Human history is full of examples of peoples and civilisations that, consciously or not, have committed suicide: from the Trojans’ decision to bring Odysseus’ horse inside their city walls, to the Brexit, to the destruction of the forests of Easter Island and the arable land of the Mayans, procrastination, excess and blindness have led powerful and proud civilisations to neglect what could affect them. Until it was too late to react. The historian Barbara Tuchman drew a convincing picture of this in a major book that is still relevant today, “The March of Folly”.
This is the case today for many nations, and perhaps for all of humanity. And in particular the State of Israel.
Less than 80 years after its resurgence, after two thousand years of annihilation, this state (which owed its rebirth only to the two-thousand-year stubbornness of scattered communities that have preserved their cultures and values, despite all the martyrs they have had to endure, from the Babylonian exile to the Shoah), one would have thought that nothing could threaten its existence:
Israel has never ceased to be a democracy, from day one; it is in no way responsible for the non-creation of a Palestinian state, refused by all the Arab countries, eager to chase these infidels out of the lands of Islam; it has the best known armaments in the world. Its population is remarkably well educated. Its demography is very positive. Its economy is flourishing, its companies are at the cutting edge of progress; its research centres are among the best in the world. Its researchers have won more Nobel Prizes in science than most major countries, and the country accumulates more patents per capita than most other countries; capital from all over the world competes to finance its innovative companies. And, until very recently, women’s rights and the rights of sexual minorities were better protected than almost anywhere else in the world. Peace is made with a considerable number of neighbours, mostly Muslim countries.
But now a new parliamentary majority is threatening to wipe out the best of this country and to condemn it to death politically and morally.
Politically: It should have been clear for a long time, even since the Six Day War, that Israel has everything to lose by clinging to the settlements. That the Palestinians, once they understand that it is in their interest to get rid of their corrupt and/or extremist so-called elites, will come to renounce the demand for a Palestinian state (which the Israeli right-wing is bent on making impossible) and demand only to have the same rights as those of the citizens of the State of Israel; which this government will refuse, placing the country in the same situation as South Africa at the time of apartheid. It cannot be repeated enough: Israel is the only country in the world that has an interest in the creation of a Palestinian state. Or rather that “had”, because it is probably too late. And the current government, by provoking and martyring the Palestinians, can only lead to a spiral of violence of which Israel will be the main victim.
Morally: One cannot remain a great moral country when a whole youth knows its neighbours only at the end of a gun, when a government treats the others as sub-human, and in any case as sub-citizens. When it intends to reduce the rights of sexual minorities and women. When it locks itself into grotesquely limited definitions of Jewishness, which exclude almost the entire Diaspora, which will soon turn against the country it has supported so much. When it favours its most extremist enemies so as not to have to make peace with the most reasonable. When he tries to subject the judiciary, and even the two fundamental laws of 1992 (which serve as the Constitution) and the Supreme Court to the goodwill of a passing majority. When it does all this to allow a particularly cynical (and, according to his country’s justice system, corrupt) man, Benjamin Netanyahu, to become prime minister again and escape prison.
Many Israelis share this view. They are the honour of their country and their history. We must support them.
Shimon Pères once said to me with great concern: “Israel has had three elites in succession: the peasants, the military, the engineers. The first two owe their power to the land; the last two owe it only to themselves and can leave whenever they want. This lesson deserves to be heard.
Painting: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, The Procession of the Horse in Troy, 18th century