On two recent occasions, we were treated to the lucidity, wisdom, and passion we have come to love and expect from our leading philosopher-patriots, David Grossman and Yossi Klein Halevi. The former on Haaretz’s opinion section (later appearing in The Guardian), and the latter on the TOI’s Op Ed. Their efforts to inspire by edifying were lauded and broadly discussed.
I read both pieces with appreciation of the evident craft, but something has been gnawing at me ever since, and I just realized the reason for that. While each piece is, as one would have expected, well reasoned and exquisitely crafted, neither offers anything really novel about the basics. A bit of additional historical perspective, and some dots connected on the psychology that drives the two sides of the divide, BUT not one idea on how to achieve the goals that had obviously eluded the protesters through the now 31-week campaign to get the devil’s-bargain coalition to abort its dogmatic mission.
Consider, for a moment, an analogy. A woman is being violated by a group of ruffians intent on satisfying their gross appetites. Miraculously it seems, a couple of tour buses filled with passengers happen upon the scene and the occupants emerge to confront the ruffians with angry admonishments and recriminations that, naturally, include demands that they cease immediately their violation of the woman’s person. The bus drivers repeatedly honk their horns in a, successful(!) effort, to attract attention to the ongoing violation. A larger crowd gathers and repeats the admonishments and recriminations, to no avail. In fact, the ruffians, who were previously just aggressively confronting the woman, leeringly relating their more disgusting intentions, and groping their victim to her continued horror, have now began to tear off the woman’s clothing, leaving no doubt as to their final objective, regardless of the ever-growing, and much more vociferous crowd yelling objections, warnings, and imprecations. Do you, dear reader, think that the gathering crowd should seek additional enraged people to yell, repeating even louder what had been shouted for what seems like hours? Should the crowd perhaps turn to some celebrities that are drawn to the tumult, and expect their wisdom and persuasiveness to prevail on the Intractable ruffians?
Israel needs no more angry marches. And we certainly need no more exhortations to inspire escalation – in numbers and intensity – of what has evidently been (after the initial attention-getting success) a futile, if heartfelt, effort.
What is needed is a concerted effort to channel the outrage into a singular movement at the ballot box.
Yes, the next “scheduled” elections are far off, but since when have scheduled elections been the norm in Israel? And if elections can be called because a cabal led by a criminal has determined that the time is opportune for taking down a functional government in order to configure a coalition that will do his bidding and protect him from going to where he belongs, they can also be called ahead of time because a few fence-sitting coalition MK’s will have read the polls and see a new voting force (in the form of a newly created Justice Party), powerful and relentless, coming to exert its influence in the immediate future, and these MK’s will cause this government to fall.
No one has budged so far. And no one will, absent incentives to do so. The marches have so far made the ruffians (inside and out of the Knesset) deride the protestors instead of consider their plaints. Stronger disincentives are required. The ruffians will not be stopped by marches and words. The power of the vote is more constructive than the volume and intensity of the outrage.
There is another analogy of far greater historical import and relevance here: The protests, marches, and various other efforts of persuasion, in the context of threats to humanity posed by Climate Change. World-wide protests started in August of 2018! Greta Thunberg made her first appearance and pleadings in Davos a mere five months later. FIVE YEARS have passed, and the “powers” have not yielded much. Because their hold on power has never been threatened, let alone removed. That is the recent history of (toothless) protest futility.
We can, must, do better. And the means are at hand.
If the likes of Harari, Halevi, and Grossman – in their own way, like the protesters, caught up in patterned, conditioned reactions – have not yet determined to lead instead of exhort the “believers” – preaching to the choir – conscript them to the only effective rational action option.
Create a monolith Justice party. Direct your efforts toward your “thought-leaders”, and urge them to redirect their efforts to the task at hand, defeating the cabal. We need leaders and action. Not thinkers or philosophy.
None of them, individually or together, are asked, or expected, to lead this new party. All that is asked, in fact, all that is necessary, is for them to shelve philosophy, indeed any abstractions, in favour of concrete actions in the service of a cause that they clearly favour.
All you must ask of them (urge them!) to do, is to lead the advocacy for this idea or some permutation of it that passionate deep-thinking patriots consider an improved version.
On August 5th, a Times of Israel headline quoted a “protest leader”. “Our hope is not yet lost” was proclaimed in an effort to drum-up support and to intensify protesting, on the eve of the thirty-first-week’s “Mass protests”.
Today, there is only one rational response to that noble and heartfelt plea. It’s not the loss of “hope” that should be worrisome. It is misdirected effort, wasted resources, and powerlessness that ought to be of primary concern.
We are, as every leading thinker/philosopher fervidly noted, in an unprecedented existential crisis. That requires unprecedented actions, in which context this is a very small “ask”.