Palestinian children play as a girl held by her mother looks out of the window of house in the northern Gaza Strip February 12, 2018. Picture taken February 12, 2018.
(photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
I am in the States on holiday. The news here is focused on the Trump Administration’s policy of separating kids from their illegal immigrant parents and placing them in detention centers not with their parents. There are reportedly over 10,000 migrant children now in US government custody at 100 shelters in 14 states.
I generally watch MSNBC, which is known as the leftist, liberal Democratic Party-supporting news channel. From time to time, I turn on Fox News to see the other side. They support US President Donald Trump’s policies, whatever they are – even if just a year and a half ago they attacked policies that might have been supported by former president Barack Obama or those that were criticized by Trump but are now supported by him, such as speaking with the North Koreans.
With the flip of a channel, entire worldviews are changed. It is remarkable how the same story is covered from completely different universes. Fox News and Trump’s supporters view the separation of the immigrant kids from their parents as effective deterrence against illegal immigration. The opposing worldview, which is my own as well, sees this as something which is simply not done – it is unimaginable, inhumane and devastating. This policy being implemented now by the US Government will leave thousands of children psychologically scarred for life. It is hard for me to imagine how someone who shares some of the same human values cannot see it as I do and how they could even view it as something positive.
But why should I be surprised? Most Israelis (at least it seems like most Israelis) view the shooting of unarmed protesting Gazans and killing them because they approached the border fences or even wanted to vandalize or even breach the border fence as justified use of lethal force and as effective deterrence. The people who support that policy cannot seem to understand how I view it as illegal, immoral, un-Jewish and unjustified. In their minds, if it deters the Palestinians in Gaza from trying to enter Israel illegally, then killing more than 100 of them and wounding thousands of others is totally justified. We inhabit the same space and live in two different worlds.
On Tuesday it was reported in Israel that far-right activists chanted slogans cheering for the death of an 18-month-old Palestinian (Ali Dawabsheh, who was allegedly murdered in 2015 by right-wing Jewish fanatics) outside a courthouse in central Israel as the late toddler’s family walked near them following a hearing in the Israeli court. They shouted things like: “Ali’s on the grill.” How does this not shake us to the core? It was reported that some 20 Israeli police officers were at the scene, but did not appear to react as the chants persisted. How is this possible? How is it conceivable that in the Jewish state the chief of police and the minister of police would not be called on to resign?
This past weekend young Bedouin children were refused entry to a public swimming pool in a kibbutz in the south, without explanation, but clearly because they were Arab children. How is it possible that this does not shake up our entire nation and passes by quietly as something acceptable and understandable? How do so many Israelis believe that it is acceptable to launch demonstrations against the rights of Arab citizens of Israel to purchase homes in Afula? There are unfortunately many examples of these deplorable acts of ugliness, hatred and racism that occur in our society every day.
These examples of what has become of Israel disturb and distress me beyond my ability to be passive. I cannot shake off and ignore the horrible disgusting racist reality that our country has become. I cannot understand why and how so many Israelis embrace the disgusting loathsome policies voiced and implemented by Donald Trump. I cannot understand why and how so many Israeli embrace and support the disgusting loathsome policies voiced and implemented by the regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
We have sunken so low in our ethics and morals that we see people like Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev; Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister and Information Minister Gilad Erdan; MK Betzalel Smotrich; Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel; Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and many others in this government as heroes and leaders of the Jewish people and the Zionist movement. I never imagined that we would sink so low and that I would feel so estranged from the country I have chosen as my home.
I know that there are many other Israelis who share my feelings. I am not alone. Our voices are not heard loud enough, but I know that we are stronger than we appear. The days of reckoning will come. It is not about politics. It is not about political parties. It is about values. It is about morals. It is about ethics. It is about identity and it is about the soul of our nation. It is very painful.
The author is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and its neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.