This was (also ) a good year – the year of truth. The year that concludes tonight with a kiss was the year the Israeli masquerade party ended, the year the costumes were torn off and the truth came out. The true face was revealed. This was the year we finally came out of the closet – no more saccharine phrases and hollow talk about justice and equality, no more flowery and superficial words about peace and two states. This year the truth was heard in public, echoing loud and clear from one end of the country to the other, worrisome and depressing.
No one is talking anymore about peace; we even put the “peace process” in quotes this year, to make fun of it, as it deserves. All that’s left of peace this year is U.S. special envoy George Mitchell. And nothing remains of the prime minister’s two-state vision or the majority in the surveys: This year the Israeli government said no, even to a temporary freeze on settlement construction, and the Israelis said nothing.
After this year of truth, no one will be able to claim seriously that Israel seeks peace with the Palestinians, or with the Syrians, who spoke peace but were left unanswered. All the excuses have lost their value – Palestinian terror has halted and there is at least half a partner who is more moderate than any other. Still, we’re sticking to our positions. The truth shouts out: The Israelis don’t really want peace, they prefer real estate.
The inner workings of Israeli society have also been unmasked. The appearance of a tolerant, democratic and egalitarian society has been suddenly replaced by an authentic portrait, one that is terrifyingly nationalist and racist. Rabbis and their wives, mayors and parliamentarians all sang together in a discordant choir: no to Arabs and no to foreigners. In the years preceding this year of truth, racists still used to be excommunicated.
In this year of truth we said unabashedly that Meir Kahane was right. Almost half of Israelis oppose renting apartments to Arabs; more than half favor an oath of allegiance to the state; rabbis’ wives join their husbands in calling on the modest daughters of Israel not to go out with Arabs; a Knesset member says that those who smuggle in “infiltrators,” as migrant workers and war refugees were termed this year, should be shot in the head; and one of his colleagues blames the Russians for Israelis’ drinking habits.
Meanwhile, we proposed a law calling for foreigners who criticize Israel to be expelled if they visit here, a Jaffa school principal does not allow his students to speak Arabic, an activist against the occupation was jailed for taking part in a cycling protest, and a Bedouin-rights activist was jailed for an even longer period for the offense of having an illegal garage.
This is the plethora of reports about a day in the life of the country in the latter part of this cursed year. Such reports were thrown in our faces almost daily. The foreigner is spreading diseases and crime, and the Arab student wants to disinherit us with the price of a two-room rented apartment. We also held campaigns of intimidation and sowing fear of the different and the other that would not have shamed the most dubious regimes of the past. We had disgraceful demonstrations against refugees and Arabs, with the encouragement of part of the establishment and silence from the others, out of which one tune can be heard – a tune of arrogance and nationalism.
This was also the year of Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, no longer a wolf in sheep’s clothing but a neighborhood bully who doesn’t care about the consequences. An attempt to defuse the crisis with Turkey and then, boom! – a blow to the head. Instead of the never-ending peace speeches by President Shimon Peres, this year the foreign minister repeatedly slapped the entire world in the face for us. Not only Kahane was right; Lieberman was too. He speaks the truth, the truth of Israel.
There is nothing like sunshine for disinfecting, so this was a relatively good year. Perhaps precisely this flood of dubious nationalist feelings from the depths of the soul, which had been latent for years, will at long last stir this slumbering nation to action. Perhaps after this year, the minority that thinks differently will finally open its eyes. Maybe when the flames are closing in around us all, we will understand that this is not the society we want to live in. And maybe the world will understand who is involved.
Tonight at midnight, when the French champagne is flowing like water and the French kisses are bestowed on the mouths of our beloveds, perhaps we will begin to understand that next year will be fateful. It will be the last year we can still save something. If a miracle occurs and this does indeed happen, we will be grateful for the year that has passed, the year of truth for Israel.