Etgar Keret: “When you say Israel is committing genocide, it means you don’t want to have any conversation.”

Etgar Keret is a leading Israeli writer, whose talent for blending the mundane with the magical is appreciated both in Israel and abroad. In this interview conducted by Emmy Barouh a week ago, Keret evokes the feeling that, since October 7 and as the government plunges the country into war, the reality experienced by Israelis is losing its consistency, and escaping any grip they may have had on it.


Edgar Keret, Wikipedia Commons


It’s Friday. Two hundred and twenty-one days have passed since October 7. On some benches on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, there are large white teddy bears. They are stained with spots that look like blood. Photos of people still being held hostage in Gaza are stuck to the backrests. I sit down on one of these benches, in front of a small flower store, to wait for Etgar Keret. I won’t be disappointed: his words are free, voluble and rhapsodic, moving through the thousand subjects and stories that cross his mind.


Emmy Barouh : Can you help me understand what’s going on in Israeli society at the moment?

Etgar Keret : Maybe I am not the right person. I’m very critical about our society. I’m also very critical about Bibi Netanyahu. But let me tell you a strange story. I have a new book that’s just come out, Autocorrect. Whenever I work on a book, there is a date on which I have to submit it to the publishing house. And before that, I sit down and read the entire book and think, “Do I want this book to be published or maybe I should work on it some more?” So the date on which I was supposed to deliver it to the publishing house was 8 October. The thing is that I wrote this book at the time of the coronavirus, at the time of a judicial revolution and demonstrations against Netanyahu. And more than anything, in the period just after I’d lost my mother who was really the closest person to me. My father had already died, so I became a full orphan, as they say. This was a very difficult time for me – losing my mother, back problems after an accident I’d had, the coronavirus, Netanyahu… When I read the book on 6 October, I reached the middle and told my wife, “I’m not sure I can submit it on 8 October. I think the stories are good, but there is something about it: I show a picture of the world that is too grim, too pessimistic, too dark.” And my wife said to me, “You always think too much… If this is what you feel, don’t finish the book, put it aside, go do something nice, go to sleep, tomorrow read it again and if you feel the same way, don’t send it to the publishing house.” I said, “Okay.” So I left it.

On 7 October, I woke up because of the missiles and everything… So I didn’t even remember the book. I started doing everything I thought I should do. And in January I suddenly remembered, “Oh my God, there is the book, I forgot.” The publishing house, everybody was drafted, nobody cares, nobody remembers, you know. And then I read it again and said to myself, “Wow, it’s perfect. It’s just like life.” It’s as if when I read the book on 6 October, I said, “This is too much.” But after 7 October, I said, “This is just right.”

Q : How has life changed for you after 7 October?

After 7 October I really felt some kind of guilt because I thought, “I can’t help.” How can I help? And then me and my wife started basically going to the places where they evacuated the survivors from the kibbutzim. And we would go there and say to them, “If you want, we’ll read you stories. If you want, we’ll play with the children.” Sometimes there could be a hundred people there, sometimes there could be three. And what happened was that on the first Saturday after 7 October – I think it was the 14th or 15th – we went to one of the kibbutzim that suffered a lot, Kfar Aza. When I went to the kibbutz, there was a very tall woman, and she was holding a baby in her arms, a really young baby. She was super nice, she helped us, we were there for more than two hours. And then in the end, when she walked us to the car, I realized that I hadn’t asked her her name… I didn’t do any small talk. And I thought, “Okay, maybe I still have a chance.” But I thought maybe it’s too late to ask somebody what’s their name after three hours. So I said, “What’s the name of the baby?” And she looked at me and said, “I don’t know. I’m not from the kibbutz, I just come to help.” And she went on: “There was this woman who was breastfeeding her baby when they came and told her that her husband wasn’t kidnapped, as she thought, but that they had found his body – and she fainted. So they took the baby and gave it to me. And then you came, now you will leave. And I will bring the baby back.” You see… I feel unable to interpret reality. It’s so complex, it doesn’t have a bottom line.

