Michael Boyden

The Right to Disagree

I understand Eliyahu Revivo MK. He is behind a bill to bar people from standing for election, who either directly or indirectly favour boycotting Israel. After all, why should we allow someone who wants to protest against Israeli policies to sit in our Knesset?

Revivo is looking for “yes men”, people who will support our government’s behaviour, and certainly not encourage the international community to boycott Israel.

However, using the international stage to promote a political agenda is not new to us. We did it all the time when we were working to free Jews from the grips of the Soviet Union.

I remember seeing a giant poster of Gilad Shalit on a town hall building in Paris at the time when we were using every possible means at our disposal to persuade Hamas to release him and force Israel’s government to pay the price.

Exerting international pressure to advance a political objective is legitimate. However, not for Revivo. Tow the party line, he is saying, or we will not allow you to be elected.

That may work in totalitarian states, but not in democracies. As Voltaire’s biographer believed he would have said: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Proposing legislation to ensure that those who get elected share one’s political views is a step towards creating a dictatorship, but has no place in a liberal democracy.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.