Paul Mirbach

Elections Revisited: We Are a Boxer on the Ropes

There are 11 days to the elections. And I despair for this country which I love so much.

These elections are probably the most fateful elections we have ever held. The results will determine whether Israel is going to abandon democracy (no less), or if it is going to pull back from the brink of a dark despotism, the plaything of a megalomaniac, and send him packing. Yet I cannot remember a more lethargic, apathetic election devoid of debate on any of the existential issues and challenges which this country must face. We are like a boxer, trapped on the ropes, knocked so senseless from the punches, drunk and foggy, that we no longer feel anything. We are just waiting for it to be over, whatever. The roots of corruption have sunk so deep, and become so widespread, that we no longer have expectations for it to be any other way. Expedience and cynicism has become so expected, that we are in a stupor, bludgeoned into resigned acceptance of the way things are.

Even the issue of the country’s security has become a commodity, traded with slogans and sound-bites, while the South’s fields continue to burn and the North steels itself for another bout with Hezbolla and Iran. And our “leaders” use this to score political points, trying to prove that only they have Israel’s best security interests at heart, and their adversaries don’t. Let me say very clearly. I will not accept that our security is a political commodity. It is like the walls of Jerusalem at the time of the Roman Empire. We must maintain its integrity at all costs, lest it be breached while we quibble among ourselves, and then lose everything!

Our political discourse is paralyzed by tribalism. We no longer think critically. We look at who is saying whatever he or she is saying – not what they are saying – and thus decide to listen, or to ignore. No matter what the subject is, or how important it is. There is no other explanation how the playboy son of the Prime Minister can take a government supplied security vehicle and use it as a luxury limousine service for him and his friends to visit a brothel, while he drags his security detail with him on his seedy sexcapades. And when this is made public, there is no outcry, no outrage. There is no inquiry about the misuse of security resources. There is no public apology from the Prime Minister himself for the behavior of his son. No admonition of his son’s behavior. Instead, the Shin Bet bodyguard and driver is fired and dragged across the coals for “invading” the little spoilt 28 year old boy’s privacy.
There is no other explanation, how irrefutable evidence of corruption and breach of trust, emoluments, and exploitation of his position for personal gain on the part of the Prime Minister can be revealed in four separate cases, one of which should rattle Israel’s defense apparatus like a level 7 earthquake, and not one member of the ruling parties says a word. And every new revelation is met with dismissal. Yet, we all know, that if these same members of the ruling party were in opposition, they would ignite the entire country and man the barricades in protest and outrage, calling for the Prime minister’s resignation and commissions of enquiry. Tribalism in its ugliest form.

How corruption spreads, like the roots of a tree, unseen, undergound. (Courtesy

What do you call it when eminently intelligent people – doctors of philosophy, lawyers, and criminologists – all become unquestioning, obedient sheep, willing to decimate their personal integrity and credibility in order to do their master’s bidding? Have their political ambitions forced them to compromise their sense of decency and self-respect, sacrificing it all for the addictive taste of power? Do they have no sense of self-debasement, that they know that only if they fawn over and play Netanyahu’s game of obsequious obeisance they will be recognized with an important position – and they willingly do it? Is there not one righteous individual among them in all of Sodom that is the Likud today? It is like they are all bound by a spell, which neutralizes their ability to think critically and makes them forget that they were elected to serve the people, not the other way around.

How else could every single one of them vote to dissolve the Knesset six weeks after an election, at the cost of an estimated 2 billion Shekels – money that could have been put to much better use for the country’s needs? There was not even one dissenting voice, not one voice of conscience, which put the people’s interests and needs above their obsession to cling to power. Not a single one considered how indecent and obscene it was, to usurp the authority out of the hands of the country’s President; all stood at attention, face forward, committed to satisfy the master of their collective destinies’ unquenchable thirst for power and his reluctance to relinquish the reins of power, in order to escape the legal storm which awaits him on October 2.

And now, they will do it again. They will all vote for legislation to allow cameras in voting booths, in the most unsubtle demonstration of disrespect for the ruling of a Supreme Court judge in the country’s history, spitting in his face, in an act of overbearing defiance to his authority. They will not even listen to the warnings of the Attorney General and the Knesset’s legal adviser. Their coordinates are set, like a heat seeking missile aimed at both the authority of the Courts and Israel’s Arab voters all at once. Thus, they will assert their political authoritarianism in a raw and ugly exploitation of their power, dismantling one more pillar which divides democracy from despotism.

Not one of them will question the legality of such legislation. Not a single one will think of the ramifications of such an act. They will not consider for one second, how it intimidates voters. Voter fraud is the excuse. Voter suppression is the motive. The self-satisfaction Netanyahu expressed after the April elections that he managed to suppress the Arab voting to below 50% is proof of that. There is not one single democrat among them. No-one will break ranks and say, “this is wrong.”

Netanyahu will do anything in order to win the election, with no consideration for the earth he scorches. So, they will not consider it either and they will vote en bloc, like automatons. Because loyalty trumps conscience. And they will not listen to all the valid reasons why this is wrong, because they have shut their eyes and blocked their ears to any criticism. They will abandon their instincts to look deeper and question the legal ramifications of such legislation. They will answer the call to the Likud flag. Their loyalty is absolute. The mice of Hamlin, following the flute (the golden tongue and demagoguery) of their pied piper.

They will vote en bloc, like automatons. (Courtesy

One day this spell will be broken and their careers will be shattered, strewn before them, like the debris of a crashed airplane, leaving them devoid of integrity and self-respect, repudiated. I truly believe that. Yet, for now, I fear that what is, is what will be, and by the time this comes about, it may be too late to salvage what will be left of our democracy. So, I despair.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach (PEM), made Aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz, transforming rocks and mud into a green oasis in the Gallilee. Paul still lives on Tuval. He calls it his little corner of Paradise.