Ron Kronish

The people are rising up to oppose fascism in Israel before it is too late!

Courtesy of wiki-commons images: Israeli anti-judicial "reform" protests
Courtesy of wiki-commons images: Israeli anti-judicial "reform" protests

In President Herzog’s speech before the American Congress last week, he stated that Israel has a thriving democracy and a great track record in civil rights and human rights. This was a complete whitewash, to please the American congress and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Israel’s democracy is crumbling as we speak. It is being severely threatened by an intense and highly organized campaign of lies and deceptions by the Prime Minister and his spinsters, which is working with his base but not with too many other people.

Israel’s record on civil rights is not very good, to put it mildly, and its history of human rights abuses, especially in the occupied territories is well documented and well-known in the world for those who want to know. It is certainly not as President Herzog indicated.

But Israel’s record on civil and human rights is , unfortunately, not at the heart of the issue right now in Israeli society, even if it should be since it ought to be considered part of Israeli “democracy.” Rather, the issue now is how to prevent Israel’s flawed democracy (there is no perfect one, not even in America) from getting much worse very quickly.

Bibi and his far-right allies, in the most extreme coalition in Israel’s history, are in a serious effort to destroy our very imperfect democracy. They are trying to completely abolish judicial review so that they can do whatever they want.  President Biden has acknowledged this over and over again, including in his conversations with President Herzog and with Prime Minister Netanyahu (via telephone). Everyone in the world knows this fact. It is as plain as day.

Yet, Bibi continues to lie, deceive and spin the truth. His own version of his phone call with President Biden was very different than the one put out by President Biden’s staff, and very different than the on-the-record quotes given to the acclaimed New York Times journalist Tom Friedman, who published the truth in his recent op-ed.

Friedman has been interviewed extensively on Israeli radio and television in the last few days. I heard him twice. He is right on the money, but Bibi and his spinsters are not only not listening but attacking him. I believe that he is courageous and correct!

We are living in very dangerous times in Israel. It is frightening and very sad.

On the other hand, there is something very positive happening in Israeli society today. The people are rising up to oppose fascism before it is too late! The consciousness of how fascism was allowed to take over Germany via “democratic” means is very much in our minds here in Israel these days.

 As I write this, tens of thousands of people are marching to Jerusalem to protest the moves of the Netanyahu government which they are calling a coup, not a “reform”. They are crying and singing as they march. They fear for the existence of Israel as a democratic state, as do I and just about everyone I know who lives here.

During the next few days, there will be massive protests against this government in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and 150 places around the country. Hundreds of thousands of people are “praying with their feet” (to quote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, when he marched for civil rights in Selma).

Also, as of this writing, there are reports of some behind-the-scenes attempts to get this terrible government to stop the madness. Some of these reported attempts are allegedly being made by leading members of the coalition. I hope that they will succeed but I am skeptical. If they don’t succeed, and the Israeli parliament passes a law on Monday or Tuesday to effectively prevent judicial review of any government decision, the protest movement will only grow and expand.

The government is under tremendous pressure to stop their attempts to pass anti-democratic legislation by thousands of pilots and others in the Israel Defense Forces, by people from industry, leaders of the high-tech community,  by the American administration and by almost every sane person in Israel, thousands of whom are in the streets demonstrating every day. Will Bibi break down and show some “leadership”? Will he risk his political future? Is he really worried that his far-right coalition members will bolt? Is there any chance that he will stop the passage of the anti-democratic legislation slated for this week to prevent further social chaos in Israel?

We will see in the days ahead. This will be a momentous week in the history of Israel.

By the way, it is coincidental that during the week ahead, the commemoration of the collapse of the First and Second Jewish commonwealths in ancient times will take place on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. Everyone in Israel is aware of this, including many of the secularists who are marching and demonstrating all over the country, and many columnists in the media here. Israel is a place where history is very much present. Will the state of Israel survive this serious threat to its democracy? This question is very much on our minds.

In the meantime, the massive protests this week—and probably beyond this week—are trying to save the country from disaster! President Biden has acknowledged this as have many politicians from around the word. I fully support this protest movement (even though I haven’t been demonstrating lately due to some medical issues). It is the only hope we have right now to save our country from disaster.


About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,
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