[tweetmeme] Although the US cannot seem to pressure Israel into truly halting the settlement construction in Palestine and, in particular, East Jerusalem, many opinion polls in Israel show that most Israelis do not identify with the extremist settlers that occupy Palestinian land. Yet the Israeli government seems content to let the settlers dictate the terms of the occupation. As the protests in Sheikh Jarrah grow and as protestors are continually arrested for peaceful protests, Israelis are starting to see the widening ideological gap between mainstream Israeli thought and the extreme and dangerous views of some in the settler community.
To this end the TV show Eretz Nehederet – a popular satire show in Israel – has released the following video depicting the Israeli defense held hostage by fanatical settlers:
After the skip aired, Television Two – the station – was flooded by complaints by settlers. The show apologized and aired a second video to prove that not all settlers were bad-mannered and dangerous:
It is good to see that there is still a sense of humor. But the videos do underline a possible shift in Israeli political culture. Moshe Yaroni has written about Sheikh Jarrah and the persistent Israeli protests there. He wonders if the growing discontent manifested by the protests could be the birth of a new Israeli left after the public has grown discontent with an increasingly isolated right-wing. Yaroni writes:
For years, anti-occupation activists have been making the claim that the occupation is eroding Israel’s moral fiber and that its continuation is a cancer that will eventually kill Israeli democracy. Until now, that contention could be dismissed as a theory. Sheikh Jarrah is demonstrating it as reality in practice. And that could rally more Israelis behind an anti-occupation movement.
For a real Israeli left to coalesce as a viable political force rather than only as a protest movement, it has to be based first and foremost on a clear national interest, not an implied one. For most Israelis these days, ending the occupation is not a pressing matter, and the injustices they are aware of that befall Arabs in the OPT, including East Jerusalem are reasons to wag a sad head, but not a motivation for strong political action.
For that reason, it is important for the bulk of the Israeli public to see what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah. It is important that they see that their fellow citizens, holding a protest in an area that Israel considers it sovereign territory, are being treated roughly and thrown into jail without cause. It is important for Israelis to see the Jerusalem police vowing to defy a court ruling that the protests were legal and threaten to suppress them anyway (in the end, the police decided to back off from that threat).
And it is crucially important that these issues are raised in the context of the occupation. Even more, that this is happening in East Jerusalem, where the Arab residents live in a state which is something less than occupation but also much less than citizenship.
Considering how poorly the left fared in the last Israeli elections (Netanyahu is considered to be the liberal in his governing coalition), a renaissance of the Israeli left would be a welcome thing for Israel and for Palestine.
(HT to Palestine Note)