The more I reflect on judicial reform in Israel, the more commonality I see with the UK’s ‘brexit’ from the European Union. There are important lessons to be learned if Israel, if the Jewish people, can pull back from the brink and find a path to compromise.
- The opponents – of judicial reform and of brexit – are a ‘capital city’ elite trapped in a bubble (in UK, it was the national capital, in Israel it is the economic capital). To those that live outside that bubble, their complaints look like crude self-interest wrapped in a thick layer of arrogant self-righteousness.
- In both cases, the opponents are badly deluded that everyone is on their side. They massively under-estimate the anger across the general population outside their bubble. (Part of the problem in both cases seems to be that opinion polling tends to under-estimate the true strength of feeling of the population outside the bubble, because the pollsters themselves tend to be part of the bubble.)
- The opponents think their arguments are obvious. In the UK, it meant that the supporters of brexit were much better at taking their message to the country as a whole because the opponents felt it was beneath them to have to explain themselves. In Israel, it means that chants of ‘democracy’ and ‘shame’ are supposed to be self-evident, when in fact it simply confuses many people who are thinking, wasn’t it the government that was elected with the majority?
- In both cases, a major source of anger is the remoteness of distant bureaucrats. In the UK, the Eurocrats acted with high-handedness, and consistently adopted a patronising and condescending tone to the UK’s long-standing concerns. In Israel, it is the judges whose activism should have been restrained by their woeful lack of representativeness, especially of Mizrachim and religious communities.
- In both cases, the supporters are dismissed as riff-raff who just don’t properly understand the issues. In fact, in both cases, the supporters – of brexit, of judicial reform – have been major losers for decades: the lower-middle and working class in the UK saw their salaries significantly undercut by low-cost labour from Eastern Europe; in Israel, it is the cost of living crisis and secular ashkenazi elitism.
- In both cases, there is a deep-rooted clash of values in which politics trump economics. In the UK, ultimately, the referendum indicated that voters were willing to pay the economic price to rescue their national identity and self-determination; in Israel, it seems, voters may be willing to pay the economic price to rescue traditional Jewish values from the secularising liberalism of the left-leaning judiciary.
Now anyone who hasn’t read my blog before may think I am just another ‘ignorant supporter’ of judicial reform. In fact, my position is more nuanced (see my last blogpost).
What I want to see is the protest movement correct their strategies to make a consensus-based outcome more likely and avert the collapse of the country, G-d forbid.
I hope that the points raised above can create a greater level of self-awareness among the protestors, so they move on from disruption, and focus on a bottom-up grassroots engagement with the population outside their bubble – with Mizrachim, Charedim, National Religious, Arabs, Ethiopians, Russians and others – grounded in true listening, mutual respect, and a new foundation of solidarity and love that bridge our inter-familial differences.
If this is done, I believe there is a chance to separate out two issues that are currently entangled: on the one hand, the representativeness and values of the judiciary, which really does need reform as part of a wider attempt to reduce elitism across Israeli society, and on the other, the maintenance of checks and balances within the political system to prevent the slide into corruption.
I believe, and really hope, it is possible to have more representativeness, evolving values, and less elitism, without additional corruption and abuse.