Coronavirus gives Israelis a tiny taste of what life is like for Palestinians

Gideon Levy 31/03/2020
Will Israelis emerge from the virus with a newfound sympathy for Palestinian suffering? Not likely.

Israelis are under a coronavirus lockdown.
Like everywhere else on the planet now, their lockdown is both physical and emotional.
The air is heavy with unease and anxiety about the pandemic and above all, with fear of the unknown. The physical aspects are familiar worldwide: constraints on leaving the house and temporary shortages at supermarkets. Major airports are nearly deserted with almost no arrivals or departures.
Social, artistic, cultural and religious gatherings are cancelled. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing. The army is set to run hotels as hospitals for the less severely infected. And soon, perhaps: total lockdown, with military and police patrols in the streets.
The threat of anarchy is already talked about. Dystopia.
Lockdown under occupation
All of that should have rung a bell for Israelis. But – no bells. They are busy worrying about survival, which is understandable, and only natural. Meanwhile, it is hard to ignore the fact that the severe, even extreme, realities of life in Israel lately have comprised the normal routine for decades in the occupied territories.
What Israelis see as dystopia looks almost like utopia to Palestinians. The temporary lockdown – plus shortages imposed on Israelis – is almost like a dreamscape for Palestinians, whose situation in Gaza, and sometimes also in the West Bank, has long been a lot worse.
This is karma time, the fates are laughing, bitter irony abounds. Some minister of history is chuckling somewhere out there at the new reality forced on the Israelis.
For the first time in their lives, they have been handed the tiniest taste of what they have been dishing out to Palestinians for generations. For the first time in their lives, the Israelis are tasting lockdown and shortage in a way they have never known.
And yet the siege on Israelis looks a lot like luxury to any Palestinian child born into the much harsher reality that has been their lot.