Gideon Levy
Haaretz (Editorial)
September 8, 2011 - 12:00am

It's as if summer 2011 never happened, as if there had never been a protest here: Israel is being led with dreadful blindness by a handful of irresponsible politicians, dangerous pyromaniacs without equal, yet the public remains apathetic. The government is pregnant with danger, conducting a scandalous policy, yet there is no protest.

With all the (enormous ) respect due the social protest, it should already have roused a political protest as well. With all the (enormous ) respect due to social issues - the cost of living is indeed a vital issue - but what about life itself, which is now being threatened in our names, yet about which no one utters a peep?

After summer comes autumn; that's the norm. And autumn 2011 is teeming with disasters: Turkey, America, September at the United Nations - and our fate has been entrusted to a handful of cynical politicians, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who think that national honor means losing our last ally in the region; that national honor means causing Israelis to fear traveling to their favorite country; that national honor means Israelis undergoing humiliating security checks in Istanbul, and perhaps also soldiers standing trial overseas; that national honor means losing a strategic ally, an important Muslim nation, virtually the only one that accepted us in the region where we have chosen to live.

To Netanyahu and his ministers, national honor also means hearing crude (and justified ) remarks about our prime minister from the former defense secretary of our absolutely last remaining ally. So who - tell me, who - has more honor? The one who demands a deserved apology and refuses to back down, or the one who is leading his country to the brink of destruction?

The day after nine activists were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, Israel should have offered a heartfelt apology. Excessive use of lethal weaponry and the close-range killing of civilians from a friendly country is something that cries out for an apology. It's not hard to imagine what would have happened had nine Israeli activists working on behalf of Turkish Jewry been killed by Turkey's army in this fashion.

But Avigdor Lieberman, our thuggish foreign minister, gave the signal, and Benjamin Netanyahu, our easily led prime minister, gave himself over to the "no apology" madness. This, it's worth recalling, came after the incident of the low chair and the incident at Davos. It's also worth recalling that this was aimed at a strong, flourishing, regional power, at the very moment when it was moving away from Syria and Iran - a country with a population 10 times the size of Israel's and a standing army three times the size of Israel's. But who's counting?

And what will Egypt do now that Turkey has almost entirely severed relations with Israel? What new depths will this lead us into?

Israelis looked at all this as if it were a natural disaster. This summer, they learned that the cost of living is not a decree from heaven, as they had always been taught to believe, but they have yet to learn that foreign policy is also not an act of God which can neither be combated nor altered.

Instead, they have been given the usual tranquilizers and mind-altering drugs, the opium of the Israeli masses, the magic charm against every evil: The world is "anti-Semitic"; the world "is against us"; it makes no difference what we do. They don't even ask themselves: Is all this worth it? It's enough for a ratings-hungry television anchor to call the Turkish prime minister "the boor from Ankara," or for a transportation minister with his eye on the primaries to say that Turkey is the one that should apologize, or for an inflamed pundit to write about the "same old anti-Semitism," all so that we will accept the storm that has hit us this autumn as part of the normal progression of the seasons, so that we will once again feel oh so righteous.

"Our town is burning, brothers, burning," wrote the Yiddish poet and songwriter Mordechai Gebirtig (translation from Songs of the Ghettos ). "Our whole town burns! And you stand looking on with folded arms and shake your heads. You stand looking on with folded arms, while the fire spreads!"

But the fire in our city is to a large extent the work of our own hands. There are also pyromaniacs in Turkey, but ours are immeasurably more dangerous to us. They will set our most vital national interests on fire for the sake of showing voters a puffed-out chest; they will sell out Israel for the sake of adopting the grotesque pose they falsely deem standing tall in front of the members of their parties' central committees.

And the public? If this is indeed a natural disaster and the whole world is really against us, what is there for it do other than unite in another display of self-sacrifice and nationalism, its favorite pastimes? And where is the protest when we need it once more?


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