Ignorance is bliss and Israelis need it now more than ever.
Since the start of the occupation, 55 years ago, Jewish Israelis have had to live in a form of cognitive dissonance. On the surface, everything was okay, and the only time most citizens had to think about war was when Israel was attacked. Other than that, an anxious peace reigned. This shallow perception is what rules over our minds, the minds of the Jewish residents of Israel.
Only when Israel strikes back do we have to think about war. When others are easy to blame. Only when Israel is protecting itself do we talk about war openly and stand proudly with the IDF.
But while the occupation raged on and Jews started to settle on Palestinian land, the wars became rarer and Israel was protecting itself a lot less. This was the point that cognitive dissonance took over everything.
Cognitive dissonance is this: a “democratic state” controlling the lives of millions of people who are not its citizens, and the citizens turning a blind eye and moving on, tattling about their own problems; the mean boss, the sad breakup, and the rising rent.
Meanwhile, just a couple of kilometers east, people and their children are getting shot.
Cognitive dissonance is stating you’re a tolerant, liberal society, where the state protects the rights of minorities, just as the Declaration of Independence said it would. Just as David Ben-Gurion said Israel would.
But while we’re not talking about citizens, we are talking about victims of colonization, who had their right of self-determination taken from them.
This is all too much to handle for your average Israeli, who cannot fathom, in spite of all evidence, that their beloved state would be so much as able to commit horrible war crimes, not even 100 years after most of its Jewish citizens ran away from a state that almost succeeded in cleaning them all from the face of the earth.
It is so unbelievable, that a centuries-long persecuted society turns around and starts persecuting others all in a matter of a few decades, that Israelis have to simply ignore it. Without cognitive dissonance, Jewish Israelis would have to question everything they have ever known.
They would have to question basic concepts like “Jewish and democratic”, and “the most moral army in the world”. Israelis would have to face that state propaganda has done its job perfectly. That they have fallen for bald-faced lies. Jewish Israelis are falling for lies to this day only because they are easier to handle than the truth. Because Israelis can’t handle the truth.
So they argue with others and themselves, that Israel still has “the right to protect itself.” From what? From whom? Some would ask. From children throwing stones, from leftist activists, from human rights activists that try to stop soldiers from doing their day-to-day job of battling and silencing a people who have not declared war on them.
Throwing stones is simply not equal in value to apartheid, but that is a sequence of thoughts too dire for the average Jewish Israeli. So they stay in cognitive dissonance. They keep denying, they keep standing up on the side of those in power. Reasoning against the ones without any. We keep tolerating cruelty. We keep standing on the side, without intervening. If we would have to realize the truth, to empathize with the actual victims we would explode.
So we ignore them.
Ignore death. Ignore suffering. Ignore the incoming government, which will be infinitely harder, as it has already laid out plans to hurt groups that were previously thought to be untouchable. Now comes the real test for Israelis. Just how far are they capable of denying the obvious? Just how far are they willing to live a lie? Because to progress beyond this new fascist government, we will have to face our fears. The only problem is that in order to do that, we’ll have to stop pretending. Stop ignoring. Israeli Jews will have to stop doing what they do best. Ignoring their government.
Because ignorance is bliss.