by: David Harris-Gershon on August 8th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
Much has been written about the silencing of anti-war dissent in Israel by a populace almost universally supportive of military action in Gaza. Such support – inspired by feelings of vulnerability amidst rocket fire and informed by the country’s rightward shift – has made speaking out against the violence not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. Not a single anti-war demonstration in the past month has concluded without participants being attacked and beaten by nationalistic counter-protesters.
And yet, while the silencing of anti-war dissent has been a troubling manifestation of Israelis’ support for war, even more troubling has been the societal numbness; the societal disregard for Palestinian suffering which has been manifested in unsettling, and sometimes shocking, ways.
It’s not bombastic to say that empathy is dead in Israel right now from a societal standpoint, a metaphorical casualty of the current violence. Evidence of this isn’t just being seen in statistical polls, but in a seemingly endless stream of incidents. Consider the following three, representative of a real phenomenon few in Israel deny:
- Israeli soldiers prank called a Gaza hotel, joking about it being bombed.
- A moment of silence in Jerusalem’s artsy theater for those killed in Gaza is met with shouts of “Shame!” and “You’re raping the audience!“
- A Bar Illan University professor’s email to students, expressing hope that none of their family members had been harmed in Gaza, inspired the university’s president to email students, apologizing for the “hurtful letter … which contravene[s] the values of the university.”
These scenes are just three representing countless such episodes happening online and in everyday life. Of course, they’re not scenes taking place within a vacuum. A conflict is ongoing. Israelis have had to run to bomb shelters with each rocket attack. People are being traumatized by the constant threat of war.