Idiocy of the Protestors Part I: If there is no Torah, there is no Derech Eretz….

In my previous blog post, I excoriated the current Government of Israel. In the two weeks since then, I can only despair further of its incompetence. It seems to be achieving the precise opposite of the objectives a so-called right wing government should be achieving as the country continues becoming less secure, less Torah-oriented, less connected to the Land, less wealthy, less stable, less supported, and less respected.

Nonetheless, this week, my blogpost turns the focus to the protestors. I am not against the protestors, just as I am not against the government. Both are right. But both are completely wrong. The problem is, they’re arguing different points. Therefore they are talking past each other.

For those like me who fervently hope for a consensus to emerge which re-establishes the unity, integrity and love among the Jewish people – the whole Jewish people, ‘right’ and ‘left’, religious and secular, mizrachim, ashkenazim, and all others – it is almost impossible to envisage such a consensus unless people pause for breath, really listen to each other and start a meaningful discussion.

For the Government’s supporters, the fight for judicial reform is not specifically to undermine democracy, it is to respect it – to enable the preferences and values of the emerging majority to more effectively translate into policy outcomes. Notwithstanding opportunistic politicians (what’s new?), it has long been understood that the courts have in some ways obstructed this process, based on questionable constitutional extrapolations, and without sufficiently representing the societal composition of the country, and thus reform of the judicial system becomes a necessary means to an end*.

For the protestors, the fight against judicial reform is not specifically to prevent the preferences and values of the emerging majority to more effectively translate into policy outcomes. After all, this is the implication of a democracy, which the protestors vehemently support. However, because the route to those policy outcomes seems to require judicial reform, the effect of the processors’ actions is to prevent the preferences and values of the emerging majority to more effectively translate into policy outcomes*.

* For the record, I am in favor of judicial reform, but not the specific judicial reforms proposed by the government, as it swings the balance between politicians and judiciary too far in the other direction and opens up space for corruption. However the spokespeople for the protest movement do not tend to express these nuances, but rather blanket opposition to reform.

Why use such strong language as ‘idiocy’?

Because, like the government, the protestors actions are counter-productive. They are widely perceived to be leveraging their embedded positions as the social elites across key sectors of Israeli society – security, economy, legal system, infrastructure, healthcare, education and beyond – to blackmail the electoral majority with a message that is interpreted, rightly or wrongly as, ‘comply with our demands or we will allow the country to be destroyed’.

This increases the feelings of exclusion and humiliation of those who support the government, whose support for the government comes in many cases precisely because they feel excluded and humiliated, and therefore only drives further aggressive support for the government, making it less likely a consensual way forward will emerge, or that a more competent, consensual government can emerge in future.

What else could the protestors do?

Here’s my suggestion – lead a national reconciliation tour.

Leave ‘Democracy Square’. Venture outside Tel Aviv. Go to the periphery.

Set up in town squares with food and drinks, Israeli dancing, children’s entertainers, Torah thoughts, tefillin stands, t-shirts and other gifts, as appropriate to respect religious-traditional practices, and show goodwill.

Put in place ‘listening booths’ where any person from the town or the surrounding area can come along and speak to a protestor, undisturbed, to explain why they support the government and the judicial reform, and what it means to them in the context of their life story, so they feel they have been listened to.

Then the protestor can share their views in the context of the explanation provided by the town resident, to explain their fears about the judicial reform, their understanding of the consequences, and how they hope to create a stronger, more inclusive Israel.

And when the protestors head back to ‘Democracy Square’, let all the banners be ones which express love for their fellow Jew and their fellow Israeli, especially those in the periphery. Let there be a new social movement that emerges from all this pain which eviscorates the bankrupt factionalism of today’s political parties and brings a new more inclusive politics to serve the needs and interests of clal yisrael.

About the Author
Adam Gross, an Oxford-educated strategist, has over 20 years' experience solving complex problems in the international arena for United Nations agencies, international financial institutions, private sector, NGOs and social enterprises across Europe, Africa and Asia. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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