As we watch both Israel and America slide into authoritarianism, we should stop and reflect upon what it is about our respective democracies that is unique and how we can and must preserve them. In order to save and protect what we have created, we must not permit unchecked ambition and destruction of the rule of law to destroy what we have achieved, whether it be a republic of 240 years’ standing or a state of 72 years.
I believe that the answer to this dilemma is to ask ourselves how it was that Adolph Hitler rose to complete and total power in 1933? As it came out post-war at the Nuremberg trials, what Hitler achieved he could not have even approached had it not been for the acquiescence and compliance of the German judiciary. Yes, the complacency of the citizenry helped; however, Hitler’s intentions became codified in the laws of that era and these were aided and abetted by the German courts. Judges had to sign oaths of allegiance to the ruling Nazi party. Thus, armed with the veneer of respectability, Hitler easily took control of every facet of German society.
Why am I bringing up the Nuremberg trials? Because I believe that there parallels between that era and our current situation and that there are only two roads forward to remove the threat to our respective democratic societies. One, of course, is to hold proper elections and that those elections be held without the influence or interference from external sources or nations. The other is for the judiciary to put its collective foot down and say “Enough is enough! We will not go quietly while our country is being held hostage by a would-be dictator who is only looking out for himself.”
The corruption in both administrations is palpable and it is real. While many have given themselves over to basically idol-worshipping our leaders, this is not the way to preserve a republic founded on the principle of the rule of law. Netanyahu may or may not have engaged in illegal actions, but that is what a court of law and a sitting jury are designed to determine. Trump certainly has engaged in criminal acts, as those are defined under the Constitution and well-established law.
Holding our elected officials accountable is only achieved if our courts perform their authorized tasks. Accountability should not have to come at the hands of non-governmental agencies such as CREW, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. It should be demanded by all citizens who care about the future of their nation. Donald Trump has had obvious instruction on how to effectively take control of a country from the Russians oligarchs. His negative tweets aside, he has already taken control of the justice system by muzzling the Department of Justice and its investigatory branch, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has silenced opposition through fear of retribution and loss of status or position as he has already done with those who dared testify against him before Congress. He has installed justices on the highest court of the land that he believes will do his bidding. Even they are starting to chafe under his machinations. And he will not stop until all institutions that have made America a great nation are lying unrecognizable in rubble at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
What we freedom-loving Americans and Israelis would love to see is our judiciaries standing up for us at this critical point in our history. All American Federally-appointed judges should go on strike until Trump is relieved of his ability to undermine them and their courts and their rulings. The courthouses should go silent in efforts to draw the attention of all the citizens to where the real answer to authoritarianism truly lies. Yes, this will cause chaos and bring a screeching halt to the judiciary, but this is a temporary pause and I believe it will not take long to make the point that the courts are not for sale and are not the tools of corruption. It is necessary in order to save our country that many have sacrificed for all these years. Netanyahu and his cohorts should remain silent until his trial begins next month in earnest. It is time now for the courts to speak.
As things stand now, it will take years to undo all the damage done to our respective societies. It will similarly take years to reform systems and laws that have permitted the widespread corruption by these two administrations to exist in the first place. The answer is lying in the archives of the United States in Maryland. The original Nuremberg trial documents are there. If we do not heed their findings and learn their lessons, we will surely repeat the mistakes of history that led to so much destruction.