Who is this government fighting for? Who stands to gain from their actions?
During the demonstration in Jerusalem this past Saturday, between speeches calling for brotherhood and to peacefully oppose the proposed legislation, one of the speakers raised an important question: mentioning two initiatives by the government, to close the Department of Internal Police Investigations, and to dismantle the Israel Bar Association – “what good is a body that holds power if the government can’t control it?” the speaker asked cynically.
This is an important and relevant question at the moment. At a time in which many Israelis feel that democracy is slipping between our fingers, that the checks and balances are being taken out one by one, it seems that any and all separation of powers is a want, not a need.
One should always be wary of consolidation of power, and keep a critical eye out for power grabs by politicians that do not have the public’s interest in mind.
This seems to be the case in one of the latest bills proposed by MK Limor Son Har Melech. The far-right politician seems to embody the values of her party Otzma Yehudit in these bills – racism, and a conservative stance on women in society.
First, is the law raising the punishment for nationalist driven sexual crimes – meaning that if a Palestinian assaults a Jewish woman, the sentence may be doubled. It would also fall under the definition of terrorism, which many feminists say makes women’s bodies national property that is to be conquered in the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Feminists further criticize the bill saying that it does nothing to actually combat the issue of sexual violence, making the focus the identity of the attacker, as if a woman raped by a Jewish man is hurt less.
The other major action Son Har Melech is pushing for is moving the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women (AASW) to reside under the Minister for the advancement of the status of woman, currently Likud’s May Golan. According to women organizations, this would weaken the AASW, and make the authority a political entity, rather than the professional entity that it is today.
MK Son Har Melech is already under scrutiny for working against gender equality – she is pushing for more legal gender separation, which is a cause championed by religious women, however in a discussion at the Knesset she barred religious women orgs from participating, or even attending. This raises the question, who exactly is this bill for?
It seems Limor Son Har Melech insists on promoting steps that hurt women – dismantling that work of the AASW, and promoting legal gender separation.
One might say, she is the Phyllis Schlafly (who fought against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the US in the 70’s, despite political support for feminism at the time) of our time.
Perhaps she is even worse than Phyllis Schlafly, because at least Schlafly had women that supported her, she intended to give a voice to women in a national debate. It’s unclear whom Son Har Melech is fighting for – if she is not working for the people, then who is she serving?
This is what scares me – the defining moment where the government stops acting in the interest of any group of citizens, but rather, is acting in a self serving interest. Hunger for power and selfishness may be human traits, but they should not be left to flourish on our watch.
I am scared of this moment, at the moment we are standing on a precipice, hurtling towards a worrying disconnect between the government’s actions, and the public’s interest.
How do we turn back the wheel? It seems that we are left with multiple fronts to the war on government corruption – maintaining the independence of not only the Supreme Court in Israel, but other bodies too.
Our only option is, as Rabbi Daniel Epstein called for in his speech at the latest demonstration – ‘to face one another, and to see those we have ignored for a long time. To choose to love one another’ (paraphrased). We must join together in mutual worry that our government will help those in need, protect the weak, and empower the powerless. As Rabbi Epstein called at Paris Square (formerly France Square), and days after Bastille Day:
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité