(January 28, 2019 / JNS) It was just another morning; there had been thousands like it, and there would be thousands more. The birds chirped, the trains ran late, and on the radio, they were discussing some investigation into the prime minister. And yet, despite the normal appearances, something was different.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I know: It was the day the conflict died. There were no signs to prepare us. Quite the opposite; those who saw him say everything seemed fine. Yes, he growled his customary catchphrases—“diplomatic isolation,” a “political tsunami” and “one-state solution”—at anyone who inquired about his well-being. And as usual, he had been busy—skipping between The Hague, the United Nations in New York, Ramallah and Haaretz newspaper’s main office on Schocken Street in Tel Aviv. Even his campaign billboards were the same, telling us about “divorce” from the Palestinians and “democracy.” Just like the good old days.
But for the people who knew him well, something felt off. Although he still made the occasional headline in The Guardian, and even though The New York Times still reserved him a place of honor behind its pay wall, his media appearances were no longer what they used to be.
His old tricks didn’t seem to be making the same impression anymore. It’s understandable. The immigrants in Europe had brought a new type of murderous terrorism with them—car-rammings, chemical materials, indiscriminate shootings and other such ideas—such that stone-throwing and sniping at passing cars, staples of the conflict, simply weren’t exciting to the younger generation anymore.
The little that he had left—the prized Gaza border protests—was appropriated by the Iranians and Turks. It turns out that other players are now better at this game than him.
In the days that have passed since the corpse was found, further details have emerged. The autopsy performed across the pages of Haaretz revealed no foul play; he hadn’t fallen ill and there were no signs of suicide. And although his body hadn’t been as strong as it used to be, he still looked young for his age; his vital organs functioned properly while the aid money and incitement ran naturally through his veins.
Ultimately, a few friends gathered up the courage and admitted it was loneliness that did him in. The photo album found in his damp apartment—in a suburb of Oslo that is quickly becoming Muslim—tells the whole story. There he is with the Arab Revolt; there he is alongside Hitler; in another photo, he is marching with global communism; and in many other photos he is surrounded by old friends: jihadists, Latin-American revolutionaries, subversive journalists, gender-studies professors. The conflict always loved being a part of something bigger. Back then, it was called the “Arab-Israeli conflict” and a “central problem in the Middle East.” Those were the days.
Even after his old friends had faded, he remained the life of the party, and although they started calling him the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he was still the center of attention. Slowly, but surely, however, it all started to change. His friends started slipping out the door, one after another, unnoticed. Some of them had civil wars to deal with, others a water shortage; and those who did have some strength left were focused on the ayatollah’s nonsense instead.
When he did try grabbing their attention, in homage to the good old days of “Zionism is racism” and “brave resistance” at the Munich Olympics, he was met with a look of pity mixed with annoyance, the type normally reserved for people who don’t understand they’re at the wrong party. They remembered him in his youth and thus were sensitive, but they had other problems now, and after they started filtering his phone calls, he stopped trying.
His friends in Israel also began turning away. They called him “voter-repellant” and found other friends. His reserved spot in the city square was taken by “cost of living,” a “danger to democracy” and “public corruption.” The old guard had passed from the world, among them those who had solidified their legacies because of him. Now, he, too, has succumbed to the ravages of time.
And thus, betrayed, exploited, desecrated, depleted and exhausted, his frail body sprawled across a rickety bed, the conflict rose to the heavens to meet his maker. But even he wasn’t interested in greeting him anymore.
Akiva Bigman writes for Israel Hayom.