Merav Michaeli
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 13, 2011 - 12:00am

Sources in the Israel Defense Forces are of the opinion that the scenes of Nakba Day and Naksa Day are unlikely to repeat themselves. The marches undertaken on those two days by Palestinian refugees to the border with Israel, they say, were not an act of solidarity with the Palestinians and a demand to realize the Right of Return, but rather an attempt to divert attention away from what is happening in Syria.

This is how the army wraps up the events in its familiar language - just as it did on the days when the events took place. Then, military officials and the media first spoke about a surprise in terms of intelligence and then about dealing with it in terms of armed forces and shooting. This is how the army assists the Israeli public in repressing.

And the public in Israel does repress. It denies and completely ignores the big drama of the march and the arrival of the Palestinians at the fences on the border with Israel - not then and not once since then. No one is arguing about it or complaining about it. The Israeli public, which is au courant with media developments, which by and large watches news broadcasts, and which is used to chatting about the headlines as part of everyday small talk, is simply not saying a word about it. Total repression.

At first glance, this is surprising. On second thought, it is completely understandable: It is terribly frightening. It is frightening because that is what they frightened us with. Here they are about to rise up against us - as we say every year during the Passover meal - and more specifically, to throw us into the sea.

On Nakba Day, I wrote here that the citizens of Israel were suffering from schizophrenia. How am I? "Personally, excellent." Personally it can't be anything less than excellent because collectively we are a-f-r-a-i-d (as Netanyahu once said about his critics in the media ). But the truth is that personally, we are afraid too. So we don't speak about it, about how the mass marches by Palestinians to the border are a watershed event that have suddenly created a new option, and a very concrete one at that. It has also created a new level of repression because in addition to being terribly frightening, there is no answer to it.

No answer not as in shooting at legs or firing tear gas, but an answer in terms of what do we say to them. What shall we say to their demands that seem to be so much more justified from close up? And most of all, they are suddenly seen.

This march to the border has turned the words "refugees" and "borders", which had become cliches, into something totally concrete - flesh and blood, human and close, very close.

Writing on these pages, Aluf Benn compared the Palestinians' march on Nakba Day to the illegal Jewish immigrants' boats [during the time of the British Mandate in Palestine] that created an awareness of homeless refugees who wished to find refuge in their land. (Haaretz, 18.5 )

The Palestinians are frustrated and helpless. There is no longer terrorism, there is an initiative by the Arab League, there is an agreement between Hamas and Fatah. What more do you want?

Out of this frustration and sense of helplessness, they are going to the United Nations, out of this frustration and sense of helplessness they come here in their masses and stand at the border and ask: "What yes?"

The citizens of Israel are also frustrated and feel helpless. It is "no" to a Palestinian state, "no" to an agreement about the 1967 borders, "no" to dividing Jerusalem. Okay, fine; but what yes?

Benjamin Netanyahu is certainly not the first to reject all these ideas - far from it. Except for Yitzhak Rabin, all Israel's leaders since 1967 have rejected them, either explicitly or by holding barren negotiations, or by disengaging.

But what can one do: It so happened that on his watch, the Palestinians started marching on the borders that he calls defensible.

Repression is an effective mechanism that makes it possible for the individual to function despite a trauma. But many times, at a certain stage, the repression and denial are likely to lead to disaster. Netanyahu must stop repressing and denying, and must respond - not to them, to us: What yes?


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