Yonatan Gher
Full time peace, human rights, environmental, social and religious-pluralism activist

Conflict? What conflict?

Make no mistake: Eurovision, the embassy, the Gaza border -- all distract us from Netanyahu's corruption cases
(Courtesy, Yonatan Gher)
(Courtesy, Yonatan Gher)
The plane is going down, but isn’t he cute? (Screen capture, EL AL flight safety video)

Days after her nomination as Israel’s Eurovision representative, while filming her video clip, Netta Barzilai was asked by a Kan Broadcasting reporter what she might answer abroad when asked about the conflict. “Conflict?” replied Netta, “What conflict?”

“Not your Toy,” went the song, alluding to #metoo and to women’s empowerment. Oh, but she is. Like the teddy bear in the El Al flight safety video, in which a little boy dons an oxygen mask in an image so adorable as to obscure the fact that when the masks drop the plane is about to crash.

Plane crashes are often seen as accidents, the result of weather conditions, or, as people of faith and insurance companies might put it: Acts of God. I’ll land my plane analogy by saying that in this case we are on a Germanwings flight, with psychotic pilots who are explaining that the impending crash is the fault of the mountain ahead, and could we please all return to playing with our teddy bear.

Trump and Bibi, on their various fronts, have come up with the perfect win-win strategy for themselves. With Iran, as with Gaza, the strategy is simply this: Do everything in your power to exacerbate the situation. If it explodes: “See, I said they couldn’t be trusted.” If it resolves: “I’m a genius, where’s my Nobel Prize?”

In the case of Gaza, Israel and the US have been doing all they can to bring us to where we are now. Active sabotage in the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the tightening of the Gaza siege, the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, and Israel’s conduct in the demonstrations thus far have all been geared towards the intentional escalation that reached its new peak yesterday. Hamas is to blame for inciting its public, says our prime minister, while continuing to ignore Hamas’ ceasefire initiative.

Israelis mostly feel like the world is doing its best to rain on our parade. Why can’t we just celebrate Netta’s victory at Rabin Square, and rejoice with our crazy, messianic, anti-Semitic friends at the Jerusalem embassy opening in peace? The UN has found that it’ll be two or three more years until Gaza — the third most crowded polity in the world — will need to be declared unlivable, so couldn’t they at least have waited until after all our parties? Perhaps celebrate their Nakba by its Hebrew date?

We should be ashamed of ourselves. Yes, a country has a right to protect its sovereignty and its borders. Yes, a breach of the border fences and many residents of Gaza coming in to Israel would be a sticky situation, perhaps posing real danger to residents near the border. Yes, the demonstrators have their agency and the advance knowledge that they’re putting themselves in danger. But we are not a crocodile who can’t help slamming its jaws upon the entry of any foreign object. This is not a war of two armies. These are unarmed civilians protesting living in the biggest jail in the world. Shooting them the way we are is a war crime. Clear and simple. It’s not a sides thing or a context thing. We should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing our government to behave this way, and for allowing them to use Eurovision and embassy parties to distract us from our prime minister’s many corruption investigations.

As long as we continue to party and believe this false narrative of a milchemet ein breira (“war of no alternative” — as has been the Israeli governments’ prelude to every war we’ve been in), we all continue to be toys for the stupid boy.

Banner at a demonstration against Gaza carnage

About the Author
The writer is the Israeli Executive Director of Combatants for Peace. He has previously been the Executive Director of Amnesty International-Israel, Greenpeace Mediterranean, and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, and Communications Director for the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel. Born in New York, Yonatan grew up in Jerusalem, and now lives in Jaffa with his husband and two sons. All opinions expressed are those of the writer only.
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