Magazine article Tikkun

Oh, What a Wonderful Unity!

Magazine article Tikkun

Oh, What a Wonderful Unity!

Article excerpt

Oh, What a Wonderful Unity!

Uri Avnery is founder of Gush Shalom, an Israeli non-partisan grassroots peace movement composed of Jews and Arabs. Check out their website at www.gush-shalom.org.

Overnight, Israel has become a nation of parrots.

Whoever is talking--the seller of falafel or a professor of history, a taxi driver or Our Political Correspondent, an army officer or a member of the Knesset--all of them repeat endlessly some seven or eight slogans, in exactly the same words:

"Barak has turned every stone on the way to peace."

"Barak offered Arafat (almost) everything he asked for. And what did we get in return? War."

"Arafat (the villainous, cheating, lying, corrupt), instead of accepting the generous offer with both hands, started a campaign of violence and terror."

"This proves that the Palestinians never wanted peace. They want to annihilate the State of Israel and throw us into the sea."

"The right of return is a plot to destroy Israel."

"We have no partner for peace."

"The struggle is not about the settlements, but about Jaffa and Haifa."

"The conflict just doesn't have a solution."

Each of these slogans is wrong and can be easily disproved by the facts (see previous articles in TIKKUN and on the TIKKUN website at www.tikkun.org). What matters at this moment, however, is how Israeli public discourse has become so uniform. What has led the voters for Barak and Sharon, the members of the Labor and Likud, the far-right Moledet and the left-wing Meretz parties to speak in one voice? How does a free media--the dozens of newspapers and networks, with their hundreds of commentators and correspondents--turn itself into an organ for a uniform, primitive propaganda? How does such a system of brain-washing come into being without a cruel, omnipotent dictator?

This voluntary brain-washing is especially odd because its main message is not cheerful and optimistic, but as pessimistic as can be. It says that there is no chance for peace, and never was. That the war is eternal. That "they" will always want to kill us, and that there is nothing we can do about it. And, that anyone who thinks otherwise (if such a person exists) lives on the moon. Stranger still, this message may cause some depression, but its main effect is to create a vast sense of relief.

A foreigner will not understand this. We do.

The Oslo agreement, which descended on the public without any prior preparation, created a shock. I remember the day it was signed. I was in Jerusalem. In the Eastern part, there was euphoria. The Palestinians, together with some Israeli peace activists, drank champagne in the American Colony hotel, rejoiced together on the steps of Orient House. In the streets, bands of Palestinian youngsters were roaming, waving the (forbidden) Palestinian flag and nearly kissing the Israeli border policemen. When I crossed into West Jerusalem, I found there a strange, hesitant, thoughtful mood, cautiously optimistic. I was invited to a TV broadcast and found the same mood in the studio.

For the next eight years, Israel was in the grips of a painful syndrome called "cognitive dissonance." This is a situation where incoming new information crashes into old, deeply rooted attitudes.

Every person (and, it seems, an entire people, too) has a worldview, a fixed pattern of perceptions, a kind of mental map that directs their thoughts and reactions. …

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