This kind of mess is the reality. I go around and collect stories, but in the end, I cannot synthesize those stories into a whole.

I can tell you another story. A young soldier, 19 years old, contacted me. He had lost his entire leg fighting in Gaza and all the other soldiers in his crew. And he said, “I feel I need to tell my stories, but I don’t know how. Please teach me how to write.” I can’t teach somebody how to write, but I can try and talk and help. When I met this guy, it was very emotional for me.

And when I took a taxi back, I tried to talk with the taxi driver. I said to him, “You know, I met this soldier, he’s so young, and it’s difficult for him to walk at the pace of life now, to do it with one leg, to find a girlfriend, to find a job…” But I see that the driver doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, looks at me almost angrily. And then I thought to myself, maybe he’s also lost somebody or something. So I said to him, “I’m talking about this guy, but we all suffered, all the country, me, you, we were all suffering.” And the guy, a Russian immigrant, says to me, “You’re telling me.” And then he started telling his story: “On 7 October, they took us to the south, to the Nova music festival. By the time we got there, there was hardly any fighting… So mostly what we had to do was to collect the bodies.” And he starts telling me about the bodies, the conditions, horrifying things, I won’t repeat them, but you know, things that stay with you. And honestly, I don’t want to listen, but I say to myself, “Okay, he needs to tell it.” When he finished, he said, “Tell me honestly, do you think that a person who saw all those things can sleep at night?” And I said, “No.” So he said, “Well, I don’t sleep at night.”

And he looks half crazy. And then he says, “I must tell you a story about something that happened to me this morning. 5 a.m. I pick up a ride next to a club called Havana. And this young girl, 23 years old, gets in, sits in the back seat, and from the moment she gets in, she doesn’t stop complaining. She says, ‘I go to this bar, I buy a drink, 70 shekels, you know what, it’s almost $20, what is it, a plastic cup, they put a little vodka, 70 shekels, I had to leave my coat, 20 shekels, they put it on the hanger, 20 shekels, you know, I have to pay for this, everything is expensive, they’re crazy, they want to rob me.’” And he goes on: When Im driving, I dont have patience for this, but I say to myself, ‘This is your job, you don’t fight, you just shut up and drive.’ We stop at a traffic light and she says, Ive had enough of all those greedy clubs, from now on, only nature parties. When she said it, I turned to her like… like a wolf, like, to bite her. I turned back to her, with a lot of anger, like, Where do you think you’re living?! And then our eyes met. “And I remembered something that happened when I was collecting the bodies at the Nova music festival. I saw movement, I thought it was a rat, they had shot everybody, but there was one woman alive, fully intact. “And I looked at her and asked her, ‘Tell me, were you at Nova?’ And she looked at me and smiled, saying, ‘I remember you’…”

I don’t really know what this story means. You could say, “This girl, she’s psychotic, she’s a sociopath.” You could say, “This girl, she’s a yogi, she’s a Buddhist.” You could say, “This guy, he’s fucked up, go to sleep, you saw this, but this is the present.” I don’t know what’s the right answer, but this kind of mess is the reality, and I think that the problem is that so many people want it to be simple and clear, but it’s not. It’s obscure, and it’s ambiguous, and it’s full of uplifting moments as well as of the most insulting and embarrassing moments, and you see a lot of humanity that was bred from this, and a lot of inhumanity, a lot of racism. I go around and collect stories, but in the end, I cannot synthesize those stories into a whole.

The moment that you say Bibi or Sinwar are Hitler, then you are automatically saying, “I don’t want to have any dialogue.”.

In the end, this is what you get: a lot of people in a lot of crazy situations. For some, it brings out heroism, while for others, it brings out something very base and very dark. And I feel that as a writer, my job is not to let people give some kind of reductive narrative. If somebody tells me one thing, I always feel compelled to play the devil’s advocate and say, “Yeah, what you’re saying is true, but remember that this is also true.”

