Two weeks in the life of a democracy being abducted – by its own government.
I haven’t written much lately.
It takes me time to process my thoughts before I write. The unrelenting assaults by this government and their henchmen on the very values that are the bedrock of our society’s value system, have come so thick and fast, that whenever I thought of writing something, whatever I wanted to write about was overtaken by another incident, making it no longer relevant.
It is a rude awakening to wake up and find that the principles that we thought indelibly defined us and have always cherished are suddenly no longer considered mutually accepted.
Radicalism is the belief that extreme social or political change must be made.
It would be naïve to think that the onslaught on the most fundamental givens of our value system by this coalition, is anything but radical. It is clearly part of a calculated agenda to effect social and political change. Every incendiary tweet and statement – from calling to strip the Court of its independence and its authority as the final arbiter, to disavowing the status of the Declaration of Independence as a cornerstone for our basic laws (our “constitution”), to publicly disputing the guilt of the convicted murderer of the Dawabshe family, and even calling him “a tsaddik”, is part of a campaign to undermine everything that we have accepted that defines us as a liberal, democratic society. If one wants to effect radical social and political change, one must start with replacing the existing value system with one’s own, where the concepts of what is “right” and “just” are “realigned” – where ethnic supremacy, and prejudice are seen as virtues, and the loyalty of minorities, or those opposed to the government are doubted, and seen as subversive to the country’s survival. The minute one’s loyalty to the country is conditioned upon loyalty to the government, is the moment when democracy begins to slide into despotism.
Make no mistake: If anyone had any doubts as to how deep the rot of ben Gvir’s and Smotrich’s “new” Zionist radicalism has permeated the standards of morality of this government- to the point of defining it – one needs to look no further than the events of the last two weeks.
Last week the Speaker of the Knesset, Amir Ohana, announced that the “Knesset will not submissively accept its authority being trampled by the Supreme Court”, in anticipation of the Supreme Court debate over the revocation of the reasonableness bill. In every ordered, democratic society I know, the Court is the final authority in settling disputes, NOT the legislature. Eroding this fundamental principle, undermines both the independence of the Courts, and society’s confidence in the rule of law. To claim that a legislature, which enjoys a temporary majority at best, can supersede the authority of the Court, by passing “basic” laws that are prejudicial and contrary to the founding principles of the country, is to subvert the very foundations of our democracy. Only a government that wants to bring about political change would want to do this.
For nine months, MKs and ministers have systematically incited against the Supreme Court and its judges, maligning them, challenging their authority and trampling on their dignity. It culminated in the most disgusting display of contempt and disrespect towards the country’s most senior judges and the Supreme Court by MK Simcha Rottman, the chairperson of the Knesset Legislative committee, on Tuesday. And Ohana talks about authority being trampled?
Then, unbelievably, Ohana went on to declare that if the Supreme Court decides to revoke the amendment to the reasonableness standard, the Coalition “would establish an alternative Court”! No behavior is more fascist than a government replacing the Judiciary with its own Court, more amenable to its wishes.
We barely had time to recover from this, when Ilan Bombach, representing the government, chose to disparage the State’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, in Court. In an astounding act of gaslighting, he claimed that the document was drafted in haste, and signed by 37 people “who were never elected! In a tone of dismissive irreverence towards the “sanctity” of the Declaration that gave birth to our nation, he declared that it has no legal value! This despite Supreme Court rulings, invoking the Declaration as the foundation for their decision. Not a single government minister or Coalition MK – not even the Prime Minister(!) – renounced this insolent affront to the very document that established Israel as a Jewish State. If they can no longer accept the basic principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence as a common denominator for us all, that is truly radical, and they no longer share any common values with us. Not even the values that constitute the Declaration of Independence. I shudder to think what that augurs for Israel’s future and its necessary solidarity.
When our government disavows the momentous significance of the document that defines the character of the country and stands as a guide for us and our national values, it is a disavowal of an entire chapter of the Declaration, that enshrines in it, its commitment to act “for the benefit of all its inhabitants”, the principles of “liberty, justice and peace”, and the promise to “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed or sex”. The Declaration of Independence exists as a document in its entirety! Who gave them the right to pick and choose which parts of the Declaration of Independence they accept and which parts they do not?
These assaults on the inaugurate elements that make Israel a democracy in *nature*, not just a once-every-four-year slip of paper in a box, leave us in consternation and disbelief. The fact that there are Israelis who think this and still insist that Israel is a democracy, is incomprehensible. The Declaration of Independence has fallen victim to political expedience. They want to effect what amounts a regime change. They want the legislature to have dominance over the judiciary, and then, through legislation, to make their majority permanent, entrenching their perpetual dominance over the legislature. Thus, the Declaration becomes expendable.
But when MK Limor Son Har-Melech expresses sympathy for a depraved, evil murderer who burned an entire family alive, and calls him a “tsaddik” and a “kadosh”, that is far more subversive! It is an assault on our most basic sense of decency as human beings! It is an insult to anyone who has a conscience.
What is truly horrifying is that it is part of her insidious agenda. She wants to change the perception of what is right and wrong, where despicable murderers are to be hailed as defenders of Jewish lives, and therefore their heinous acts are seen as virtuous. It is no coincidence that she praised the pogroms in Huwara and other Palestinian villages. Changing the perception of right and wrong in a society’s values, is an essential step in the process of transforming a country from a democracy to an autocracy, or a fascist state. Other regimes have done it: The Soviets did it. The Afrikaners in South Africa did it. The Nazis did it, too. Now many in our government want to do it.
This is why we must resist.
Is there any principle, any heretofore common value, that this government still shares and holds sacred (besides illegal settlements)?