As I’ve been staying in Hungary for a while now, I had the experience of seeing quite a lot of Israeli tourists on the streets of Budapest. It’s not surprising in the least, given that in Israel, at least half the people I met, visited my home city.
However, something troubling happened when I took notice of how I looked with indifference and maybe even covert hostility at those I perceived to be religious Jewish Israelis. The kippah, the tefillin, and even the hat all told me they voted for Ben-Gvir or Smotrich or Netanyahu or Dery or Goldknopf so I shouldn’t want to be associated with them. What does this tell about me? That I’m antisemitic? I’d very much hope it doesn’t, there is something else to be learned from this.
I hate the fact that political affiliation would block me from wanting to connect with my fellow Jews. I’m not even remotely sentimental regarding the topic, nor a free speech absolutist. I do think that it matters what you think about the civil rights of groups outside yours, still, the aforementioned continued to bother me.
How could inciting politicians, and wannabe warmongers stand in the way and divide a people?
Of course, these traits are not unique to Israeli society and politics, but it’s still uncomfortable to think about. I don’t want to speak against polarization in 21st-century politics, because that’s a record that has been played to death. It may be a defining characteristic of a representative democracy, so if we want that to be our governing regime, what can we do? The question is, do we? Do we want a system where the person who is the most willing to put aside morals and courtesy is the most popular, the most likely to win? I’m not sure we do. Ask anyone, if they like seeing attack ads from and against specific political opponents, and they’ll all answer no. Still, those ads are the most effective during a campaign.
Why are we protecting an order that causes the working class to jump to each other’s throats while distracting us from the real enemy making us perceive one another as one? By the real enemy, I’m naturally referring to the ruling class, the bourgeois, the wealthy. The fortunate.
Even mainstream media, which is operated by huge conglomerates, is designed in a way that sparks the most outrage in its viewers, be it Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN.
A system that enables such radical ideas to flow freely, ideas that inspire certain unstable individuals to commit heinous crimes on a mass scale shouldn’t be the status quo. It should be one that encourages outrage, one that enrages the proletariat to want to change the order of things.
When I walk the streets of Budapest or Jerusalem and I look at Orthodox Jews walking by, I don’t want my first thought to be something about their close-mindedness or backward political views. I don’t want to have to perceive them as my opponents. Am I childish? Sure.
But a regime that not only allows but encourages ignition of the electorate to make voting a weapon has, at the same time, a responsibility to not make enemies out of neighbors.