After losing its soul, Israel is in danger of losing its life. By Milton Blay
Since the creation of the State in 1948, a good part of the Jewish diaspora, probably the majority, never allowed themselves to enter into the internal affairs of Israel, on the grounds that it was up to its citizens, those who made aliyah, to decide their destiny within of democratic rules. Dispersed around the world, these Jews feared reinforcing the chorus of criticism of Israel and putting the spotlight on themselves, traumatized by the history of persecution.
The silence lasted for more than 70 years, precisely until the formation of the current Israeli government, by far the most right-wing government Israel has ever had.
Today, in the face of the danger that weighs on democracy, Jews, from Israel and abroad, are demonstrating. In the country, in gigantic protests, the largest ever recorded, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people in every city. Outside Israel, the diaspora stands in solidarity. In Brazil, groups such as Jews for Democracy, Jewish and Jewish Zionists of the Left, the Paz Agora movement and others take sides.
In an open letter published in the Times of Israel, three Israeli-American journalists said: “Diaspora Jews have both the right and the responsibility to say no to a government that destroys the foundations of Israeli society and democratic ethics.”
In recent weeks, hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested and dozens have been admitted to hospitals, including a man who lost his ear, hit by a stun grenade, and another who died after being run over.
The cause that mobilizes the country is a reform proposed by the government, which would allow the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority, in addition to giving Parliament the right to adopt laws that are impossible for judges to modify, even in cases of flagrant illegality. In other words, since Israel has no constitution and is a parliamentary regime, the country would be completely in the hands of the government. There would be no institutional counterbalance able to avoid an autocratic and theocratic regime. That is, the prime minister would have absolute, unlimited superpowers. While the judiciary would lose its independence, undermining the rule of law.
Jews would then cease to take pride in the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.
Bibi, as the prime minister is known, argues that change is necessary to take justice out of the hands of “elitist and biased magistrates”.
None of this is by chance: the prime minister was on the verge to be tried for corruption. This is why he appointed ministers with a dirty record, who, like himself, will be freed from Justice thanks to the new legal text. A scandalous take there, give it here.
As he won only 32 of the 120 seats in Parliament, Netanyahu formed a coalition of six parties, led by Likud, in which we find three extreme right and two forces representing ultra-Orthodox sectors. What follows from this is obvious: the management of sensitive areas in the hands of parties that have nothing to do with humanism, democracy, secularism and honesty.
However, a few diaspora Jews continue to advocate silence. It is undeniable that those who have the last word on Israeli policy are its citizens, but it is also true that Israel counts – and a lot – for all the Jewish people, even for those who do not intend to emigrate to Israel, among which I include myself. Israel is a kind of life insurance, a safe harbor for all of us, South American Jews, Europeans, Americans, Africans, Asians, frequent victims of anti-Semitism, on the right and on the left.
Also for this reason, we are not indifferent to what is happening in Israel. Almost all of us have relatives in the country and, moreover, it was in that land that the Jewish people were born, where they forged their spiritual, ethical, religious, ideological and national identity. A land whose Declaration of Independence, of 1948, and successive laws, guaranteed its democratic character, religious freedom and where civil rights are ensured by the independence of the Judiciary and its strict separation from political power.
Because it is exactly this Israel that is in danger from the coalition government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, with the participation of ultra-right, racist, homophobic, misogynistic orthodox parties, which the Franco-Israeli sociologist Eva Iliouz does not hesitate to openly label as fascists.
This governmental coalition puts not only the foundations of the State at risk, but also attacks secular Judaism, which allowed our survival, even after the extermination of a third of us. According to a recent survey, 41% of Israeli Jews are secular, and out of the entire Jewish population, only 30% claim to trust the “Grand Rabbinate”.
The American Marxist writer David Horowitz, founder of the New Left movement in the United States, describes what is happening in Israel as a “constitutional coup d’état”. Others compare Israel to the illiberal regimes of Hungary, Poland, Italy.
One of the coalition’s objectives is to impose religious discrimination, which allows the ultra-Orthodox extreme right to even determine who is and who is not a Jew in light of their family tree and their ideological bias. The Shas party presented a bill making the mixed prayer of men and women and “shameless” clothing at the Wailing Wall subject to sanctions. While Itamar Ben Gvir, Minister of National Security, convicted of racism and close to the Kahanista terrorist organization, defends the separation between men and women in schools, hospitals and other public places.
As if that were not enough, several coalition parties are committed to the annexation of the entire West Bank, which would bury any possibility of future negotiation, as well as the creation of a Palestinian State. Gvir goes further by advocating the deportation of all Arabs, including the Palestinian territories, once annexed. Thus, Israel would gain a definitive place in the dock of the international community, giving reason to those who accuse it of being a colonizing, racist country, where apartheid reigns. At best, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs would then become “officially” third-class citizens, since second-class citizens already are. Peace would forever be an empty word.
If it remains in power, the coalition could destroy the cohesion of Israeli society, as well as the foundations of its democratic identity. 66% of the population are against the ongoing reform and almost 20% threaten to withdraw their capital from the country, while others are preparing to leave Israel.
Yuval Noah Harari, one of the great contemporary thinkers, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, has already warned: if the bill is approved, it will go to another country.
Harari denounces an ongoing coup d’état.
Apparently, Bibi is indifferent to the general dissatisfaction, thinking only about staying in power and thus avoiding prison; so much so that the bill is being processed normally by the Knesset, which has already approved an article transferring the nomination of the judges of the Supreme Court to the parliamentary majority. Reform that the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, described as “a march towards the abyss”.
If the bill is adopted, the newspaper Haaretz predicts an endless war, which in extremis could destroy the State of Israel itself.
After the violent riot carried out by numerous settlers against the Palestinian city of Huwara, in the West Bank, in response to the murder of two Jewish brothers in that city, the far-right deputy Zvika Vogel, chairman of the National Security Committee of the Israeli Parliament, did not hesitate: “I want to see Huwara surrounded and burned.”
Bezalel Smotrich, another extremist member of the government, said in an interview that Israel should eliminate the city of Huwara and adopt a radical solution that would mean the deaths of 7,000 inhabitants. Words that even the US State Department described as “irresponsible and repugnant”. The elimination of populations rhymes with “final solution”.
Jewish Democrats, all Jewish Democrats, throughout the world, have an obligation to call for the end of a coalition that threatens democracy, progressive Judaism, the dream of peace. In the air, there is a cry of warning against the Jewish fascism that is destroying Israel, after destroying the Palestinians.
Israel has lost its soul. It’s time to set things straight, in their proper places. And Netanyahu’s is in court and not in front of the government.
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