By Louis Frankenthaler
All too often life meets fiction. We live our lives in the “realities” that TV producers decide to construct for us. As long as we remain confined in the flat screen hanging on our walls we can ignore reality, deny human interaction and proceed endlessly in the delirium of contemporary Israel. To put it quiet simply, while a group of seemingly blithering idiots prance about a house-shaped studio and confess to the priest of intellectual pornography their sins, hopes, desires while praying not to be cast off the show back into the banality everyday life, an entirely different world goes on around them. While bikini-clad men and women “survive” the hardships of paradise, Palestinians are trying to survive the likes of the settler underground and its governmental guardians, all of whom act as if they have no God, no ethical code and no moral compass.
Israel is a sick society. It is infected by a certain moral pathology that threatens complete system failure. How else can we explain what is going on in front of our eyes while we myopically sit before the TV? As for me, I am not immune. My life partner recently started watching the show “Grey’s Anatomy” and now I’m hooked on the drug too. It’s not the end of the world as far as television goes (if you like whiney philosophy in a Seattle coffee cup), Like everyone, I also try to escape every now and again, if only momentarily.
The other day we were watching the surgical saviors on “Grey’s Anatomy” – I think it was season five, episode 5 – and of course the lead surgeons discovered a tumor the size of the baseball in the brain of one of the patients. The tumor was apparently making the patient boring and unengaged with his spouse who, instead of realizing it was a tumor, faulted her husband. One would think that the couple was relieved to learn it was a tumor and not his emotional malaise. Earlier that season, or perhaps it was the previous season, our neurosurgical heroes, frustrated with an inoperable brain tumor, developed a clinical trial where they inject a fungal serum into the tentacled tumor winding its way throughout the patients brain. After essentially killing 11 patients they succeeded in saving the life of a teenage girl.
If only they could succeed on us. When I think of the occupation, I think about more than the way in which it is a gross violation of international law, morality and common decency. I think about settlers and settler organizations that have distorted the basic conceptions of human rights, claiming that they are some sort of protected class. I think similarly of the ideological triumphalism of Israel’s right wing, from Bibi to Lieberman and beyond, who have remade Zionism in their own counter-democratic image and brought about the regression of Jewish ideological thinking to such an extent that the Occupation is almost inseparable from what is understood to be as Jewish “mainstream” thought. It is increasingly difficult to separate the occupation from the rest of Israeli socaiety.
You see, the occupation is certainly, if we choose to medicalize it, akin to something cancerous. It may in fact, be the equivalent the baseball-sized brain tumor. On television the physicians easily remove it. A sexy neurosurgeon joins forces with a hunky plastic surgeon as a ’dainty’ surgical resident assists in peeling off the patients face, opening his frontal lobe and extracting the tumor, stitching him up and making everything well. Unfortunately for us, for Israeli society, the tumor we face is web like. Its tentacles have wound their way down into the darkest crevices of our social body. Like on TV, when the patient blurts out inappropriate sexual innuendos or racist remarks, or worse, insults loved ones with hateful words, they all look at each other knowingly and sympathetically: “It’s the tumor talking” they say to each other reassuringly.
What do we say to each other? The tumored tentacle of the occupation has invaded our social brains and infected our collective minds. Racism, fascism, the attempt to destroy civil society, increased intolerance, McCarthy-like parliamentarians, indoctrination disguised as education, monitors of all shapes and variety waiting to pounce on an academic, activist or civilian the moment that they utter the words boycott, Goldstone or occupation, or dare insinuate that Israel is, well, just not as good as it should be.
Recently, “the most moral army”, as recently uttered by Bibi, attacks demonstrators. The incident hardly made the news, let alone disturb anyone. We can’t go on ignoring the tumor.
Louis Frankenthaler moved to Israel in 1995 and lives with his family in West Jerusalem. He is a doctoral student and human rights worker.