On the eve of Israel’s last election, we strongly believed that in order to ensure the future of the state as Jewish and democratic we must change the regime.
We had known that a new coalition with Netanyahu at the helm would not be able to achieve a separation from the Palestinians and a two-states agreement.
To bring about political change we forged a number of alliances to win in the voting booth, but we failed to bring about change and the results of the election confirmed our worst fears.
Since then we have been supportive partners in a number of initiatives to realize our agenda, to separate from the Palestinians. But regrettably all these initiatives withered quietly before they had a chance to be properly presented to the public.
In the last few months we have witnessed the dangerous direction the state has taken and we are obligated to save democracy from those who are out to destroy it.
Those ready to abolish democracy, do it to pave a messianic disastrous path. We just witnessed a kind of madness that has seized the country around the soldier who killed an unarmed, already subdued Palestinian in Hebron. The frenzy was acted out in full view of the country revealing the danger we are facing, that the law of the military can be publicly defied and defiled. Anyone who dared speak about the cowardly act of that soldier had to face scurrilous attacks, which found support in Netanyahu’s winking and nodding and his followers’ cheering on. Our immediate clarion call must be to defeat the right-wing fascist government that is out to destroy whatever is left of our diminishing democracy.
We can’t wait for the next election, nor can we leave it to politicians.
We need to create a people’s movement that will gain strength and popularity, a protest movement like the one that brought down Golda Meir’s government after the Yom Kippur war, and defeated Olmart’s government after the debacle of the second Lebanon war.
Protest movements in Israel do have tremendous power as we have seen in the past.
Recently Ehud Barak sounded the warning shot in his speech a week ago. He urged the sane citizens to rise up and bring down Netanyahu’s government because it is dangerous for the people and the state of Israel.
The train left the station but must be the front line in rousing the people to protest. We must never abandon this country to a delusional mob that has taken over all institutional centers of power to achieve messianic goals.
Translated from the Hebrew by Ayala Emmett
Jonathan Adereth was born in Tel Aviv in 1947. He served as an officer in the Armored Corps of the IDF during the Six days war and the Yom Kippur war. Adereth holds a BSC in Physics from the Israel Institute of Technology and had a long career at Elscint, a NYSE company specializing in Medical Imaging. He was the CEO of Elscint from 1994 to 1998. He currently serves as chairman of several healthcare companies. In 2006, during the 2ndLebanon war, he founded the movement for the support of the settlements along the Lebanese border. In 2013 he formed the movement of the Yom Kippur veterans for a settlement agreement with Pales
PUTTING TOGETHER A LEADERSHIP EQUAL TO THE TASK
• Behold a magnificent ship, carrying people of wonderous creativity where many are busy all the time and exceedingly committed to very needed projects, each in a closed compartment of the ship – while the ship as a whole is sinking.
• A bird came into the glass greenhouse and is continuously bumping into the glass trying to get out – smashing in frustration from one glass wall to the next – not realizing that there is an open vent near the roof. Not able to stop its frantic activity and explore so as to find the way out.
• A high jumper jumps very high, beats even his/her own previous record – but does not jump high enough to clear the bar. The bar topples to the ground.
• Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin
Perspective on the size of the task before us:
The creation of the State of Israel in the circumstances the Jews faced — from the days of Theodore Herzel’s writing of the visionary Altneuland all the way to the Six Day War, was an enormous enterprise at every difficult and perilous stage of this process. It required huge courage, vision and endurance from many people — some who became famous, many who didn’t but were equally essential. At every stage there were intense and acrimonious disputes amongst the leaders and sectors of the Jewish people – but the external dangers that threatened them, the dangers of losing sight of the essential goal, together with the greatness of spirit of a number of leaders, made it possible for the creation of the State of Israel as a place where Jews can defend themselves, have a place of equal dignity amongst the nations and where their humanistic and democratic ethics would flourish. Where they could unfold their creativity in every field of endeavor, culture, and soul. Those who participated in stages of this process know how much effort, wisdom and sacrifice it took; they really comprehend the magnitude of the task. Many more who were inspired by it and know themselves to be heirs to this legacy, understand it also and don’t want to see it ruined. (I don’t hold to an idyllic image of this era, nor am I blind to its mistakes and shortcomings. This will be apparent to you if you engage in dialogue with me.)
The Difficulty of the Current Task:
The task before us now — before those who consider themselves Progressive Zionists, humanists, desirous of a continuous bettering of Israel’s democracy and its pluralistic society – is smaller than that of the founders, but no less difficult. It is no less difficult because it is much harder to see. It is harder to see because it requires in part to look in the mirror. In a separate article I will provide a detailed analysis of what is blocking and confusing people who want a humanistic and democratic Israel — but here it is important to provide the minimum necessary for a call to unite in dialogue, preparation and action.
The task is to regain the power, the initiative, the terms of the debate,
the creation of the influential cognitive frames in Israel — and surely the ethical character of the country which stems from the decision making at a political and institutional level.
The task is to regain it for a humanistic, democratic, psychologically healthy and healthily pluralistic Israeli society — wresting these powers from the ever growing sector that sickens us with its cultism, unearned triumphalism, racism, and its immorality of the totalitarian type: where their ends justify any means to attain them.