Whenever there is a conflict in the world – Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, and others – there are two key words since we have social media: “Hitler” and “genocide.” Putin is Hitler. No, no, the Ukrainians are Hitler. The Russians are committing genocide. No, no, the Ukrainians want to commit genocide. We committed genocide in Gaza. No, they committed genocide on 7 October. Sinwar is Hitler. No, Bibi is Hitler. As the son of Holocaust survivors, I would say that none of them is Hitler. Sinwar is not Hitler because Hitler was an atheist and Sinwar is religious. Putin is not Hitler because the visions that he has are not the romantic visions that Hitler had. Nobody is Hitler. When you say “Hitler” and “genocide,” you basically say they are Voldemort [the great villain of the Harry Potter series; editor’s note] they are Sauron [the evil sorcerer from The Lord of the Rings; editor’s note], they are evil.

Now, many times when there are arguments about Gaza, I say to the people who accuse Israel of committing genocide, look, it’s very, very disputable whether we’re committing genocide. Since we allegedly tried to commit genocide after 1967, the population of Palestinians has grown eight times. So if we’re committing a genocide, it’s a very, very unsuccessful one. But without going that far, I can say to you that when I want to criticize my country – and that’s my job as a writer, to criticize my country – I will not say that it’s committing genocide, but I will say that it commits war crimes.

Now, when I say it commits war crimes, people can argue with me. And I say to them, look, there is the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention says that if you occupy a land, you’re responsible for the civilians in it. Now, if we occupy a land and say we won’t give enough humanitarian aid or it’s not our responsibility, we’re committing a crime according to the law. But even if you don’t think so, we can debate if it’s a war crime or not. The moment that you say Israel is committing genocide, it means you don’t want to have a conversation. The moment that you say Bibi or Sinwar are Hitler, then you are automatically saying, “I don’t want to have any dialogue.” I wrote an essay a long time ago in The New York Times about the term “pro-Palestinian” and “pro-Israeli.” And I said that it annoys me. I said that if I meet somebody and he says to me, “I’m pro-Israeli,” basically it’s a warning, saying, “Whatever our conversation will be, whatever information I’ll be exposed to, in the end, I will not change my opinion, no matter what the facts are.”

Tel Aviv / Jaffa, Marcel Janco, Wikiart
Q : There is a wall between pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis – look at the campuses in the United States…

We live in such a crazy age that whenever we look at a phenomenon, we see the extreme side of that phenomenon. That positions seem to be radicalizing, with each camp tending towards its most extreme. Now, I believe that many, many people who are demonstrating on the campuses basically want Palestine to be free. I, too, want Palestine to be free. I’ve demonstrated a lot to defend this idea. I’m not sure that many of the people who sing “From the river to the sea,” which is very romantic, realize that by singing it they say, “We’re going to destroy the state of Israel and it will not exist.” I believe that many of the demonstrators in the US don’t even understand the difference between the two-state solution, and the one-state solution which Ben-Gvir thinks includes Jews building villages in Gaza, and which Hamas thinks means basically killing all the Israelis here and taking the whole territory… Hamas’ dream is not even to have Palestine, but to create some kind of Islamic state that would start from Gaza, go through Israel, go to Lebanon, spread to Iraq, control Yemen. It’s not a nationalistic idea, it’s a religious idea.

I wrote more than ten stories about Benjamin Netanyahu. One, for example, is called “The Best Liar in the World.” It’s about somebody who lies so much that he no longer knows what he wants.

Q : In one interview, you were talking about your family – a family whose members hold different beliefs, ranging from radical to liberal. Do you think that there is a way for you to talk to each other?

