These were the last-minute holiday preparations for Passover. In the Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa, Israeli police broke up a soccer match on orders of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who claimed it was being held under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.
In South Bend, Indiana, Sandra Elaine Zoughbi, an American who had been living in Bethlehem for over 30 years, was trying to recuperate from her brutal expulsion at Ben-Gurion Airport and arbitrary separation from her Palestinian husband and three children, who also live in Bethlehem.
Mohamed Abdelmuneim Abdelfattah, 23 years
And in the tiny village of Khirbet Qais, a bereaved father, Abdelmuneim Alfattah, was sitting at home, not far from the empty grave that had been dug for his son Mohammed. The father was waiting in vain for Israel to return the body of his son, who was shot to death on a highway by two settlers under circumstances that are not entirely clear.
Each case was an expression of wickedness, pure wickedness, wickedness for its own sake, without any justification, designed only to inflict abuse and demonstrate lordly power. Around the same time, Israelis were gathering for their seders, dedicated to the adoration, believe it or not, of wickedness, war crimes and sadism. They glorified the killing of the first-born who were thrown into the river, praised the spread of lethal pestilence, exalted the indiscriminate shedding of blood and even plunder (“He gave us their wealth”). Blood and fire and pillars of smoke – ten plagues, all of which are war crimes of the most horrific kind imaginable – and all of these acts come in for praise.
Whether they view themselves as religious, traditional or secular, nearly all Israelis gave thanks to their God on Friday night for inflicting all of these horrors on their enemies. “We therefore must thank, praise, commend, glorify, extol, honor, bless and exalt Him who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and for us … to whom we say, Hallelujah.” Hallelujah for the crimes, for the wickedness.
It’s not clear how many Israelis really pay attention to this sadistic portion of the Haggadah, the most-frequently read Jewish text every year. For many, it’s lip service before the major family meal, an unavoidable prelude to the feast. But the thanks to Him, who has chosen us among all the peoples and appointed us the supreme people, clearly permeates deep into the national consciousness.
The consequences can be felt in almost every aspect of Israeli life. There is nothing like “You have chosen us” to create the sense among Israelis that “we can do whatever we want.” That also goes for the view that Passover is the festival of freedom. The night on which all of us recline is also a night of denial and great lies.
Sitting at the home of one’s uncle or mother-in-law, either before or after a third trip to Barcelona to see Lionel Messi, and with the jeep parked outside, calling for freedom and liberation from bondage and bragging about being the most important freedom fighters of all time. Sanctified and washed, the evening of that great purification. Next year in Modi’in or Ariel rebuilt.
Israelis have no right to celebrate a holiday that purports to be a festival of freedom. It’s only total denial and avoidance of reality that enables the families of the overlords to sit down to their great festive meal, reciting hollow passages about liberation from bondage while a short drive away, security forces are breaking up a soccer match on orders of a wicked cabinet minister. One cannot celebrate freedom while denying it completely to another people.
Just like it was impossible in apartheid Pretoria to celebrate freedom because there is no such thing as freedom for whites alone, there is no way to celebrate freedom in Jerusalem as long as it’s for Jews alone. But such a statement, as obvious and hackneyed as it is, almost never comes up for discussion around the holiday table.
The soccer players whose game is banned, the woman expelled from her city and separated from her family, the bereaved father who can’t get his son’s body back to bury him are victims of Israeli evil. They are living a reality that is the exact opposite of freedom. There is no link whatsoever between the crimes committed against these Palestinians and Israeli security. Those who are inflicting all this upon them sat at the seder table reading aloud about freedom.
Can one imagine anything more hypocritical, more galling?
Zionist Passover humor