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The first slogan put forward by Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) was hakibbush mashchit - the occupation corrupts. Now, as we approach the 46th anniversary of the corrupting occupation, we can understand how prescient that slogan was.

Set to the side the manifest corruption involved in retroactively "legalizing" settlement outposts that had been slated for demolition. Set to the side the preferential treatment offered settlers, at the obvious expense of citizens within the Green Line. Set to the side the displacement of Arabs or their separation from their lands.

Instead, consider the deeper corruption that comes of ruling another people. Consider what it does to an 18 year-old's soul to find himself, herself, in charge of a check point, deciding whether a pregnant woman really requires clearance, an elderly man warrants courtesy. Consider the transition that 18 year-old must experience as s/he returns home from his or her duties, back to hearth and family, the abrasions of service temporarily interrupted.

It is sometimes proposed that Israel's strength is represented by the normalcy of everyday life within the Green Line, and there is some truth in that. But the price of that normalcy plainly involves a closing of the eyes to the insult and injury visited upon the Palestinians, whether explicitly or simply by the fact of occupation. So it is that Israel fails in its promise of equality even to its own Palestinian citizens; so it is that racist habits are formed and develop unimpeded; so it is that "price tag" attacks multiply, as do vigilante assaults, as do mean-spirited attacks on olive trees, now and then on mosques, and above all on people.

Elie Wiesel long ago observed that "Words name things and then come to replace the things they name." The word "occupation" is a telling example of that truth. By now, it rolls trippingly off our tongue, replacing the affront it signifies, enabling us the illusion of normalcy.

That illusion is, in a word, corrupting. It corrupts the intellect, it corrupts the heart. It makes a mockery of empathy, that sixth sense on which so much else - including, not least, civil society - depends.

Forty-six years and counting. A resolution of the conflict becomes more remote with the passage of time. Earlier hopes come to seem naÏve. The status quo governs, and few ask whether it is sustainable. Even when the erstwhile directors of the Mossad, all of them, caution unambiguously that Israel's policies imperil the country, their message does not resonate. Nor is there sufficient recognition of the fact that the status quo is not stable, not at all, that it generates a coarsening of attitudes that gathers momentum and finds increasing expression in behavior.

That is the heart of the corruption. And that is the heart of the ongoing threat, the threat not merely to the Israel of our dreams and sometimes fantasies, but to the quotidian Israel, the everyday Israel to which we are so resolutely attached.

Hakibbush mashchit.

Leonard (Leibel) Fein

Leonard Fein In 1974, he founded Moment magazine, which became America's leading independent magazine of Jewish affairs, and which he served as editor and publisher for 13 years. In 1985, he founded Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which is the American Jewish community's principal vehicle for participation in the campaign against world hunger. And in 1996, he founded the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, a project for mobilizing the American Jewish community to provide volunteer reading tutors for 2nd and 3rd graders, principally in inner-city schools. Fein is a longtime member of APN's Board of Directors.

P.S. For an opportunity to hear about the impact on Israel of 46 years of occupation and ways in which Americans who care about Israel could help end the occupation, please join us for a briefing call with Israeli political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal on Thursday, June 6th, at 2:00pm Eastern Time.

One of Israel's leading psychologists and sociologists and an expert on the socio-psychological foundations of intractable conflicts and peacemaking, Bar-Tal is the co-editor of the recently-published "The Impacts of Lasting Occupation," a book that examines the impact that 46 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has on Israel's society.

The details of the call are as follows:

Date: Thursday, June 6th
Time: 2:00 PM (Eastern Time)
Dial-in Number: 951-797-1058
Participant Access Code: 147414