Of course. We talk all the time. I can tell you a strange story I wrote after 7 October. It’s called “Intention.” So I wrote this story after the talks I had with my sister. After 7 October, I found myself running like crazy, helping all kinds of people. People call me, they say, “My brother died, I want to open a library in his memory, can you help me get books from book publishers?” Someone else asks me, “My father was at the party in Nova, they don’t know if he’s dead, they didn’t find his body, can you help me?” So I do all these things that feel both super depressing and very crucial. And when I talk with my sister, all the time she talks about how much she prays. “I pray in the Western world, I pray here, I pray for the souls of those people and for those who died and for those who came to their aid.” And she says it with such pride that it annoyed me. I think, “Who gives a fuck?” But she’s my sister and I love her, and she’s a good person. And I said to her, “Listen, I feel I’m losing my patience and you don’t deserve it, so let’s talk some other day, let’s hang up now.” And she said, “Okay, you’re right.” Whenever I have this kind of anger, then my way to vent is by writing a story from the point of view of the person I’m angry at. Just to tell you, I wrote more than ten stories about Benjamin Netanyahu. One, for example, is called “The Best Liar in the World.” It’s about somebody who lies so much that he no longer knows what he wants. But it’s a story full of twists and turns. You feel sorry for the guy. I write many stories like this. And not all of them are very good, but it’s a salutary exercise… You put yourself in the shoes of the other. When you do that, you cannot say, “He’s evil, he’s stupid.” You have to create him as a character. It has to make sense. So it’s very humanizing, and an important exercise for me, to put myself in the other person’s shoes, especially if they piss me off.

As the son of Holocaust survivors, I was taught by my parents not to accept identity politics. even before the notion became popular. My parents were Holocaust survivors. They listened to Wagner. Our neighbours would come and say to my mother, “Why do you listen to Wagner? Nazis loved Wagner.” And my mother would say, “Nazis also liked Apfelstrudel. So you want me not to eat Apfelstrudel because some bloody Nazi liked it?” “No, but Wagner was an antisemite.” So my mother would say, “If Wagner was here, I would poison him. But his music is great, so leave my home. I want to listen to music.”

One of my parents best friends was a German who was in the Wehrmacht in the Second World War. He wasn’t in the SS. He was 18 years old. He fought with Rommel in North Africa. And as a child I said to my father, “All our family was killed by Nazis. How can you have this person as a friend?” And he said, “I try to put myself in his shoes. If I was young and my country was at war and they drafted me, I would go and defend it. When I see a person who was young, who thought he was fighting for his country and who regrets it ever since, I can easily see that he’s a friend. He’s not an antisemite.” So I’m saying that all my life my parents tried to challenge this identity determinism. They had three children. My sister is ultra-Orthodox. She used to be a settler. She has 11 children and more than 50 grandchildren. And my brother is an anti-Zionist left-winger.

Im a left-wing liberal. My parents were both right-wing. My father always said, Politics is like having a big table in your room and you want to take it out. Everybody thinks of different ways to do so. One would say, take it out of the window. One would say, take it out sideways. One would say, take it apart. But when I look at my son, my daughter, my other son, my wife, I see in essence that all of them are good people and all of them are striving for something that they believe would be better. So we can argue as much as we want, but our argument is not about what kind of people we are. It’s what action we should take.”

I’m an Israeli, I’m not pro-Israeli. So I say I’m pro-humanity and I’m in favor of what I think should be promoted in this world, the way my parents taught me. And I try to avoid any kind of labeling that would basically outsource my moral responsibility.

As my father pointed out to me, “You relate to others from your humanity, like the trunk of a tree that divides into different branches. And we can argue and I can say you’re stupid and what you’re doing will never work, but in the end, I should remember that we came from the same trunk. We are both people who, if we see somebody fall down in the street, we will give them a hand. All my life I have met people who share my own political ideas, but they cheat on their wives, beat up their children, lie to their bosses. Yet they tell me that we are the same… No, we are not the same.”

