The Fiction of the Status Quo
With one hand we withhold, with the other, we point the finger.
With one hand we deny services and representation; with the other hand, we retain authority over zoning and construction.
With one hand we deny building permits from a community; with the other, we demolish their homes, and blame them for “illegal construction.”
It has become so comfortable for us, hiding behind our sons and daughters in uniform, our walls and our barbed wire, to accept this fiction that we live within some sort of sustainable, justifiable “status quo.” That quiet will be met with quiet, and that because we are satisfied, they must be satisfied; because we have dignity and security, they should not want for it either. As long as the soldiers do not knock on our doors at four in the morning, we are comfortable believing that it is reasonable, even noble, that they should knock on someone else’s.
We have accustomed ourselves not to spare our pity on the enemy. After all, weren’t they the ones who said “No”? They are the ones refusing to negotiate; they are the ones who want war. So if a Palestinian family is dragged from their home before dawn, they have no one to blame but themselves. Yes, it is a comfortable, tidy fiction to live in.
But do they, really, have themselves to blame?
After all, our neighbors haven’t had the privilege of voting for their leadership in a long, long time. That old man clinging to the walls of his home, trying to shield it with his body from the soldiers – he never really had the option of saying yes or no to negotiations, did he? Wasn’t that decision made for him by an octogenarian despot living in a palace in Ramallah, down the road? Those children who were caught in the crossfire in Gaza – did they refuse our olive branch? Did their parents? Or was it a man with a trim beard and designer suit, sitting in an office in Qatar, dictating as the bombs fell elsewhere?
There are upwards of four million Palestinians living between the river and the sea. Several thousand of those may be terrorists, militants, corrupt politicians or fanatics. What about the rest? Are they not people like us, trying to live their lives, to build a future for their children in the land they grew up in? Have we considered the cost of sending our children to deliver such a cruel verdict against a family no different from their own? Are we surprised to learn that so many of them hate us, and do we deign to convince ourselves that such hatred is wholly undeserved?
Look at the faces of this terrified Palestinian family, awoken before dawn this morning to learn that they are homeless. Look into the eyes of these people that we have wronged, that we continue to wrong, and acknowledge it. Consider, for just a moment, what they did to deserve this. Consider what has caused us to believe we have the right to prevent a community from building, and then destroy their homes when they fall afoul of our arbitrarily imposed restrictions.
It is time to cast aside these fictions that have let us sleep at night, and acknowledge who we are, and what we are. We are a country occupying another civilian population, and the reality of that circumstance is no different if you consider it to be an “Occupation” in the legal sense of the word or not, or if you believe that population to be entitled to sovereignty or otherwise. It does not matter if you call them Palestinians or Arabs. We are still governing them by military might. They are still denied their civic freedoms, their representation, their sovereignty. They have no voice in the parliamentary halls where zoning regulations are drafted, no seat on the benches from whence demolition orders are issued. When the soldiers come to knock on their doors, there is no one to protect them or ensure their fair treatment. They are at our mercy. And we abuse that power, day after day, in spite of our best intentions. Who among us would reconcile themselves and their children to such a future?
We have allowed ourselves to fantasize that this can continue forever. We have allowed ourselves to daydream of annexing vast swathes of territories full of people we do not care about, to whom we have no intention of ever granting civic rights. We must rid ourselves of these dark fantasies. Whether you are Right or Left of the aisle, whether you value idealism or pragmatism, security or compassion – there is no escaping the truth that we cannot hold another people hostage forever. We are a democracy in name alone, so long as we play host to millions of captives living under martial law.
In only a month and some change, new elections will be upon us. There is no shortage of opportunists willing to ride the wave of populist fantasy that our armies can crush the dreams of another nation, if we only let them. And it is trending as ever to wave our banners high and follow them into that fairytale. But they know the truth, the same way we know the truth. They are counting on our cognitive dissonance, our capacity for self-delusion, to carry them into the Knesset.
There will be many choices on the ballot this September. Whether you are religious or secular, Right or Left, there is bound to be someone representing your interests who also has the courage to tell you the truth. Let us each remember when our families were persecuted. Let us remember the tenacity with which our forebearers clung to the dream of independence, and realize that those we rule over do the same.
Whatever you expect our next government to deliver – don’t cast your vote for a fiction.