Fred Hidvegi

Protesting the Knesset won’t solve anything

The Knesset is not the problem. Israeli society is. 

One hundred thousand protesters demonstrated before the Knesset. But the cause for their protest is false. Lately, there have been many comparisons between my home country of Hungary and Israel. This is because of the dangerous similarities between the two countries. Hungary, a country, that after years of deterioration became an “electoral autocracy”, and Israel, that, since the comeback victory of Benjamin Netanyahu has been making changes in its regime. In the opinion of many critics, this puts the country on the same path to a dictatorship that Hungary is on. 

But the rise and victory of fascists wasn’t an isolated incident in either of the two countries. Hungary never really had democratic leadership, it always had a king or a secretary of the communist party. In other words, it didn’t have democratic traditions, ever. After the fall of the Soviet Union, its newfound democracy didn’t last long, simply because its people weren’t used to being able to choose, or bearing responsibility in selecting a leader. 

But as we saw it happen right before our eyes right here in Israel, having democratic traditions is not enough, not even close. Something else is needed in a successful democracy – empathy, people of the country caring for each other, and the strong standing up for and not against the weak. 

This is something that Israel doesn’t have. The only minority Israelis have been mostly able to accept are gays and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Yes, the challenge of homophobia is one that other countries have to fight a bit harder. 

But the presence of Arab people is apparently too hard on Israeli Jews. Most of them haven’t been able to cope with living with a different kind of people, despite that they’ve been doing exactly that for the past two thousand years – be it the Middle East, or Europe, Jews have not only been living among their fellows. 

But still, after almost seventy-five years since the modern State of Israel was born, most Jews feel at least uncomfortable being around Arabs. And that is our weakness. The fact that many Jews would prefer “to get rid of” both Palestinians and Arabs with Israeli citizenship means that there cannot be a real democratic Israel.

As long as I can say that one of my teachers in high school recently wished “we could exterminate the Palestinians”, there will never be democracy on this land – And I do mean democracy for all, not only Jews. Our real problem is our violent perspective on the Palestinians, not the Knesset. The current Knesset is only a product of our carelessness for both ourselves and other people. 

Because the same teacher that wished the exact same thing that was committed against us, the Jews, was present at one of the protests on Saturdays. He doesn’t think that Bibi is a good prime minister (anymore). 

But Bibi being prime minister is not our ultimate problem. He can turn into Orbán, he can become Erdogan or Putin, but the way we, the State of Israel see and treat the Palestinian people will always be the problem. 

And this is a fundamental difference between us and Hungary. Our democracy is not our only problem. We must fight the Palestinian issue, but not in the way we did until now. We must spread peace. 

It’s completely in our power to do it, and the best way to make that happen is for the Israeli army to exit the West Bank for good. 

About the Author
Fred is an 18-year-old writer sharing his many thoughts about American and Israeli politics. He was born in Budapest and since he was 11, he is also an Israeli citizen.
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