A tale of two protests: Dispossessed Palestinians vs. privileged Jewish Israelis
Gideon Levy | Oct. 14, 2020 - Haaretz.com
It’s all there, in two brief videos. The first: a young Tel Avivian in a bikini at the beach, prohibited under the lockdown. A policeman approaches and very politely asks for her name, so he can write her a ticket. She refuses. The policeman – his name is Amit – tries to cajole her, saying that if she refuses to identify herself, he’ll be forced to arrest her. The woman stands up and starts to walk away, pointedly ignoring the officer. “You’re not putting handcuffs on me,” she says. The policeman tries again to persuade her, but right before she walks away dismissively, he handcuffs her and makes the arrest.
The moment goes viral. It broke the Israeli internet: a Jewish policeman arresting a young, innocent Jewish woman in a bikini. Fascism has arrived. The end of democracy. Citizens are being abducted. Political arrests. Dictatorship. Totalitarianism; tyranny; Pinochet on the beach, Mussolini on the sand.
The beach girl was soon released, of course. The police posted a video showing the moments leading up to the arrest, and the storm died down a bit. Perhaps fascism is tarrying on its way to the beach in Tel Aviv, but it’s definitely in transit. After all, the officer placed steel handcuffs on the young woman.
The second video: Palestinian farmers from the village of Burqa are on their way to harvest olives on their own land. A group of settler thugs, clubs concealed in their shirts, ambushes them in the grove. “I am the king of this land. God gave it to me, and you are on our land. I am the son of Allah, and you are his slave,” one of the thugs from the illegal settlement outpost Oz Tzion barks, in a nauseating lordly tone. Neither the army nor the police are there, but after years of fear and cowering, the harvesters try to protect themselves and their property.
A group of young Palestinians from Faz3a, an organization that was established to protect the farmers, escorts them to the grove, and as if by a miracle they succeed in driving the settler bullies from their land by throwing rocks at them. The settlers also throw stones, including at Ohad Hemo of Israel’s Channel 12 News, who is reporting on the incident.
Hemo documented a daily occurrence during the olive season. For the Palestinians the harvest, a beautiful and moving agricultural and family event, has for years been a battle. Thanks to Hemo’s dedication, Israelis were exposed for a moment Tuesday to this reality. It certainly disturbed many good Israelis, who were ashamed by the sight, but no one took to the streets banging pots in protest. If there was a mini-storm, it was because Hemo was injured and people were worried about him. Nobody talked about fascism, tyranny, the end of democracy. This was not about the handcuffing of a Jewish woman on the beach.
Protest vs. protest. The protest of the dispossessed, rightless Palestinian farmers who are trying to fight for the last remains of their property and their dignity, and the protest of privileged Jewish Israelis, who want to have a different prime minister and who lament the end of their democracy. One protest stirs up emotions, while Israel ignores the other. But they are intertwined. It’s impossible to demand democracy without demanding democracy for everyone. There is no such thing as democracy that is not for everyone. Israeli fascism is in Burqa, not yet on the Tel Aviv beach.
And so it’s impossible to relate too seriously to the protests near the prime minister’s Balfour Street residence. If people in Burqa can’t harvest their olives because of fascism and the Balfour Street protesters don’t care, the Balfour Street protest is not an anti-fascism or pro-democracy movement, as it purports to be, despite all its fine words.
As long as military tyranny reigns in Burqa, supported by violent and wild militias, Israel will not be a democracy, even if the protest at Balfour Street achieves its goals and Benjamin Netanyahu is sent to prison, to the joyful cries of the protesters.
So demand democracy for everyone, or don’t talk about democracy at all.