Widening concern for Israeli democracy

Widening concern for Israeli democracy

Two very different articles pointing to the same problems: one by Yossi Sarid, former  Minister of Education and former Meretz party leader, writing about how Israelis have gotten used to the deterioration of morality, especially public morality, to the encroachment of church and state in the form of more and more limits on women — “get thee to the back of the bus,” voices of women “polluting” the poor ears of religious men, etc. This links to his article online at the Haaretz website.
The other article is by Daniel Gordis– hardly my favorite columnist, but he too writes about the deterioration of Israeli democracy– also focusing on the medieval laws coming down and limiting women’s rights.  I don’t know if anyone is paying attention; I think that Israelis who don’t like what is going on are no longer watching or hearing what happens in the public sphere.  They have turned off. Sorry to depress you in these dark times.  Last night I made an attempt, during Chanuka, to seek a sliver of light.

Yet wasn’t it Prime Minister Netanyahu (whom Gordis likely supports) who not very long ago warned of this being 1938 all over again, regarding the nuclear threat from Iran? The Gordis article can be read in its entirety at the Jerusalem Post website, but here’s its core:

…  Close to home and far away, real dangers lurk. But there is also danger to the danger. Utterly convinced that the world is aligned against us, it’s too easy to conclude that we have no choice but to man the barricades and to fire away until we’re out of ammo. …

But while that sort of Armageddon thinking may make for gripping Hollywood scenes, it does nothing to promote wisdom. When Michele Bachmann addresses an American Jewish conference proclaiming “not one inch” and thousands of Jews leap to their feet with calls of “Bachmann for President,” we’re in hysteria-land.

Ariel Sharon did not say “not one inch.” Binyamin Netanyahu does not say “not one inch.” Even Avigdor Lieberman, toiling tirelessly to create a state in which few of us would want to live, does not say “not one inch.” But people love a rallying cry, especially in the face of danger. Bumper stickers, after all, are so much more appealing than thinking. …

Once you know the world is one big danger, you just batten down the hatches and toss thinking to the wind. European governments fund left-leaning organizations that rightly worry us? Let’s create convoluted laws to tax the funding into insignificance.

Let’s tamper with the Supreme Court (one of Israel’s few well-functioning governmental bodies…) while we’re at it. It doesn’t matter that the government’s recent slew of legislative innovations has horrified both centrist Israelis and Zionist American Jews, or that it has elicited warnings from world leaders. After all, these are dire times.

Who can afford the luxury of worrying about Israel’s fragile democracy (how many Israeli immigrants came from countries where democracy was well-established? – very few, of course) and how easily the enterprise could topple. …

…. Despite all the similarities to 1938, let’s not lose sight of the overwhelming differences. American Jews of 2011 are nothing like the timid, intentionally invisible Jews of 1938. … Congressional support is solid. The Jews are no longer landless and homeless, but sovereign. Much of the West is even awakening (though admittedly too slowly) to the dangers of Iran and radical Islam.

To be sure, we have enemies. … But we’re not the forgotten, powerless, ignored masses that we were 70 years ago.

Is this the moment to abandon any semblance of moderation, to risk becoming our own worst enemies by destroying from within what our foes would destroy from without? …

By | 2011-12-26T15:42:00-05:00 December 26th, 2011|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Anonymous January 1, 2012 at 12:00 am - Reply

    Dear Lilly,

    “Sabah a num” – glad you awoke from your sleep.

    It is not just of late that we should feel concerned about Israeli democracy. Israeli democracy never existed.

    Israel’s now 1.4 million Palestinian citizens have always lacked many basic rights, living under martial law for 18 years and suffering from legalized discrimination since 1948. And Israel has held an additional 4 million Palestinians under military occupation since 1967. Heightened discrimination against female Jewish citizens should be only one very recent problem adding to longstanding concerns.

    Israeli democracy was fatally compromised from its inception due to Israel’s denial of basic rights to Palestinians.


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