The Crisis of Faith, A Chance for a Positive Step

מה יגרום לפוסט הזה להגיע ל1,000,000 שיתופים?את.ה! זה אפשרי. אני בטוח שיש 1,000,000 אזרחים שמסכימים שישראל לא צריכה למכור נשק למשטרים רצחניים.נקודה.אתה מסכים? את מסכימה?שתפו.ותייגו עוד 5 חברים וחברות שגם מסכימים.ביום רביעי הקרוב, עולה חוק שיכול לשים לזה סוף. אם בני גנץ - Benny Gantz יתמוך בזה, זה גם יעבור.בני- #התחייבת_תקייםקואליציית ינשו"ףחמושים Hamushim حموشيمAvidan FreedmanChen EgriYitzhak Engelman

Posted by ‎המאבק נגד סיוע צבאי למדינות רצחניות‎ on Monday, October 26, 2020

The real crisis that is currently ripping Israeli society apart, and that is significantly exacerbating the health crisis, and the accompanying economic crisis, is the crisis of faith in our leaders. Can we believe what our leaders tell us? Are they working with our best interests in mind?

Perhaps the cynics among us have always answered those questions with a confident ‘of course not.’ But for a democracy to function, most people need to be able to answer in the affirmative. When over 70% of eligible Israelis voted last March, their fundamental assumption was that their vote would support the platform of the party for which they voted, and that it would support candidates dedicated to working for the public. Those assumptions have been brutally challenged countless time over the last 5 months, by parties making decisions directly counter to their platforms, by the swearing in of a bloated, ineffective, costly government during an economic crisis, by decisions to give tax breaks and pay raises while over a million Israelis were out of a job, by countless officials breaking the rules and limitations that they imposed on the people, by endless streams of lies, of fake news, and of dubious, rash, illogical decisions made under clouds of conflicts of interest.

The political deadlock of the last 2 years contributes significantly to this erosion of faith, because virtually every decision is suspected to be a political maneuver of one side or the other. Decisions about lockdowns, quarantines and enforcement are assumed to be motivated more by the desire to keep coalition partners happy than by sound medical advice. Decisions about protests are either seen as motivated by the desire to topple the government, or the desire to quash the protest movement. Decisions about important appointments of public officials, and the passing of the budget, are seen for the transparent power grabs that they are.

In this context, every opportunity for leaders to demonstrate their integrity is critical to enable a slow rebuilding of trust. And all the more so when this opportunity cannot be pigeonholed along the usual political lines. Such an opportunity comes today in the form of a preliminary vote on a law to establish moral limits on Israeli weapons exports, so that Israeli weapons are not put in the hands of governments and forces that will use them to commit atrocities.

In truth, this law would be important and historic whenever it would come up for a vote. The fact that Israel, as opposed to all other democratic, Western countries, has no law that sets moral limits on its weapons exports, is a great cause of shame. The fact that, as a result, Israeli weapons can be found in the hands of the world’s most brutal, murderous regimes- Cameroon, Burundi, Burma, South Sudan, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, and the list goes on and on- is a terrible moral stain that should not be ignored.

But today, it has even greater significance, because two of the figures whose support is most critical for this law to pass made public statements during the elections of their firm stance on this issue. “Israel should not be selling weapons to murderous regimes, period,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a Blue and White event. “Israel is a moral nation and a moral country…we cannot sell weapons to regimes that commit genocide,” he declared at the ADL conference.  Minister of Economy Amir Peretz said “this is my unequivocal position. We must establish that we do not sell arms to any regime that commits acts of murder and butchery.”

As luck would have it, these are two of the figures who most blatantly violated their most fundamental elections promise to their voters, not to sit in a government under Prime Minister Netanyahu, a decision they justified by the dire need for a government to deal with the Corona virus. Today, they both have a chance to prove that under normal circumstances, they are people of integrity who are good to their word. The Corona virus provides no reason for them to change their positions on this law. Wars still rage, and they are still waged with Israeli weapons, all over the world.

The cynics among us aren’t holding their breath. But the majority of citizens who want to be able to believe in and trust their elected leaders so that our democracy can continue to function should be watching, waiting, and demanding from these leaders to prove their integrity and moral fiber.

A final, important comment: The excuse that this law originates from the opposition should certainly not be entertained. As Benny Gantz said regarding his party’s decision to vote in favor of the law to outlaw conversion therapy treatment (sponsored by Nitzan Horowitz, as is this law), a decision which caused a small coalition crisis: “Conversion therapy treatment was born in sin, and should be illegal. Therefore, we will vote today in favor of this law, and against conversion therapy. This is what we came for. This is what we promised, and we will fulfill it. This is the right thing to do.”

Every leader who wants to retain his integrity, who wants to begin to rebuild the public trust, should apply precisely the same words to the vote today to outlaw arms sales to murderers.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is an educator at the Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators. He lives in Efrat with his wife Devorah and their 5 children.
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