AEverything that has happened in Israel since the elections is supposedly legal and democratic. But under this guise, as has happened more than once in history, the seeds of chaos, emptiness and disorder have been sown in key Israeli institutions.
I’m not just talking about the passing of new laws, however extreme and outrageous, but about a deeper cataclysmic change in one of our identities and the very nature of the state. And that change wasn’t an option. That’s not what the Israelis went to the polls for.
During the negotiations to form a new government, a quote from the book of Isaiah kept running through my mind: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness into light and light into darkness, and bitter into sweet and turn sweet into bitter!” In the background, like a Chinese water torture, I keep hearing Knesset MP Moshe Gafni proclaim: “Half the people will study Torah, and the other half will serve in the army.” And every time my brain chars , this time for completely different reasons.
The coalition negotiations, which were more like a heist, flicker before our eyes in flashes of alien, provocative logic: “the waiver clause”, “Smotrich will be an arbiter over construction projects in the West Bank”, “Ben-Gvir” will become a private militia in the West Bank can set up”, “the serial criminal Dery will . . .” All in the blink of an eye, with increasing enthusiasm, with the skill of a street shell player.
We know we are being scammed
We know someone is cheating on us right now. That someone not only puts our money in their own pockets, but also our future and that of our children, the existence that we wanted to create here: a state in which, despite all its shortcomings, inadequacies and blind spots, the possibility occasionally shimmers through to become a civilized, egalitarian country, one that has the power to absorb contradictions and differences, one that in time will even manage to break free from the curse of occupation. A country that can be Jewish and religious and secular, a high-tech power and traditional and democratic, and also a good home for minorities. An Israeli state in which the diversity of social and human dialects does not necessarily generate fear, mutual threats and racism, but rather leads to mutual fertilization and flowering.
Now that the storm has calmed down, that the scale of the catastrophe has become clear, Benjamin Netanyahu may be telling himself that because his seeds of chaos have sown and the legal system, the police, the education system and everything that a breath of ‘leftism’, will be able to turn back the clock, erase, or at least rectify, the insane, mendacious worldview he himself created, and lead us back to properly legal ways. He would then be the responsible adult again in a well run country.
There is no turning back to hope
But at this point he may find that there is no going back from where he led us. It will be impossible to clean up or even tame the mess he has made. His Chaos years have already etched something palpably frightening into reality, into the souls of the people who lived through them.
They are there. The chaos is there, with all its pull. The inner hate is there. The mutual loathing is there, as is the atrocious violence on our streets, in our schools and in our hospitals. Even the people who call good evil and evil good are already there.
And the occupation will not end in the foreseeable future either; it is already stronger than all the forces active on the political stage. What began there and was refined with great efficiency now seeps in here. The gaping maw of anarchy has sunk its teeth into the Middle East’s most fragile democracy.
David Grossman, born in Jerusalem in 1954, is a writer. Most recently, his novel “What Nina knew” (Hanser Verlag) was published.
From the English of Andrew Plathaus.