Opinion

There's a Word for Jewish Resistance to Trump and Netanyahu: Daylight

After all these years, resistance is the reason that there are still Jews in the world.

Protesters chain themselves to the doors of the AIPAC conference on March 26, 2017.
Protesters chain themselves to the doors of the AIPAC conference on March 26, 2017. Gili Getz

No one needs democracy. You can live without it. It's not like oxygen or water. Or health care.

Just as, in theory, you can live without daylight.

No one knows this better than Benjamin Netanyahu. He proved it in his speech this week to AIPAC, the annual pro-Israel gathering which often reveals much more than it intends to, about changes in both Israel and the American Jewish community. 

In a sharp departure from past years, Netanyahu didn't mention the word "democracy" once. He was too busy introducing the 19,000 delegates to what boils down to a new Israel-endorsed anthem.
Call it "All You Need Is Trump."

Three years ago in his AIPAC speech, Netanyahu called Israel "the most threatened democracy on earth." Damn straight. In those three years, we have seen the Netanyahu government work harder at rolling back democracy than at any other single endeavor.

And in the coming weeks, thanks in no small part to Donald Trump, Israel's governmental rollback of rights, privileges, and equal protection, is about to hit warp speed

The Israeli hard right's agenda, set to launch when the Knesset returns from recess in six weeks, is expected to strike simultaneously at peace prospects, free speech, freedom of the press, equality for Arab citizens of Israel, and the independence of the Supreme Court.  

The planned offensive puts a whole new slant on comments by Netanyahu's protégé and Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer, when he told AIPAC this week that for the first time in decades, "there is no daylight between our two governments."

Without intending to, Dermer put his finger on the single most important resource common to the right-wing, pro-billionaire agendas of both Trump and Netanyahu: Operating in darkness. It is the lack of daylight that has allowed both Trump, with executive orders and memoranda covering the environment, civil protections and immigration, and Netanyahu, with the cover provided by military occupation behind a built-in wall of secrecy, to skirt and seek to undermine the workings of democracy and the potential of diplomacy to avert conflict. 

It was just a year ago that Netanyahu told AIPAC "The best formula for achieving peace remains two states for two peoples." This year, not a word about it. Nor about diplomacy of any sort.

In that same March, 2016 address, Netanyahu exalted his Israel as "an island of liberty and democracy, adding that "Israel must never be an issue that divides Americans." 

But it was already too late. The nail in the coffin came in a 2016 AIPAC speech by then-candidate Donald Trump. In the address, written with the active aid of Ron Dermer, Trump effectively put an end to AIPAC's vaunted bipartisanship by suggesting that then-president Barack Obama was "the worst thing to ever happen to Israel." 

More recently, what Netanyahu has been trying to get across, is simple: Not only does no one need democracy - no one needs Democrats.

Just ask Mike Pence. When the Vice President spoke to AIPAC this year, he also went through an entire speech without once describing Israel as a democracy.

Pence, it turned out, was there for another purpose. To sing praises of Trump. And, instead of the traditional 'We're all Americans here,' to declare, instead, "From This Year On, We're All Republicans." 

"Thanks to the support of so many in this room," Pence began, "President Trump won a historic victory, and I'm here to pay a debt of gratitude to all of you who helped elect a president who I know will make America great again."

Despite the best efforts of Netanyahu, Trump, and their people to seal AIPAC off from the wider more complex world of conflict, daylight, which has a way of getting in regardless, did. 

Unsurprisingly, it came in from outside.

Daylight came in the form of as many as a thousand protesters, most of them young Jewish Americans, who chanted calls to end the occupation. Protesters also chained themselves to the entrance doors of the site of the conference, blocking them.

The marches, chanting and other activities were led by the anti-occupation, anti-Trump IfNotNow organization.

Thank God for them. 

The demonstrators were subjected to abuse both physical and online, with Jewish Defense League and other rightist counter-demonstrators assaulting them, and opponents on social media comparing the IfNotNow protesters to hooligans, kapos, and young members of the wartime SS.

I believe that this is just the beginning. I believe that by the next AIPAC conference, we will see even larger protests by activists of IfNotNow and other groups. 

Israel will do its best to pretend to ignore them. But the American Jewish community will not be the same after this.

We live in a time of darkness. Of no daylight. But what we're seeing now, is that as dark as it gets, there's still a door to hope. The sign on that door reads Resistance.

After all these years, resistance is the reason that there are still Jews in the world.

As it turns out, there's another word for resistance to Trump and Netanyahu and occupation: Daylight.

And, for the record, you can live without daylight for only so long, before it begins to take a toll on your health.