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Israelis Who Feel Betrayed

A touching column by Shlomo Engel in YNet tells us of the lasting effects of disengagement: The sense of utter betrayal that Israelis who lived in the Gaza Strip and their supporters continue to feel, four years after the fact. Referring to the Independence-Day custom of putting little Israeli flags on cars, he writes:

I was unable to place Israel’s flag on my car like everyone else does. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it or that I don’t realize how important and significant this day was. I love my country very much. I am amazed by its rapid development and exceptional success stories. I understand and deeply feel the almost miraculous revolution undertaken by the Jewish people, who managed to create a glorious country after emerging from the Shoah’s crematoria.

Yet despite my great love for the State and for the people, and perhaps because of it, I cannot be proud of its flag as I used to be. This was the fourth Independence Day where I did not hang the flag I love so much. I did this after my State betrayed me, hurt me, humiliated me, and threw me away like a useless object.

If these words sound oddly familiar, it is because we are used to hearing them from the outer fringes of the Israeli Left. Like Engel, for years they too have felt not only outrage and a need to protest, but a deep sense of betrayal when they see the occupation, the violence, the “militarism” that they believe Israel exercises against Palestinians, in defiance of a Zionist dream of being a better, more merciful state than the others. Not a few of them leave the country, or at least loudly threaten to do so.

One is tempted to be put off by what looks like an adolescent rebellion: like the teenager who has discovered for the first time that his parents are not perfect, and responds by running away or deliberately trying to hurt them, these voices are showing their feelings of betrayal by rejecting the symbols of the nation that cradled them from birth, that gave them a dream, and then shattered it. But just as such teenagers are basically wrong, Israelis too should be glad they have a government capable of carrying out its most painful decisions, even when the decisions are ill-considered. The whole flag-hiding thing is kind of distasteful, isn’t it?

On the other hand, I can’t help but see some good in the whining, on both sides of the aisle. I mean, it sure beats apathy.


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