• ISRAEL \ Jan 01, 2015
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    I love Israel - and I apologize By Gideon Levy , Haaretz 1/1/2015
I love Israel - and I apologize
By Gideon Levy , Haaretz 1/1/2015

Here comes the new Israeli, a man’s man; with a tiny skullcap, service in an elite army unit, high-tech, English and a swimming pool, with the coolest and most up-to-date message: “Stop apologizing, we love Israel” (rhymes in Hebrew); the poster is already in evidence on several balconies.

On Monday night, at a meeting convened by Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), the most successful politician in Israel at present explained: “This election is between those who apologize and those who are proud ... those who are objective and those who are in favor of the State of Israel.” Drum roll.

Well, [Habayit Hayehudi chairman] Naftali Bennett, I apologize and I love Israel (of course not your Israel and not the present Israel); I’m objective and I’m in favor of (a just) State of Israel; I apologize and I’m proud.

You’re going to stop apologizing? Israel never even started doing so. If only it had apologized a long time ago. If only it would acknowledge its sins, if only it would accept moral responsibility for them.

It’s no shame to apologize – it’s far more embarrassing not to do so. Apologizing is a strength, not a weakness, and on the way to reconciliation (with the Palestinians) we have to stop at the first station – an apology. It’s true that in the elite unit of Bennett and Yinon Magal they don’t apologize for anything, not even for acts of murder, assassinations and abductions (the murder of Abu Jihad, for example, or the abduction of Sheikh Obeid). In the settlements they don’t apologize for anything either – not for the exploitation, not for the disinheritance and not for the theft.

As a rule, in Israel people don’t apologize for anything, not in the occupation nor on the road. Here only nerds apologize. Guilt feelings are an embarrassment, and apologizing is for those with no backbone. That’s why Bennett’s election slogan: “Stop Apologizing. Be Proud” will become so catchy and popular: the “apologizers” vs. “the proud,” the “objective ones” vs. “lovers of the country.” I’m proud to belong to the former group.

I would like to apologize, if that would be of any significance, to the entire Palestinian people, throughout the generations. For 1948, for 1967 and for everything that happened in their wake. An apology for 1948 would not have made the state that was established less just – it would have become more just. For the mass expulsion and for preventing the return, for the ethnic cleansing in several districts and for several acts of slaughter, which may be part of every war – we can and should apologize.

We can and should apologize for the fact that what happened in 1948 has never ended. That the spirit of 1948 has not passed, and continues to this very day in the State of Israel’s basic attitude toward the Palestinian inhabitants of the land, in its sense of ownership and superiority, in its aggressiveness and violence, in its ultranationalism and racism.

Nor has anything changed in the policy of dispossession: Take what you can – then as now, when the State of Israel is already a regional power. We should apologize for that. We should apologize for the innumerable dead killed for no reason, for the endless lies and deception. For tyranny in the territories and for apartheid. For trampling a nation’s dignity, for suffocating its freedom and for separating it and breaking it up into tiny nations. For erasing its heritage and disdaining its culture. For short-changing Israeli Arabs and for demonstrations of racism against them. For the “price tag” crimes and the Operation Protective Edge crimes. For all of them we should apologize.

Apologizing would not solve anything or atone for anything, but it could signal a genuine intention to turn a new leaf. Apologizing would broadcast moral strength and self-confidence, which the country so badly lacks, convinced as it is that it can live forever on its sword, even if there is not a single historical precedent for that. For all these things (and more) Israel will have to apologize some day.

Anyone who believes that even if the reconciliation is delayed, it will eventually come, understands that it must include an apology. That’s how it was in South Africa and that’s how it will be in Israel, after the days of the Bennetts, if it’s not too late.