The April 9 elections to the 21st Knesset will be the 15th time since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War that Israel’s citizens and soldiers will exercise their democratic right while ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians. There were times when the exhortation “down with the occupation” merited a place of honor in the political discourse, alongside the word “peace.” Under the decadelong regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, such talk has made way for a discourse of annexation and incitement. It is as if not saying the word makes the occupation disappear.
On Feb. 16, Channel 13 news anchor Oshrat Kotler, referring to a report about Israeli soldiers who beat up two Palestinian detainees, commented that 18-year-old soldiers were deployed in the territories and “come back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation.” Her comment generated outraged reactions on the political right, not because she had used the word “occupation” — they were careful to sideline that — but because she had “dishonored Israeli soldiers.” Her bottom line — “that’s the result of the occupation” — was ignored. According to the right-wing worldview, if you do not react to the occupation, it does not exist.