Gideon Levy: A new Israel in the making (Haaretz, 13.11.2011)

The future is now. The revolution is in progress; just wait for what’s to come.

One day not long from now we will wake up to a different kind of country, the country that’s now in the making. It won’t look like the country we know, which already has its share of flaws, distortions and ills. And when we become aware of this, it will be too late. At that point, the old Israel will be described in glowing terms, a model of democracy and justice, compared to the new version that is taking shape as we close our eyes to it, day after day, new law after law.

The way of life in the new Israel where we will live and die won’t remind us in the least of the country we’re used to. Even this article won’t be publishable. Only proper opinions will be put into print, the ones approved by the new government-sponsored journalists’ association, whose people will sit in every newsroom so there is no divergence from the accepted chorus of opinion.

Laws and regulations (clearly they will be passed as “emergency” regulations ) will bar publication of anything that could, in the eyes of the authorities, harm the state. A new law will bar defamation of the state, and the newspaper you will hold in your hands will be different. It will only report good news.

Radio and television broadcasts won’t be what you’re familiar with either. No media outlet will be able to go beyond the bounds of the law due to the draconian penalties for running afoul of them. The word “occupation” will be illegal, as will the expression “Palestinian state.” Treasonous journalists will be pilloried or arrested, or at least fired. That day is not long in coming.

In the not too distant future, the urban landscape will look different. What is happening today in Jerusalem will play itself out in the whole country tomorrow, when the likeness of women will be banished from public view. Today Jerusalem, tomorrow the whole country. Separate buses and streets for men and women. Radio and television will only broadcast men singing. At some point, women will be required to cover their heads. Then it will be the men’s turn. They will be barred from appearing clean-shaven or without a head covering. That day is not long in coming.

The cities will be shut down on Shabbat. Not a store or movie theater will be open. Then will come the ban on driving on Shabbat. Non-kosher restaurants will be illegal. Mezuzahs will be required on the doorpost of every room in every home. Couples not registered with the rabbinate will not be allowed to live together, and couples in which only one party is Jewish will be deported immediately. Unmarried couples will be barred from walking arm-in-arm in public.

Once a month all the country’s schoolchildren will make solidarity visits to West Bank settlements. Every lesson will begin with the singing of the national anthem and a salute to the flag. Those who don’t serve in the army will lose their citizenship and be deported.

And the Jewish state will have a Jewish Knesset. First Arabs will be barred from running for parliament in their own parties. Then they won’t be allowed to be elected at all. Until then, MKs who at the beginning of every Knesset session don’t sing the national anthem’s words about the “yearning of the Jewish soul” will be permanently removed.

Arabs will be denied the right to a university education, with the exception of a symbolic quota approved by the Shin Bet security service. It will be illegal to rent to Arabs, other than in their own towns and villages, and the Arabic language will be banned. The poetry of Arab poet Mahmoud Darwish and his Jewish compatriots Aharon Shabtai and Yitzhak Laor will also be banned. Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman will have to decide. They, and all the country’s citizens, will be required to declare themselves Zionists to get published.

The West Bank will be annexed, but the Palestinians living there will not be. Left-wing organizations will be made illegal and their leaders arrested. The government will publish a blacklist of those with offensive views who will not be allowed to leave the country or speak to the foreign media. Only someone who murders Jews will be deemed a real murderer, and the statute books will be divided into two parts, one for Jews and one for non-Jews. The death penalty will only apply to Arabs.

Special legislation will give settlers the right to take control of any land in the West Bank, and military censorship will ban any news item that could “harm the strength of the Israel Defense Forces.” The Supreme Court will only serve as a court of appeals and will not consider direct petitions on civil rights violations. Supreme Court justices will be selected by the Knesset and slots on the bench will be reserved for West Bank settlers, rabbis and members of the party in power. Only religious justices will be able to serve as chief justice. Rabbis will have legal immunity similar to what MKs have. Any declaration of war or a peace agreement will need the approval of the Council of Torah Sages.

Actually, you don’t need much imagination to come up with all this. The future is now. The revolution is in progress; just wait for what’s to come.

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board.

Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and spent four years as the newspaper’s deputy editor. He is the author of the weekly Twilight Zone feature, which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 25 years, as well as the writer of political editorials for the newspaper.

Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists’ Union Prize in 1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996.

His new book, The Punishment of Gaza, has just been published by Verso Publishing House in London and New York.

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