Israel Report

June 2001         



The Good People Are Silent

By Ari Shavit - June 26, 2001

It will be difficult to forget this silence. For several months now, on almost a daily basis, Israeli citizens who live beyond the Green Line are being murdered by the historic allies of the Israeli peace movement, yet that movement is silent. Here and there its members might mumble a word or two expressing their condolences. Here and there they might make a weak-kneed appeal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. However, essentially, they are silent. In the deepest sense, they are silent. They see their allies shooting at point-blank range at Israelis and yet they are silent.

Nor is it just the Israeli peace movement that is silent. Silence is also being observed by Israeli human rights groups. These human rights groups have taught Israelis for years that every drop of human blood is precious and that one must not distinguish between the blood of one group of human beings and another. Yet, the good people who are members of these human rights groups are proving day in and day out that they find no problem making such distinctions.

For years, Israeli human rights groups have reported - and they are to be commended for having done so - every act of injustice committed at every Israeli roadblock in the territories. Yet these same human rights groups have not seen fit to publish even one comprehensive report on the blood-soaked closure that has been imposed for the past nine months on the residents of some 150 Israeli communities.

In their press releases and in their appeals to international agencies, these groups have never mentioned even one name of any of the Israeli citizens whose bodies have been fatally riddled with bullets on their way home. The members of the Israeli human rights groups can find no place in their heart for any description of even one instance in which Jews have been killed on the highway by the special killing squads of the Palestinian dictatorship.

Apparently, in the eyes of the members of these human rights groups, the lives of Israelis living beyond the Green Line are not as precious as the lives of the Palestinians living there. In their eyes, the Israelis who live beyond the Green Line are persons who have no human rights - persons who are both nameless and faceless.

Nor is it just the Israeli human rights groups that are silent. Silence is also being observed by Israeli intellectuals and by the majority of the columnists in the nation's newspapers. Silence is being observed by those who - justifiably - condemned the blowing-up of Palestinian houses, and silence is being observed by those who - justifiably - condemned the administrative detentions. Silence is being observed by those who had sufficient courage, in the past, to reveal the true nature of the evil committed by Israelis but who today do not have sufficient courage to reveal the true nature of the evil committed by Palestinians as well.

Silence is being observed by those who talked ad nauseum about the Other without bothering to consider that, sometimes, the Other can also be a 16-year-old boy from Homesh or a mother of six from Neveh Tzuf. Silence is being observed by those who have spoken here for an entire generation of the principle of universal justice without understanding that universal justice today requires all decent human beings to stand up for those who are being shot at, to stand up for them without asking questions or getting into philosophical arguments. To stand up without hesitation in order to protest the attempt being made right before the eyes of all Israelis to conduct a violent ethnic cleansing process on the West Bank. To stand up publicly to protest the attempt being made by Palestinian chauvinism to execute mothers and fathers and little children in order to drive from their homes a population of a quarter of a million Israeli citizens.

The Israeli citizens living beyond the Green Line are not naive human beings. They set up their homes there after having been warned of the dangers. They set up their homes there as they attempted to impose their own particular outlook on all of Israeli society and as they chose to ignore the needs and rights of their Palestinian neighbors. However, what the Israeli citizens living beyond the Green Line have done cannot in any way justify the idea that their blood is cheap and cannot in any way justify the continuing silence that is indirectly promoting the idea that their blood is cheap.

Since that is what is being produced by this silence, it is an unforgivable silence. It is a blood-chilling silence and it raises the question whether what has been marketed here for the past few decades as humanist liberalism was really what it purported to be; whether what has been presented here as the hallowed value of universalism was not in fact only an extremely particularist value that was intended to serve the specific needs of a specific cult of enlightened human beings.

However, what is most disturbing is that this silence prompts many to suspect that the silence of the silent ones is no coincidence, to suspect that their silence is somehow linked to the fact that it is their secret political dream to see the Settler Other simply evaporate. To get up one morning and to discover that the hated Settler Other has quite simply vanished.

However, this massive silence not only arouses moral disgust, it is also destructive from the political standpoint for all those who believe that, after all the shooting is over and done with, Israelis will have no other alternative but to conduct a heart-wrenching debate over the future of the settlements and ultimately to call upon a significant segment of the settlers to return to the soil of the sovereign Israeli home.

After all, there are those who understand that, within a short while, they will have to stand up before Israeli citizens and to demand that they tear themselves from everything that they have built. It is precisely those with this kind of awareness who should realize that such a demand can be made only in the name of Israeli solidarity. And it is this very Israeli solidarity that is being undermined by the present silence.

Thus, in the final analysis, all those who are not prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with their partners in Israeli democracy and who are not prepared to publicly demand that the Palestinians stop murdering those partners will lose their moral right and their political ability to demand that those partners obey, at some point in the future, the authority of that Israeli democracy. All those who are not prepared to do those two things will also lose their moral right and their political ability to call themselves moral individuals who believe in both human rights and peace.

©2001 - Ha'aretz


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