Like my father, I don’t think that just because somebody shares my political ideas, they are necessarily a good person. It doesn’t work this way. We live in an age right now in which it’s basically a package deal: if I know your identity, I already know whether I will support you or not. But that’s not the case for me. I’m an Israeli, I’m not pro-Israeli. How can I be pro-not getting enough food to people in Gaza? How can I be pro-bombings that cause such huge collateral damage? I cannot be for that. But does this mean that I’m pro-Palestinian? How can I be pro-massacring families? How can I be pro-an ideology that says I don’t care about sacrificing all my citizens because Allah would make them great men? I can’t. So I say I’m pro-humanity and I’m in favor of what I think should be promoted in this world, the way my parents taught me. And I try to avoid any kind of labeling that would basically outsource my moral responsibility.

Q : Moral responsibility – is this the most important lesson you learned from your parents?

Do you know what is the first thing that the world asks us to outsource now? Compassion. Today, we live in an age where people tell us what our compassion should be. They say, You cant forgive this guy. You cant do that.”

But I can forgive him if I want to. And I think that this is part of this kind of arbitrariness that has become dominant in the world. Because when the world was organic, when we did live in a village, even if you would do something that annoys me, let’s say if you tell racist jokes, I don’t like your jokes, but you’re the only one who sells butter in the village. And also you’re nice, and when I have to go away for a few days, you water my flowers. So I disliked you, and I liked you, because I could see the human side of you.

Some people think that when you take action, you feel involved. What’s the outcome of your action? That’s another story.

Now when you go through social media, everything is filtered through some kind of puristic idea of righteousness.  We don’t like those people because they are not right… I believe that if any one of us were dissected and analyzed in depth, it would turn out that all of us are not right. Lying is wrong. Yet I don’t know one person who hasn’t lied. All of us have done shameful things that we regret. If somebody were to film them and post them on Facebook, we would be finished. But we are impatient with the person at the bank. We curse the taxi driver and call him, “You stinking fat guy!” Why do we make fun of his body? But we know that this is only one part of our humanity. We are not reduced to that. And in the arbitrariness of social media, you don’t know the people or sometimes the phenomena. Many people who are pro-Hamas, for example, don’t know what Hamas is.

When the Russian-Ukrainian war started, my wife and I collected clothes and blankets and sent them to Ukraine. And then people started attacking me, “Why don’t you change your Facebook picture to the Ukrainian flag?” I don’t think that when you change your Facebook picture, somebody who is in a bomb shelter in Kiev will suddenly have more food or be less afraid. We do it for ourselves, to ease our conscience.

I was invited to speak at the Bologna Book Fair on behalf of the Ukrainian people. I met somebody there who works in the Cultural Institute of Italy, and he said, “You know, here in Italy, our heart is with the Ukrainian people, and we are very active, and we do things.” And I asked, “Wha, for example?” So he said, “There was supposed to be a conference dedicated to Dostoevsky’s centenary, but we canceled it because of the Russian invasion.” And I said to him, “Was Dostoevsky for Putin?” He said, “It doesn’t matter. For the Russians, he is their hero.” I wonder how not speaking about a masterpiece that deals with the complexity of humanity will help people in bomb shelters in Kiev. I don’t know, but some people think that when you take action, you feel involved. What’s the outcome of your action? That’s another story.

