Cry, our beloved country

From the archive (legacy material)

Gideon Levy | Ha’aretz Daily | 11 January 2004

Perhaps, after all, the world will save Israel from itself. Perhaps Israel’s real friends will increase the pressure on the government. Perhaps they will understand that, even in Israel, external pressure is not always bad, because it may be the last chance to bring Israel back on the straight and narrow and make it a more just state.
The last attempt is modest, at present, but bodes well. The UN, an institution not highly thought of in Israel, resolved to bring the separation fence to the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ),
another institution sneered at in this country. This has already aroused surprising nervousness in Jerusalem’s government corridors. Where the outcry of the Palestinians and the protest of the extreme left failed, the UN succeeded. This is not bad news. Suddenly Jerusalem officials discovered the wrongs the fence was causing. After most of its construction was completed, incarcerating thousands of families in compounds without anyone caring, a feeling of discomfort arose in Jerusalem. Yosef Lapid even warned of turning Israel into South Africa in the eyes of the world.
Good morning, justice minister, but your warning is too late. South Africa has been here for a long time already, and this is how most states of the world see it. Still, better late than never, only it’s a pity the justice minister needed The Hague threat to understand that the fence his government built is an apartheid fence.
Had he bothered to go and see with his own eyes the thousands of school children waiting every morning, in all weather, for the IDF or Border Police jeep to arrive and open the gate for them on their way to school, the farmers cut off from their fields, the patients kept away from their clinics, the villages locked and bolted and the sight of a town behind barbed wire, he would not have needed the threat from The Hague to
understand the injustice. After the settlements, the fence is the next punishment to be forced on the Palestinians. Israel, as usual, ignored it.
South Africa was saved from itself and became a fair state, first and foremost because of international pressure exerted on its government. Had it not been for the economic sanctions and political isolation, perhaps apartheid would have lasted forever. Most of the fighters against apartheid saw the international pressure as a blessing and encouraged it. Regrettably, this applies to the Israeli occupation as well.
The pressure on apartheid South Africa began with a decision of the same ICJ the fence has now been brought before. From there, it’s a short step to imposing economic sanctions and other boycotts, until the regime collapses and justice is established in the battered country. This could be the narrative of events in our case too. Anyone who fears for Israel’s moral
image should not be afraid of this.
Even without the wall, the Israeli occupation could be compared to South Africa’s apartheid, even if the Israeli ideology is less despicable. Don’t roads for Jews only, as most West Bank roads are today, justify the comparison? Aren’t roadblocks distinguishing among people on the sole basis of origin racist?
It is regrettable that the fence reached The Hague. It is a pity Israel did not understand by itself that everyone may build a fence for his defense, but only on his own territory, not his neighbor’s. Those who were supposed to raise a hue and cry against the fence that imprisoned people and usurped their land, kept mum. Those whose job it was to preserve the state’s moral image and prevent what the fence is causing to tens of thousands of innocent people, betrayed their duty.
The media were not interested, the justice minister waited for The Hague, the attorney general gave everything the stamp of approval and the Supreme
Court said not a word. Only the threat from The Hague managed to raise doubts.
Now the fence track around a few imprisoned villages is being modified, in an attempt to correct a little of the evil. What happened? Didn’t the IDF know before that Hirbat Jabara would be fenced in from all directions, that Azun would perish behind the fence and that some of Joyous’ houses would be cut off from the village? Didn’t they look at the maps? Didn’t they read the reports? Or the world newspapers?
It is sad that fear of the ICJ fell on this project of iniquity, rather than fear of the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem. Thus, The Hague was left as the last recourse for justice in Israel.
The hope that international institutions will rescue Israel from its evil doing is very problematic. But when the institutions of law and justice of the state fail, there is no recourse but to turn to the nternational one. Just like it would have been better had the whites in South Africa understood themselves that their regime was based on evil, it would have been better if those in power in Israel understood finally that our occupation regime is based on terrible evil that should have ended a long time ago.
When this does not happen, when 37 years go by and the occupation only becomes more brutal, when the Israeli consciousness is not being “seared” and does not internalize the enormity of the wickedness, there is no choice but to turn to the world for help. “Cry, the beloved country,” wrote South African teacher Alan Paton in 1948 about his country’s sick regime. The
enlightened world cheered. But when the beloved country does not cry out itself, only curls inwardly in indifference, there is no choice but to turn to the world, so that it cries out instead.