Uri Avnery writes:
On Saturday evening, two weeks ago, we returned by taxi from the annual memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin, and as usual got into a conversation with our driver.
Generally, these conversations flow smoothly, with lots of laughs. Rachel loves them, because they bring us face-to-face with people we don’t normally meet. The conversations are necessarily short, the people express their views concisely, without choosing their words. They are of many kinds, and in the background we generally hear the radio news, talk shows or music chosen by the driver. And, of course, the soldier-son and the student-daughter are mentioned.
But this time, things were less smooth. Perhaps we were more provocative than usual, still depressed by the rally, which was devoid of political content, devoid of emotion, devoid of hope. The driver became more and more upset, and so did Rachel. We felt that if we had not been paying customers, it might have ended in a fight.
The views of our driver can be summed up as follows:
There will never be peace between us and the Arabs, because the Arabs don’t want it.
The Arabs want to slaughter us, always did and always will.
Every Arab learns from early childhood that the Jews must be killed.
The Koran preaches murder.
Fact, wherever there are Muslims, there is terrorism. Wherever there is terrorism, there are Muslims.
We must not give the Arabs one square inch of the country.
What did we get when we gave them Gaza back? We got Qassam rockets!
There’s nothing to be done about it. Only to hit them on the head and send them back to the countries they came from.
According to the Talmudic injunction: He who comes to kill you, kill him first.
This driver expressed in simple and unvarnished language the standard convictions of the great majority of Jews in the country.
It is not something that can be identified with any one part of society. It is common to all sectors.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you,” Joseph Heller wrote and most Israelis believe.
In a way, whether this conviction in a Jewish island surrounded by a sea of enmity has a solid basis in reality is besides the point. If most Israelis believe in the impossibility of peace, that belief itself surely makes peace impossible. But it also begs the question of whether a Jewish state or any other state can have a solid foundation if that foundation is constructed from fear.
Paradoxically, the great demographic threat to Israel may turn out to result from too many Jews — Jews only capable of seeing themselves, their nation and the world through the prism of fear.
For an individual, if fear grows to a proportion where it shapes every feature of their life — if it colors their decisions, their perceptions and everything they think and feel — this is not a way of living but rather a condition that requires treatment. Why should a similar need not equally apply to a whole nation afflicted by the disease of fear?
Many Israelis might counter that so long as the Jewish state can retain its position of regional military supremacy, then it will retain the upper edge in a balance of fear and thus its only concern should be that Israel is able to engender more fear than it suffers. Yet this is the mindset of the survivalist whose fixation on danger has reduced life to the tremors of desperate isolation.