Tel Aviv, 1995, Petros Malayan, Wikiart

In the past, things were clearer and activist actions more understandable. In fact, I’ve written an essay in my newsletter on the subject. For example, if in the 1970s you had shown an alien from outer space some environmentalists tying themselves to trees in front of oncoming bulldozers and asked the alien, “What’s going on?” he would most likely reply, “The guy that tied himself to a tree doesn’t want them to destroy the forest.” Now, if you were to take the same alien and showed him somebody throwing tomato soup on the Mona Lisa and asked him, “What does this guy want?” the same alien would say, “He probably hates art very much or doesn’t like tomato soup.” But what’s the logical link between this gesture and the fight against global warming? You can throw soup for any cause: abortion rights, COVID vaccinations… In the end, this action only degrades a universal masterpiece. Its author wants to pass himself off as an environmental activist, but his means are puzzling, to say the least. And this is where I see a new type of activism emerging with Greta Thunberg, very different from that practiced by great historical figures such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. What is this fundamental difference? Firstly, the latter acted first and foremost to change things in their direct and immediate environment. Rosa Parks wanted to transform her own living conditions. So did MLK and Gandhi. Greta, on the other hand, focused on the distant future of her hypothetical children, a much more abstract struggle. Secondly, all those people who took action for change paid the price for it. Gandhi was murdered. Martin Luther King was murdered. Rosa Parks was sent to prison. Greta got a lot of followers on Instagram. She posted a photo, “Free Gaza,” from her couch. So it’s very, very easy for her. When you look at the profile of Greta, you see a girl who lives in one of the most privileged countries in the world, who has poor social skills and finds it sometimes hard to associate with the emotions of other people. This is the role model for us. Somebody who doesn’t have vast knowledge in anything, who has never invested anything, but who’s very, very sharp and can insult people very well for a girl of her age. Now, a lot of this kind of activism is questionable.

There is something very different between our narcissistic feeling and our ability to be reflexive and look at it.

I’m saying that there is something very simplistic and reductive and narcissistic in this kind of activism. That it’s an activism that is not thinking about the world. It’s thinking about how you present yourself in the world. And I think that today it’s interesting to see whether many of those activists are furthering the cause or actually working against it.

Q: All those people who attend the massive weekly demonstrations against judicial reform in Israel  believe in this kind of activism.

But that’s what I’m saying. Look, I’ve taken part in these demonstrations almost every week, probably every week. I’ve confronted policemen, I’ve blocked highways. My brother broke his foot and got arrested. I’m not against these demonstrations, but I would like to point out something that I find interesting. It’s a kind of second-rate experience. I go to a demonstration because I feel powerless, I feel helpless, but I want to do something. I’m going there, I don’t think it will make a huge difference. but I need it for myself and I need it to demonstrate what my opinion is. This is my feeling when I go. When you go there and there are a lot of people chanting, you could confuse yourself into thinking that you are the people. And that you are the country and that everybody thinks the same way as you do. I’m demonstrating, but all the time I’m critical and reflexive. For example, when people chant “Free them now!” I often ask myself, “Okay, when I shout this, who am I shouting it at? Am I shouting it at Yahya Sinwar?” And then if I shout loud enough, would he say, “Mohammad, be quiet for a moment.” “What?” “Free them now!” “Okay. Mohammad, let them go. There are guys asking me to free them now.” Do I think it’s going to work? Or do I chant, “Free them now!” so that Biden will understand that he should do something about it? Or maybe I’m shouting that at Netanyahu? And he’ll say, “Oh my God, yeah, we should free them now. I hadn’t thought about it…” What exactly am I accomplishing? When I shout now in a very determined voice, isn’t it the equivalent of praying? You know, what is this?

What I’m saying is that I can go to such a demonstration while remaining critical and level-headed. What I deplore is that some people go just to satisfy a narcissistic feeling of omnipotence, without ever questioning their approach. And I want to say something else… When the war started, there were huge anti-Israeli demonstrations in Europe. If you lucidly try to say what effect these demonstrations had on the war in Gaza, I would say: very little, if any. If you ask me what effect those demonstrations  actually had – they created a wave of Islamophobia in Europe. Most countries, because of those demonstrations, and in an unjust way, changed their immigration laws and made the life of refugees harder. In the Netherlands, for the first time, a fascist was chosen for prime minister. This would not have happened if it were not for these violent demonstrations that frightened people there. Unfairly, of course, but they gave rise to a negative image of Islam, not at all representative of this religion.

