל הסדר” (“everything’s fine) approach to national branding and PR.
It also allows a large part of the population to live under a constant haze of delusion and to continue sipping lattés in bustling Tel Aviv cafés while talking about their aspirations for more “coexistence” with their Arab neighbors.
It also looks good on the surface. Although maintaining that fiction demands some mental gymnastics of its adherents.
It asks, for instance, that onlookers:
- Don’t look at those gaudy checkpoints and barbed wire fences in the West Bank.
- Continue parroting the lie that Jerusalem is an undivided city despite the fact that half of its population doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty and regards its municipality as an arm of the “occupation”.
But such concerns are just bothersome afterthoughts when your fridge is full from the spoils of high-tech and the macro-economics and Israel’s credit rating looks sound.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that much in Israel is not be’seder.
Just as that’s always painful for individuals to admit, it’s also hard to come to terms with that fact on a national, societal level.
And it never has been.
The only difference between what’s happening now and the First Intifada is that it’s Border Police being injured rather than civilians.
Because there’s a wall and better security now.
It’s reasonable to presume that were those safeguards not to be in place — G-d forbid — that the scenes we’re currently seeing on our news screens and on Twitter would be orders of magnitude more grizzly.
Because the same logic applies then and it does now.
There can and will never be peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Sorry to disappoint the optimists with my viewpoint. Nor in Jerusalem which is only the fulcrum of the conflict and thus the first place to observe these dynamics when the fault lines rub up against one another. That’s a logic that hasn’t changed since ’48 and which Israel has thus far decided only to manage.
And today, as in previous days, we’re being reminded about how easily that fiction can crumble.
Tonight, In Haifa, the model of coexistence, “Arab Israelis” (note: I typically go to enormous lengths to avoid using the term) are toting Palestinian flags and echoing supporting for their brothers in Sheikh Jarrah.
Two weeks ago, in the “united” capital whose “unification” we’re celebrating today on Jerusalem Day, East Jerusalemites competed with one another on Tik Tok for who could circulate the most shocking social media content of an unprovoked attack on any bystander who happened to look obviously Jewish.
The Second Intifada broke out because of a visit to the Temple Mount.
The last wave of rioting was “provoked” by Israel’s decision to install magnetometers at the entrance to the Temple Mount.
There will ALWAYS be a reason. This is the convenient excuse that exists today.
Whatever your thoughts about Sheikh Jarrah, I contend that anybody with a long memory should be able to instantly recognize the situation for what it is: a subterfuge.
Sheikh Jarrah may be a genuine issue worthy of discussion and protest.
But what’s happening around Israel now isn’t about a housing demolition. The fact that “Arab Israelis” are bussing in to join the protest movement is also significant.
It’s a convenient straw which can be said to have broken the camel’s back.
But it’s a back which will continue to periodically fall down. And when push comes to shove there are no questions about who’s on which side of the conflict.
The confluence of Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem Day and the pre-existing tensions in the city creates an almost perfect storm for tension in Jerusalem and Israel.
It’s an unusually generous poring of gasoline onto a fire that was going to erupt anyway.
I can only think that such an unusual coming together of facts is happening to teach us something.
That a lot of the truths we don’t challenge and which hold up the fallacy of the possibility of coexistence in Israel are nothing but barefaced lies.