The Unbearable Lightness of Politics
Updated: Mar 6, 2022
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), Milan Kundera creates an atmosphere that illuminates the insignificance and contingency of human lives. The third round of elections in Israel reflects Kundera’s implicit grasp of lightness as a characterizing concept of humanity. As I view it, voting Bibi is a reckless decision that reveals the indifference that characterizes the political arena in Israel. Bibi’s voters left values and a sense of political duty behind. Had they traced Bibi’s (lack of) political moves and (lack of) values, they would not have voted for him. Hence, I contend that those who voted Bibi express the lightness concept according to which the choices one makes do not matter much. The meaning of lightness in politics is that each political nominate equals another. If this is indeed the attitude to politics of many in Israel, then the Israeli democracy is in serious trouble.
In the last few days, 5 words have been reverberating in my head incessantly: democracy - "rule by [the] people". Clearly, Bibi is what the Israeli people want. I know it. I was fairly sure that I have internalized it in the 2015 elections. Moreover, I genuinely want to get used to this idea and to respect the Israeli people's decision(s). But I cannot help but think: how come the politics of hate destroy the hope for an essential change in the political map of Israel, over and over again?
Bibi embodies Carl Schmitt's understating of politics as a distinction between a friend and an enemy. However, Bibi has taken the idea of "us versus them" too far. According to Bibi, an enemy is anyone who is not a member of his Party, the Likud. Bibi finds various interesting ways to tag anyone who is not a "Likudnic" as the "Other". The Joint List is the salient Other, for obvious reasons that are being discussed on a daily basis in Israel: they are Arabs, thus, by definition, the enemy. Labor-Gesher-Meretz, the only Left Party - that was indeed left far behind - is also part of this Other, as it publically strives for peace. Blue and White, a party headed by 3 former IDF chiefs of staff, is described as the epitome of the Left-wing and disloyalty, two terms which have become inextricably linked in Israel of 2020.
In Bibi's politics, "small Others" are also present within the Right Wing. Other Right Parties, such as Yamina and Otzma Yehudit, are depicted as part of this never-ending Othering, as they lower Bibi's chances to unequivocally win the elections. Even within the Likud, voices that differ from Bibi's (e.g. Gideon Sa’ar) are tagged as Others and these voices' way out is aggressively paved by Bibi and his unrelenting supporters.
Bibi's "special edition of the Other", which was launched especially for the third round of elections in Israel, mirrors the politics of hate that is promoted and realized by Bibi. In the last decade, Bibi has been tearing and breaking Israel into pieces. Bibi divides, provokes, teases, slanders, and humiliates, eliminating the chances of cooperation and peace. Yet, his staunch body of voters is only expanding. I do not find a reasonable explanation that justifies the decision of almost a third of the Israeli people. The only concept that helps me interpret this decision of them is the unbearable lightness of politics.
The Likud, headed by Bibi, stopped publishing a platform 5 years ago. Its platform is Bibi, who proudly attributes the success of Israeli individuals to himself and denies the charges against him. Apparently, even corruption charges in three criminal cases cannot stop Bibi. Bibi manages to manipulate these charges for his own good, presenting them as part of the media-backed Other's conspiracy to harm the security of “the” Bibi, the symbol of Israel.
The 2020 elections in Israel make it quite clear that the politics of hate maintains its undisputed position. As I view it, Israel is taking its first steps in becoming a dictatorship. If a decade of political stagnation and three criminal charges do not stop the Israeli people from voting Bibi, I honestly do not know what can hamper Bibi's efforts to become a juggernaut and what motivates Israelis' voting. The little hope that was hiding somewhere in my heart, faded away this week…now I am left with anguish.