Nothing has changed.
Except maybe this.
Next March, the people of Israel will learn a great deal about what they are and what they want to be. So will the world. Israel may choose to go on as before, governed by inter-locking oligarchies and elites who rule by the motto, We Get Away with It, and who don’t want things changed, not even for the better. Or Israel can contrive to begin to move away from all that. It won’t be easy.
But it can be done.
So the latest Netanyahu imperium has fallen. The cast of characters remains the same. And Israel’s media will continue their over-stimulated reportage. Who’s up, who’s down, who’s in, who’s out, who’s sideways and with whom they’re currently tilted.
And of course, the Zionist Center-Left will remain conspicuous by its absence. Perhaps we should care about that. On the other hand, don’t look for things where they can’t be found.
Yes, politics is about people. But it’s also about more than the machinations and animosities of celebrity pols. It’s about issues, and how people discern and react to them, beyond the pseudo-titillations of the latest “insider” revelations about so-and-so’s whatever-is-being-revealed this time.
But what are the issues? Back in the 1960s, America’s student radicals, such as they were, adopted a slogan. “The issue is not The Issue.” That is to say, all the specific issues had gotten bollixed up into One Big Issue that nobody seemed able to define, let alone solve.
In truth, The Issue was simple. What kind of country did America want to be?
We’re still waiting for an answer on that one.
But this is Israel, and analogies stretch only so far. However, I’d like to return one final time to a point we’ve been playing with for the past couple posts. The last time America had an effective citizenry, a decade or two over a century ago, they established something of a template. The effective citizen groups were urban middle class. They believed in a Dynamic Duo: government power joined to disinterested expertise. Let the Experts work it out, then get the government to do it. But they didn’t place all their faith in this Dynamic Duo.
Nor should we. As we’ve learned to our sorrow, there are some mistakes so ridiculous, only Experts can make them. And Experts are notoriously more than happy to sell their expertise to the highest or most congenial bidder. Israel’s learning this, too, for among America’s greatest curses upon the world is the “think tank” that poses as neutral but in reality advances the interests of the funders. Indeed, the “think tank” (I know; I’ve been in several) probably ranks #4 on the list of institutions America has inflicted upon civilization, the first three being, of course, television, teen-agers and shopping malls. But that’s for a different post.
An effective citizenry: educated, middle-class, capable of sustained and disciplined self-organization into effective, politically significant organizations and movements, not bound to any political party or personality.
A willingness to work to get beyond traditional arrangements and tradition itself.
A faith in the combination of power and knowledge, but also . . .
The morality of the Progressive Era defies easy categorization. Some of it derived from religion, especially liberal Christianity, some of it from philosophy and the new social sciences. But most of all, it derived from a gut sense that some things simply weren’t right.
That it was not right to let people go hungry or homeless or uneducated.
That it was not right for corporations to endanger and exploit and defraud and impoverish the millions.
That it was not right to trash the environment.
That it was not right to do nothing.
That, as Confucius put it so well in another context, “To know what is right and not do it is lack of courage.”
(Confucius also said, “What I would not have others do to me, I would not do to others” several centuries before Hillel’s formulation, but that’s also for next time.)
From this perspective, the people of Israel face, in the upcoming election, three moral issues.
Is it morally right to permit the continued exploitation of the citizenry, Jewish and Arab, by oligarchies that make the cost of living ever more onerous and straitening?
Is it morally right to continue the present occupation of the Territories, now that violent Islamism constitutes a clear and present danger to world civilization?
And is it morally right to permit Israel’s slow but accelerating isolation from a world that, all those hideous anti-Semites notwithstanding, needs us in so many ways?
And perhaps a fourth: Jewish Values.
Shabbat Shalom, all.