Last week young activists gathered at the Knesset to meet with Members of Knesset Tzipi Hotovely, Ze’ev Elkin, Ofir Akunis and journalist Seth Frantzman of the Jerusalem Post, in honor of Likud inspiration Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s 72nd yahrzeit.
The meetings were part of the Jabotinsky Conference for Young Activists organized by Likud Anglos, a group of English speaking Olim who, according to their website, “have backgrounds from advanced democratic cultures, [and] have a special role to play in the Likud and the State of Israel.”
Daniel Tauber, the Executive Director of Likud Anglos, explains, “We give Anglos a path to practically influence the direction of the country by giving them a voice in the Likud, Israel’s leading party, and involving them in its internal process.”
For a full afternoon, Anglo students, writers, young professionals, and others gathered to hear perspectives on current hot button issues, learn what Ze’ev Jabotinsky means to the Likud MKs, and be more involved in the democratic process.
MK Hotovely emphasized the importance of remembering Jabotinsky for two primary reasons: for his unabashed support for a Jewish majority state, and his belief that the Jewish people must not give up territory – because as Israel learned after the Gaza disengagement (and throughout history), it brings nothing but heartache for the Jewish people. “[Jabotinsky] believed in equality, but he knew who his enemies were.” said Hotovely.
MK Akunis explained that Jabotinsky is important to him not just because of his unwavering dedication to his values, but also because of his opposition to socialism and his belief in the idea that private equity creates a better economy for the people.
Many attendees were eager to hear Hotovely’s take on the thus-far failure by the Likud-led coalition to reach an agreement on the universal service law (or modification of the current Tal law). Hotovely told us, “We need to build more structures to incorporate the Haredim…personally I thought the way Kadima handled it was a horrible way.” She also criticized the media and political left for their failure to understand the difficulty of the situation, and emphasized the importance of diversity in the IDF. “We don’t need to cooperate with the far left…we need an army of volunteers from all different groups.”
Hotovely also touched on the issue of Ariel University and its recent recognition stating that is was, “one of our [Likud’s] greatest achievements.”
Other speakers addressed the debate surrounding the democracy of Israel and the charges often leveled against Jabotinsky and his legacy.
Seth Frantzman cited numerous examples of rhetoric from well-known left-wing figures throughout Israel’s existence, accusing the Israeli right of being “fascist” and bemoaning the “end of democracy in Israel,” yet expressing quite racist and anti-Democratic ideas themselves.
Frantzman found publicly written statements that compared Begin and other right-wing figures to Nazis or fascists from 1948 through the present day, and racist statements from many of the same figures against Russians and Sephardim, and others.
While politics is a game that both sides play, it was interesting to see evidence that indicated the rhetoric from the left maligns the right as racist, anti-democratic, and fascist instead of their democratic opposition.
Upon closer examination, the evidence Frantzman provided at the conference seemed to suggest a pattern – many of the articles or quotes were from times when the right wing has been in control of the country. This begs the question, in what non-democratic country could people make such accusations and comparisons?
It reminds me of leftist flag-burners in the United States who malign America as fascist and racist while destroying a symbol of the very liberty that allows them the right to such a protest.
Nevertheless, Regardless of one’s political opinions on the Tal law, Ariel University, Jabotinsky himself, or any of the of the other issues facing Israel today, to see this kind of involvement from young Likud activists (as well as from the large number of activists of other political persuasions) indicates a growing and thriving democracy, not a doomed one.
For full disclosure: I am involved with Likud Anglos.