by Adam Keller
We have come to expel the darkness
We carry light and fire
Each of us is a little light
Together our light is a power
Away, darkness! Begone, blackness!
Turn back, back from the light!
Last week Uri Elitzur, a founder and leader of the settler movement (and former chef de bureau to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir), related to this well-known Hanukkah song in the weekly edition of the right-wing "Makor Rishon".
"We sang 'we have come to expel the darkness', and the kindergarten teacher let us march in step, and we were four-year old Maccabees and Pioneers upholding the Blue and White flag and fighting the Greeks and Arabs", writes Elitzur, who was four in 1950. "We absorbed the conviction of the teacher and the other adults that we were the Children of Light and the Harbingers of Progress. In those days, both here and in the wider world, Zionism and Jewish Nationalism had a natural link with Enlightenment and Progress - the forces which expelled the Arab darkness and established the State of Israel".
But these good old days are long gone, complains Elitzur: "Light and Darkness have exchanged sides. Those who nowadays hold aloft enthusiastically the flag of Jewish Nationalism and fight the Arabs and settle the Land of Israel are no longer regarded by the Enlightened Camp as Bringers of Light ; to the contrary, they are designated the Forces of Darkness. Conversely, it is those who support the Arabs and fight against Zionism who are convinced that it is they who are expelling the darkness and bringing the light".
So what does he propose to do about it? Make peace with the Palestinians? Fundamentally change Israel's behavior in practice, of which unpleasant reports go out all over the world? One need not exaggerate. Uri Elitzur lives in the settlement of Ofra at the heart of the West Bank, and he certainly has no intention of seeing it become part of the State of Palestine. In fact, he has a much simpler solution - later in life he realized that in fact "That image of the Expulsion of Darkness was a bit too enthusiastic and impassioned". In fact, it's not so appropriate to Jewish traditions. Hanukkah is about modest little candles that have no pretense of expelling the darkness.
In short: What is so bad about the darkness? If the Enlightened in this country and throughout the world turn against the settlers and settlements, let the settlers full-heartedly embrace the Darkness, and the world be damned. (That quite fits with the bills they and their friends keep on proposing in the Knesset...)
It happened that two days after the publication of this article, Channel 2 TV broadcast a big news item about a group of people who are very concerned about the deterioration of the status and image of Israel at the universities in the United States, where "Israeli Apartheid Week" is marked annually and speakers for the Government of Israel face a hail of hostile heckling. "From the universities in the U.S. will come the next generation of leaders, the Presidents and Senators of the coming decades. Unless we can change the atmosphere there, the future of Israel is in danger," said one of the organizers.
So, what do these good people propose to do? Change the policy? Change Israel's face? Replace the government? Again, one should not exaggerate. A way was found - to convene the Israeli students attending American universities and equip them with good arguments to explain why we are still the Good Guys in this story. For example, to describe the horrors of suicide bombings perpetrated by Palestinians, and also explain that Israel covers only 0.8% of the overall total surface of the Middle East.
Is that enough to convince the students at universities across the United States that Palestinians could and should content themselves with 0.0% of the Middle East? That's not at all sure.
And then, another coincidence (or is it truly coincidence?). On 26 December, the same day when this news item was broadcast extensively on Israel's Channel 2 TV , Adham Baroud died in the Al Rantissi Children's Hospital in Gaza City.
Adham Baroud was seven months old when his life ended. He had been born suffering from congenital renal problems requiring specialized treatment that is unavailable in Gaza. Four months ago, he was sent to an Israeli hospital, where he was operated and returned to Gaza in a much better condition. But in late November there was a new deterioration after a catheter inserted in the previous operation got infected.
On December 1, an official and urgent request was lodged with the Israeli authorities to let Adham Baroud be treated again. The request got somehow stuck in the wheels of bureaucracy. For over three weeks, the officers and officials in charge of such issues could not make up their minds whether or not Adham Baroud constituted a danger to the security of the state of Israel. Now, they are spared any further dilemma on this issue.
This story came to me from the Gaza office of the British charity Oxfam. I looked in vain for any mention of it in the Israeli media. To be sure, there were other Gaza-related news items, much more important: about the aircraft carrying out the liquidation of those deemed to be dangerous Gazan terrorists, and of Palestinians shooting some missiles in retaliation, and of Israeli planes bombing some more in counter-retaliation, and of Israeli generals speaking ominously of a big all-out new war in Gaza, in or without conjunction with the bigger all-out war with Iran. It is absolutely necessary, in order to rebuild Israel's deterrence, which had been eroded a bit. But not this week. Not yet.
And, indeed, this morning there was on the radio a neat little item of how good we are. Gazan farmers willing to come to a hall which was especially prepared for them near the Erez Crossing (which they are not allowed to cross) could attend a course of instruction in the proper use of insecticides and fertilizers, delivered by very enlightened Israeli instructors.
Who says we are no longer the Children of Light and Harbingers of Progress in the Dark Middle East?
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