2015 was a year full of murder, stabbings, homophobia, and gender-based violence. I can’t wait for it to be over.
Damn you, 2015. Your place is in the dustbin of history. Leave us alone.
You fraud. You began to shower us with specks of hope when the last elections were announced. We thought perhaps that the Israeli voter would cast away the thick layer of anxiety that has been sewn around him over 20 years of right-wing rule. Arab citizens worked tirelessly to put together the Joint List — for themselves and for the supporters of cooperation and democracy. For a second you let us believe it was possible, that perhaps this year would bring change and hope. But when the prime minister stood before the country and incited against us — the Right won. Power and fear-mongering defeated clairvoyance and hope.
The Jewish people were dragged once again into the prison of anxiety, built by a right-wing regime drunk on endless power.
How could a year that brought us Likud MK Oren Hazan — accused of using meth and pimping out women — be a sane one? A year that crowned Miri Regev culture minister, Naftali Bennett — who has proudly “killed many Arabs” — was made education minister, and Ayelet Shaked, who has made it her duty to target human rights NGOS, was appointed justice minister. And alongside all of them stands Benjamin Netanyahu, who serves as the head of five top government ministries.
Lost in the Mediterranean
Day after day, the blanket of Israeli democracy shrinks to the size of a yarmulke that barely covers the Jewish head, leaving the body of the nation naked and vulnerable.
Go, 2015, become invisible like Shas’ Aryeh Deri who disappeared alongside Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon when the going got tough. Evaporate somewhere above the Leviathan gas field, where you can burn along with the absurd gas deal that recently passed.
There in the Mediterranean you will find hundreds of bodies of children, women and men who were swallowed up by the waves as they tries to flee Syria. Millions of refugees in just one year, and humanity tended to them. They fled an unimaginable hell and became part of the most difficult immigration crisis since World War II. The old, white continent passed the test, while the rest of the world — including the Arab world — stood silent as it looked on at the photo of Kurdish toddler Aylan Kurdi.
Thousands of bodies that now feed the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. We were left with orange pieces of plastic strewn across the shore, and I am waiting for the artist who will create a memorial for the deceased in an unnecessary war, which looks like it will take the lives of the last Syrian and Palestinian before it grinds to a halt.
When the Mufti replaced Iran
We didn’t have a summer war this year, 2015, and thank God for that. But the siege on Gaza continues — and children there remain ill, barefoot, and hungry. Somehow Israelis want them to continue to keep things quiet.
In our backyard a different kind of war began with the first Jewish victim of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem. I’m talking about the stabbing and murder of a Jewish teenager at this year’s pride parade. Shira Banki, 16, was murdered, yet the terrorist wasn’t “neutralized” — that term had yet to claim its spot in our lexicon that day. So the attacker was taken in for psychiatric evaluation.
Not long after did devilish settlers burned the Dawabshe family alive in a tiny village near Nablus. One by one the family members perished: 18-month-old Ali, Sa’ad the father, and Reham the mother were burned alongside one another. The attacked managed to bring the term “Jewish terror” out of the closet of the Hebrew language. Do not be mistaken, my friends, terror itself raised itself and was given a name, but the identity of terrorists remained in the dark. With the arrest of several suspects came a wave of supporters, and the wave of condemnations from the act itself disappeared.
Sometime during the year the U.S. signed a deal with Iran and the specter of the Islamic Republic disappeared from Netanyahu’s speeches. Instead came the Mufti, who was apparently responsible for the Holocaust, along with the Islamic Movement and its activists who were deemed the “threat of the month” against the strongest democracy in the bleeding Middle East. ISIS is here, said the prime minister when the riots erupted at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Muslims understood that there was a violation of the status quo at one of their most holy sites: settlers entered the compound, the Muslim worshippers opposed it, and the Jews pretended like it never happened — that a few top ministers talking about re-building the Third Temple on the Temple Mount is not such a big deal.
The High Holidays did not end peacefully either. The situation deteriorated quickly, with young Palestinian men responding with stabbing attacks against Jews across Jerusalem and the West Bank, calling for a third intifada. The army, which hesitated at first, raided every Palestinian nook and cranny, looking for God knows what. Jerusalem’s neighborhoods were encircled with checkpoints and walls; it seemed like every day a different neighborhood was the “source of terror”: Jabel Mukaber, Issawiya, Shuafat refugee camp, Qalandiya, etc.
Waiting to wake up
October was a month of insanity in which Palestinian teens and boys were shot dead, the Jewish masses yelled “terrorist, terrorist!” and “kill the son of a bitch” at every suspect. Young Palestinians who tried to attack or were suspected of attacking were murdered, including Muslim women, an Eritrean asylum seeker, and teenagers who were caught in the death trap of vengeance. Sometimes I saw how real the fear was, but it was still difficult to see a photo of a Jewish person smiling near the body of a teenager, or nude photos of a young woman from Hebron — who was shot down with 10 bullets — that were distributed by Israeli settlers. It is not easy to classify these acts as stemming from fear.
In this war of the knives, there is always someone who photographs and puts the photos online. Knife, no knife — that is the question. The blood of a 13-year-old oozing onto the pavement, or a crying woman surrounded by soldiers with their weapons cocked. The Palestinians saw the videos, as did the Israelis.
2015 was the year everyone lost it: the impoverished Palestinians went out to commit suicide in the most wretched way, while the frightened Jews followed their leadership’s orders and turned into armed militias who did not hesitate to shoot at Palestinians, all in the name of security. Sometimes they shot Mizrahim, other times they attacked female passersby in Lod. Four Arab cleaners were stabbed in the south, and Arab workers steered clear of points of friction.
The violence only generated more violence and mutual hatred. Between one stabbing and another, 14 Arab women and 11 Jewish women were stabbed or shot to death — half of them during the months where violence spiraled out of control. And don’t say that one has nothing to do with the other. The violent security guards who oppress Arab men were able — once again — to take their weapons home, where Arab and Jewish women paid the price.
The situation seems more intransigent and worse than ever, and not a single leader has risen to explain to the average citizen what the occupation of another nation has to do with “escalating violence.” How endless frustration, a frozen peace process, and the lack of an economic future leads to bloodletting. How incitement kills. Everyone wants to support the extreme right and justify the endless oppression of Palestinians, leaving someone like Rivlin looking like the “traitorous Left” and Netanyahu like the “moderate adult.”
One day, the average citizen will wake up, the one who works hard and lives paycheck to paycheck, the one who has a mortgage and doesn’t live in a large house with a yard on a hill beyond the Green Line, the one who is apathetic to the occupation as much as she or he is to the gas deal, the one who doesn’t care about contract workers or ministers who also happen to be sexual predators. Arabs and Jews who just want to live in peace, who are asked to pay the far too heavy price for their silence and apathy.
Until then Jerusalem will continue to bleed, and we will remain horrified. Some of us have yet to give up, others are waiting for the messiah, although nowadays it seems unlikely that he is coming anytime soon.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.