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The Shutdown of the Israeli Consciousness

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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File - Israeli taking shelter in the south
File - Israeli taking shelter in the southCredit: Ilan Assayag
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

The overriding sense I got throughout the operation in Gaza – and in its aftermath as well – was one of dissociation. Not support, not opposition, but simply a conscious dissociation from emotions, sensations, memories and thought constructs. A deep lack of emotional involvement in anything outside the dry practicalities of sirens and running to protected spaces, acts which are also performed in the silent mechanical fashion of those who feel that they have no choice. We shut our eyes tight and wait for it to end. No questions asked, no doubts voiced, and definitely no joy or excitement. We shrug and move on.

And the more you delve into this feeling, and into the fact that more and more people tell you again and again, almost irrespective of their political position, how much they simply don’t care, how much they have lost the words to articulate the Israeli political void, the degeneration, you realize that the deep lack of emotional involvement, which has been palpable for quite a while among growing circles – and which became horribly clear during the last operation, as evidenced by the miserable ratings of the newscasts – stems mostly from a feeling of inability to correctly understand and judge reality.

Dissociation usually appears in stress situations when a person feels helpless and unable to flee. There is probably no better definition of the Israeli consciousness today. Trapped between recognition of the unviability of the reigning order in all its aspects, and the lack of an alternative. The average Israeli has no real way to know whether this operation was justified or not, whether a threat existed and whether the threat justified an operation. By the same token, the average Israeli also has no ability to judge whether the “achievements” of this operation are indeed impressive and exceptional – as we are told incessantly – or possibly not.

The TV studios screamed the same apathy. Pundits who couldn’t say a single independent word about what was going on, repeated the same hackneyed texts as though bound by ritual, with the same familiar mannerisms, with the same tired eyes, and mostly the same lack of true ability – no doubt authentic – to say anything beyond the prewritten script, the sole point of which is to pass the time (much more than to pass on any information or knowledge.)

Throughout the brief operation in Gaza, Israeli consciousness turned itself off. It is hard to recall a single evocative statement – positive or negative, personal or general – uttered at any time during this operation. Even on social media it was hard to find any expressions of emotion. No one celebrated the results of this operation – except the public relations arm of the military – and no one objected to it either.

And that moment when a society goes from alienation or criticism or blind admiration to a state of dissociation and helplessness is a moment that is critical to mark. The disaster buried in any status quo is right there. Deep degeneration creates a sense of helplessness that eventually leads to dissociation. It’s much deeper than this operation, and has of course to do with the twilight time we are in, between recognition that the old order is dead, that its defilement is too deep, too irreparable, and a sense that “this is all there is,” that it can’t really be any different.

But it can be different. It will inevitably be different. History proves, time and again, that after periods of twilight, of corruption and the crumbling of old systems newer and more relevant systems are always built, out of human vitality, out of the consciousness, out of the deep refusal to exist for long in a state of dissociation. The question is what prices we’ll pay on the way, and that mostly depends on us, on our audacity to see, on our refusal to give up.

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