Israeli Democracy on the Brink

We are a Democratic state. So say we all.

I’m not certain that democracy is the best form of government but it is the better of all the alternatives. The Democratic Republic of North Korea and the Democratic government of China all apply the word democracy to their regimes. For many people and nations it has varied meaning.

Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent proposal to pass legislation which would eliminate, suspend, and cancel immunity from the Knesset for those members he deems as “offensive” is a very dangerous threat to our democracy.

Today he applies it to the three members of Balad and the Joint Arab List for “violations” which he declares intolerable for members of Israel’s Knesset.

Tomorrow he could apply it to members who speak and/or write against him, his party, and his policies.

Where will it end?

We have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in our country. Jews as well as Arabs have the right to criticize the government. They also have the right to visit families of victims and families of victim perpetrators in order to bring comfort to the families.

Once upon a time we had a Jewish member of the Knesset, a racist, a vitriolic hater of all Arabs who advocated expelling them all from Israel. His name was Meier Kahane, an American born Rabbi, who founded a political party, Kach, devoted to defaming Arabs, stripping them of their rights as Israeli citizens, and condemning Israeli political leaders who sought to talk with Palestinian leaders in efforts to compromise and resolve some difficult problems.

For all his incitement and poisonous speech, the Jewish Kahane was not ousted from his membership in the Knesset although his party Kach was outlawed. Ultimately, Kahane was assassinated in New York for his racist policies.

If Kahane was not expelled from the Knesset, why is there now a proposal to apply such a law against Zouabi et al?

If we are to remain a democratic nation, our tolerance must apply to all. Certain sanctions can be imposed. Limited suspension from Knesset sessions are in order. Denial to speak from the plenum is appropriate. Ostracism from other Knesset members in the halls and cafeteria of the Knesset. Even deduct from their salaries as a fine for their violations of protocol.

As much as I despise them for their disloyalty to our country and for their abysmal failure to uphold the allegiance to Israel and its laws when they were elected to serve in the Knesset, I fear that implementation of the new proposal of suspension is a threat to our democracy.

Today we suspend Arab members. Tomorrow, who else? Bibi is not the best watch-dog of our democracy. His powers should be curtailed lest they lead to a dictatorship.

We call ourselves the Democratic Jewish State of Israel. Let us keep the “Jewish” and the “Democratic” as one.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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