I am referring of course to the current political Right (both secularists and fundamentalists), the (ultra?) orthodox sector, the Hardalim, the settlers and their political parties, and their unethical rabbis who incite violence and indoctrinate the young to cultic superiority. Part of the task is to unmask their perversions, so therefore I am not mincing words. (Yes, amongst them there are individual exceptions, but as power sectors, the direction in which they are taking the country and society is fully evident).
We have faced precipices many times in our history – since antiquity to modern times — and have seldom seen the writing on the wall.
How to do it: This will be discussed after the analysis of the situation that needs to be changed.
What needs to be changed:
The incredible rise in power and the sense of entitlement of the Right, the orthodox, the settlers and their political parties HAS CROSSED A CRITICAL LINE, a critical mass, in every respect. It is not just more of the same.
Many years ago I read the book Hamoro shel haMashiach by Safi Rachlavski (1998). The main argument is that the orthodox fundamentalists in Israel, under the
leadership of Rav Kook and ever since, have the agenda of letting the secular and democratic society gain, defend, enlarge, and economically develop a Jewish State with their own sweat and tears — so that once that’s done, the religious sector would progressively take it over: start by succeeding to forbid public transportation in Shabat; continue by imposing their will, institution by institution; at present: conquering the mid-level officialdom in the army so their people can soon rise to the top tier in the army — until they can make Israel in their image, a theocracy basically. They have been very successful so far.
Now their agenda is in the open. Their people express openly things so xenophobic, cultic and hideous which not too long ago was considered deviant and espoused only by extremist fringes. Now the secular society is abandoning to them, not just the setting the terms of the debate, not just the creation of cognitive frames, but even the ethics of the country—the ethic-making which the founding generations established beautifully upon humanistic and democratic principles.
Like parasites, narcissistic politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu and others, exploit this increasingly large and powerful sector to stay in power themselves, and to demagogically preserve their influence exploiting the increasing dumbing down of the electorate. So far we, the Progressive Zionists and humanists, have let them.
The secular society is also abandoning itself. When I see the sharp
worsening of education for the majority of people (yes small sectors
still get a good education, but with their votes alone we won’t get
us anywhere! ) and when I see the disgraceful state of the TV channels
that most people watch, I know that the majority of Israelis are being
dis-educated, narrowed, dumbed down; that an improved democracy cannot emerge, and the so-so democracy we have cannot survive. Dis-educating the population is an irreversible process – or at least it takes more than a generation to reverse. Demagoguery sets in, which is what we have already affecting large portions of the Israeli population. (Dis-educating is not the same as disinformation, and it has far deeper consequences.)
Today some in Israel frankly admit that , as a bus driver said after Rabin was killed: “The country we made is not what we intended”. They openly admit that the Israeli society they loved is inexorably going on a conveyor belt towards an abyss, and they don’ know how to stop it. This is deeply demoralizing, paralyzing. They look for leadership and they see, within Center and Left Zionist parties, weak leaders, or egotistical ones jockeying for glory and unwilling to lend their support to the real leaders who do emerge from time to time. So they feel like ‘esovei hakir’: “if the great cedars are consumed by flames, what can be expected of me, a little plant or moss growing out of a wall?”
The leaders of all kinds who could emerge (those who have their heart in the right place and plenty of ability) are also demoralized, seeing the debris field of excellent initiatives that didn’t get the necessary support; and by the disgust they feel in anticipation of the sterile arguments they would face if they took on leadership of the big picture — sterile arguments because of the deplorable communication patterns that most Israelis employ. These communication patterns will be explained when speaking of the culture of dialogue and co-creation that needs to be developed.
I have seen – rarely but it has happened in the last 20 years – a selfless leader in Israel take the bull by the horns — in other words, focus on the most important issue of the day and create a smart and effective initiative to solve it – only to see the possible support that this initiative needed to succeed eroded by futile competitors from the same ‘camp’ who launched an identical initiative with another name. The result was that neither got enough popular support (money, signatures, participants) to succeed! Both went down as failures when the real problem was that the second project-makers lacked the maturity (which contains wisdom and humility) to cooperate with the first! Had they cooperated, they would not only have doubled the number of supporters and gotten over the bar needed to succeed in the most pressing issue of the time, but they would have inspired many more by the strength of their cooperation. (Cooperation does not mean blind following, but it is an attitude that helps, not hinders.)
From many more Jewish Israelis I sense deep despair and disillusionment hidden behind disengagement, behind desperate efforts to look only on the positive, behind workoholism aided by the fact that it is very hard to make ends meet financially in Israel (which does not necessitate loss of vision nor determination — as the experience of the creators and early builders of the State has proven). And perhaps most of all, it is hidden behind materialism and trendiness (nouveau riche, nouveau “cool”, copycat, etc.)
