Where Solidarity Ends | Sara Benninga

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In the activism circles I move in, I have always thought there is a slight tendency towards exaggeration. Yes, fascism is rising, we say, but I mostly believed this was said with wink, with a bit of exaggeration, revealing an honest conviction that it can’t really get that bad. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that I could not imagine fascism, perhaps I recognized in the cry of fascism a method of making the crowd enthusiastic in support of the struggle, perhaps because I had never come face to face with fascism, but only read, heard or lightly brushed up against it.

I thus didn’t really think that fascism could be so tangible. It’s always the Palestinians, the soldiers, the establishment, once and a while a threatening phone call, a harassing video on the internet, an arrest, a court hearing, but generally speaking, the civilized façade was kept with occasional slips, as far as I was concerned. I had a tendency of personally treating “it” with a bit of disregard – it couldn’t really be true. Maybe I just never understood what fascism was about, I had never personally experienced it. It was always once removed from me.

But yesterday my perception changed. I came in close contact with fascism, face to face, its fist up against my face, and the faces and bodies of many of my friends. My mouth bleeding, his nose broken, the other’s eye black from punching, her head split open.

Up until now, when I had experienced expressions of hate and violence from my surroundings, from policemen at demonstrations or from passersby on the street, I didn’t honestly believe that the whole system was against me. After all, I like to think of myself as an optimist, and I wanted to believe that even if the “situation” was bad, not all people are, and hate has its limits too. Even now, when I think of the events of the passing night, I doubt them: It can’t be true. But I also remember the horror I was overcome with, and I can’t shake it off. On the other hand, I can’t verbally express what I went through yesterday. I remain, in part, speechless.

I am sure there will be some who will criticize me and say I grew up in a “bubble” – and it’s true. I am also quite sure that some will say that the reason I didn’t understand is due to the privileges my Jewish ethnicity here in Israel has granted me – and that’s true too. I am not proud of my comprehension problems, I am simply surprised at the extremity of a situation needed to change  an understanding, and at the strength of my will to doubt my own experiences, as I try to wind and unwind yesterday’s events so that I can quietly continue my life. I am shocked by and hurt from the fact that I can’t express the feeling of abandonment I experienced, and the awe that untangled me on the brink of an abyss threatening to swallow me up.

A part of me is still clutching on to the naïve belief, some will say, that at the end of the day the so called “law” or maybe even “justice” will come to my rescue. Again, some may discard my beliefs as naïve, saying that I am so wrapped up in my privileges as a Jew here that I can’t imagine something “like that” happening to me. But yesterday it happened.

When policemen in uniform stand and quietly watch a violent and brutal crowd of about 200 people beat up a group of 50 people, the illusion of a rescuing justice is shattered.

Towards the end of the “event,” an ambulance drove down the road, coming to claim the more severely injured people of our group. I ran towards it, my lip bleeding (one of the lighter injuries we had), crying, and said – help us – there is no one to turn to – the policemen – it is more likely that they will turn us into the hungry crowd, its teeth dripping with the smell of blood, its fists ready for battle, eager to show us who has the upper hand, almost possessed with the passion to bash our flesh, to get the message through – “next time we will kill you” (and sadly I believe them). And they – in the ambulance – looked at me – puzzled – and said sheepishly – do you want to come in? That was the refuge offered to me from fascism, but I know it is not enough.

When a group of the Anatot settlers closed in on A. in the fields, beating her with fists and feet, one of the policemen watching the spectacle came up to her at the end and said, in mock innocence – “madam, you have fallen, let me help you up”.

When the wives of those attackers saw their husbands beating women and men without differentiation (here’s a high-five for gender equality!), they clapped in enthusiasm and spat out towards me the words “traitor”, “you deserve this”. And when those wives heard their husbands threaten us “we’ll fuck you over” – they suddenly became men themselves, cheering their husbands’ potential sexual conquering, as if they were one of the guys.

Fascism is the where basic human solidarity, empathy, if you’d like, evaporates. Women cheer to chants of rape, and men turn into uncontrollable animals, and that abstract concept called “the law”, which is supposed to defend me – and here is a situation in which I truly needed its defense – as I was  running away from a fervid mob, just waiting to drag me into a corner and make me disappear, that “law” – those policemen (that many of their colleagues and friends were in that frenzied mob itself, off-duty) – look on at the scene quietly, from the side, and with a wry smile that says to me with its eyes “finally… finally”.


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