At the end of the day, if we consider cause and effect, what the people who took to the streets really accomplished was to make their own country less liberal and open-minded. They have complicated their lives, the lives of their peers, and perhaps the lives of people who want to immigrate to the country. Yet they felt extremely virtuous and active at the time. You know, regarding the Columbia University protesters, two years from now, when we look back with historical hindsight, we might ask what the true impact of their actions was. Did they help get Trump elected? And if so, the next election may be his last, because a new Trump term could put an end to democratic rule.

This is not a simple Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s fundamentally a clash between religious messianic groups and normal people. Moderates on both sides are hostages.

There is something very different between our narcissistic feeling and our ability to be reflexive and look at it. Now, when I look at people, and I’m saying it doesn’t matter whether it’s me in the demonstration, yelling “Free them now!” or somebody at Columbia University yelling “From the river to the sea!” In a sense, sometimes it feels more like an infantile encounter with reality. When I shout “Free them now!” I also imagine in my mind sometimes a parent promising his child ice cream, and they go to the ice cream place but it’s closed, so the kid lies on the floor of the shopping mall and screams, “You promised! I want my ice cream! You promised!” And the question is, how much am I lamenting, how much am I changing, and how much am I in a tantrum mode. I’m not negating anything, but I’m saying that the only honest way to deal with it is to face the complexity in it.

Q: While we mustn’t sink into a childish denial of reality, do you think there are reasons to remain optimistic in the current situation?

I’m an optimist first and foremost by genetic inheritance, my parents having remained so despite the Holocaust. But also by strategy, because I think it’s the best approach. Yet, as an optimist, I admit that this is the worst period of my life. 

Born in 1967, I lived through the 1973 war. Never before had I feared that an enemy country would destroy Israel. It didn’t even seem possible. And even after the unthinkable tragedy of October 7, I didn’t feel Israel was under any real threat. No, the big threat to me – because I know history – comes from ourselves. At some point, a radical fundamentalist Jewish movement will try to take control of the country.

Driven by a kind of religious megalomania, these extremists see themselves as superior beings… In the past, in the Roman Empire, they prided themselves on not needing Rome. Today, they believe they are above the United States or Europe. They set themselves up as paragons of virtue. Historically, we’ve had two Temples. But the idea of a Jewish state never lasted a full century. Always a little less. We’re in our 76th year, so if the pattern repeats itself, we’ve only got about 15 to 20 years left. Because history shows that the same cycle always repeats itself. It’s an internal conflict between ultra-Orthodox religious and nationalist Jews on the one hand, and secularists on the other. The ultra-Orthodox are capable of dragging the country into ruin. It happened with the first Temple, then the second. And if settlers like Ben Gvir and Smotrich are to be believed, it will happen again. There’s no difference between Sinwar, Ben Gvir and the evangelists, because they all share the same vision. They believe in a kind of Apocalypse, after which they will prevail. So they wish for it. They desire it, because their dream is of a radically different world, without kindness or compassion. A world where God would designate the good and the bad, helping the former and pitying the latter. For them, our current reality is unacceptable. And if the world has to burn for them to achieve their ideal, then let it burn! So I say that this is not a simple Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s fundamentally a clash between religious messianic groups and normal people. Moderates on both sides are hostages.

The idea of Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s far-right Minister of National Security, to establish Jewish villages in the Gaza Strip is seen by some 90% of the Israeli population as utterly ridiculous, immoral, problematic and destructive. Similarly, although over 80% of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign, he remains Prime Minister. We therefore have a de facto coalition between Netanyahu and Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, both men knowing full well that the end of the war will put an end to their political careers. And to satisfy the personal ambitions of these two men, it is the Palestinian civilians of Gaza, the populations of northern Israel evacuated because of rocket fire, and all Israeli citizens faced with missiles and economic collapse, who are paying the highest price. This conflict is not really between Israel and Hamas as a whole, but between two individuals: Netanyahu and Sinwar. At times like these, we can legitimately question the effectiveness of Israeli democracy, which is supposed to represent the will of the people.

Interview by Emmy Barouh

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