What we already have:
Despite all these obstacles there are in Israel many people – young and old: some political figures, entrepreneurs, writers, educators, playwrights, journalists and certainly the members of the kibbutzim yironiim — who are innovating, persevering and sticking their necks out to lead/create in cultural, social and political arenas. But the power and leadership is fragmented. It doesn’t add up so as to assert itself vis a vis the theocrats and demagogues. It doesn’t add up, not only to defeat them politically, but for providing a stronger alternative to theirs ethically and philosophically. And what we need is precisely for it to add up! There are many more people who want to contribute to a powerful, meaningful and sustainable social change but cannot envision and organize the whole movement themselves. They are eager to contribute their essential skills and qualities of character if only someone(s) would create that larger project which they hope for too — where they could once again feel inspired to contribute their unique talents and insights.
As abovementioned this is a difficult task, that needs to be started immediately but will take much effort and considerable time.
The first stage is to convene a leadership group (yes, a Garin) that will engage in self-preparation (yes, Hahshara). This preparation involves integrating advanced attitudes and skills of self-awareness and self-examination, of cooperation and co-creation, of dialogue and communication, and of problem solving. Mechanisms will be selected and agreed to in advance to process and productively resolve the effects of pressures and strains arising from inside the group or outside it. The methods to do this self-education exist, and have been used with very positive effects by those willing to harness the power of groups without the detriments.
As this leadership is ready to grow without losing the attitudes, skills and cohesion it developed , it will invite others. The initial ‘Garin’ needs to include several people with name recognition in Israel because of the psychological condition that most Israelis are in (where they cannot overcome their protective cynicism, their fear to appear naïve, their fear to hope and be disappointed) without initially “following” people they hold in high regard. If the initial leadership group does not include several well-known public figures, the process will take far too long and miss the window of opportunity.
Once this growing group reaches several hundreds, the advanced skills and attitudes it fostered within itself will be much more easily acquired by large numbers of people so as to create a movement. (Skills and attitudes become mainstream once they are fully embraced by a strong and sufficiently numerous leadership group which is looked up to by that mainstream, which that mainstream feel it needs. This is a process of culture change which we must vigorously engage in if we want to replace the ‘culture change’ that the demagogues and fundamentalists are perpetrating as we speak.
As the groups expand from the select initial one, strategies and tactics will be developed and acted upon. There is a rich menu of forms of mass education, inspiration and mobilization to choose from, and no doubt these will be modified to suit, and be a springboard for innovation.
WHO I CALL, WHO I WANT TO SPEAK WITH (and who I don’t want to speak with):
1. I am calling for Israelis who agree with what I put forth above, who deeply want to bring about this type of change, and be part of an initial leadership group.
2. I am calling to people for whom the wellbeing of the community is part of their own wellbeing and vice versa. People who need to act for the general good in order to be happy, and who know how to do it without becoming miserable. People who demonstrably know how to cooperate without either losing themselves nor trying to dominate, get the credit, or need to appear smarter than the rest. People who appreciate the benefits of exerting self-discipline so as to live by their ethical values and so as to cooperate for a purpose they deeply care about.
3. I also call upon people who want this change but are saying to themselves “what can little ‘me’ do?” I assure you that you can do absolutely essential things which, if you don’t do them, they will remain undone and weaken the whole. However, at present, and until the initial leadership group forms, I have few avenues to offer them for plugging in their skills and character. These purposes are: (a) Connections, introductions to the people you know; (b) connections to mass media, and ability to produce media;
(c) abilities in technology, social media and blog creation and maintenance; (d) translation of written material English/ Hebrew (e) moral support.
Who I don’t want to speak with until more maturity sets in:
There are unfortunate communication patterns very prevalent in Israel, (within secular circles – cultists don’t do this, and this is one of the keys to their expansion) where when you put forth an idea, your interlocutor will feel instantly competitive and shake his/her head while you are speaking, often interrupt you, and explode in a dismissive “no, no, no; you’ve got it all wrong!” and then proceed to say basically the same thing you’ve said in other terms which s/he is inventing as s/he goes. If they don’t do that because it is too obvious, as soon as you finish you sentence, they will ask a question intended as a dismissal of the relevance or usefulness of what you have said. [A very typical sequence is the following: I was telling a relative that I was enjoying the improvement of a friendship with someone else who my relative didn’t know. As soon as I took a breath, she asked in a challenging tone: “Soooo? Do you think you changed her personality? How is she behaving with others?”]. These sterile, competitive, and self-centered communication patterns and relationship attitudes where people don’t care to listen to the content and intention of what the other is conveying, are corrosive and a waste of time and precious energy. They are all too frequent amongst Israelis when change proposals are being offered. They don’t generate the healthy debate and co-creation of real dialogue and cooperative discussions where learning, understanding, planning, etc., are the goals – not trying to appear smarter than the rest.
I also don’t want to speak with people who scoff at self-discipline and resist maturation, believing that it is “cool” and revolutionary to stay at the stage of the rebellious teenager. In the process I described here we would all grow and mature and we must love to do so.
If you are willing to participate please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to find out a bit more about me you can view my websites: http://www.whypeopledon’tthinkforthemselves.com
My name is Claudia Chaves, and I am Jew of Russian and Rumanian grandparents, born and raised in Argentina, who made Aliah and was a kibbutz member, and whose searches led her to live many years in the US.