How Did They Let it Happen?

How Did They Let it Happen?

By Merav Michaeli, Haaretz 

28.02.12
 
Following her participation at the Geneva Initiative conference "The Missing Peace: Lack of discussion of the peace process in public discourse and the media", Merav Michaeli writes about her awakening after the conference and realizing the reluctance of many to write about the peace process given their feeling of helplessness to change the system. But the truth is that if we don't make our voices heard, we may wake up one day and ask "Why didn't we stop it? How did we let it happen?" See article below: 
 
On Saturday I read the article by novelist David Grossman, which appeared in Haaretz's Hebrew edition over the weekend, about an injured Palestinian who was left to die on the side of the road after police officers dumped him near an intersection in the middle of the night.
 
How come I didn't think of writing about that news report, I asked myself. The details seem familiar, I thought as I read the Grossman piece, so maybe I had read the original article. But it is also possible that it sounded familiar because it's just like so many other tales of encounters between Palestinian detainees and the police or the army.
 
Whether I had read the original article or not, I blocked the idea of it from my mind, not entirely unconsciously. I pushed it away, because who can bear such a thing?
 
You see that headline, "Left to die at the side of the road," and you know it's awful, you know there's nothing you can do about it. The helplessness drives you out of your mind, and your soul simply cuts through it all and, without further deliberation, pushes the bad news aside and moves on.
 
Because really, what's the point? Yesterday I took part in a Geneva Initiative panel entitled "Where did the peace go?" But peace has never been here. So what if an entire people is groaning under our occupation? So what if we're being crushed under our own occupation? So what if the public is demonstrating, in dwindling numbers, against the occupation, or for a peace agreement? So what if many people good and true have been writing for 40 years to warn of the strategic, moral and existential dangers of occupation?
                                                                                
                           Geneva Initiative Conference "The Missing Peace"                          
 
You get up one morning and discover, too, that the planned changes to the construction industry that Netanyahu announced a year and a half ago, when the housing crisis had just started to gain momentum, is bad indeed - as bad as had been expected. It limits people's ability to object to development projects that cause them harm, restricts their chances of receiving compensation for this harm, and facilitates the appropriation of land (land belonging to Jews, within the Green Line - yes, yes, it's spreading ). It's great for wealthy developers and raises housing prices.
 
And this is less than six months after nearly the entire country, it seemed, came out in person to demonstrate against precisely this issue. If you've read the fine print on the construction proposal, you know that the prime minister is basically telling us to get off his back. And if you're still bothered about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the occupation, then you know Netanyahu's bottom line is: Leave me alone.
 
Every time we read or learn or think about unenlightened regimes, we ask with frustration and lack of comprehension: How did they let it happen? Why didn't they stand up against it? How come they didn't write articles opposing it? How come they didn't protest, or sound the alarm?
 
When we, who live in a democracy, do stand up against something, write articles opposing it and demonstrate against it, our protests have no effect. No, the government doesn't throw us into prison and secret agents don't threaten our lives. The system in Israel has much more sophisticated ways of shutting our mouths. It turns us, all of the nearly 8 million residents of this country, into transparent, insignificant beings. We pinch ourselves and it hurts. We're awake, we exist, we demonstrated all summer - and nothing is happening.
 
We are the people about whom others will ask: Why didn't they stop it? How did they let it happen?