We will keep washing our dirty laundry everywhere

The demonstrations against the anti-democratic judicial overhaul that welcomed prime minister Netanyahu during his visit to San Francisco and New York gave rise to the all too familiar contention that we are not supposed to “wash our dirty laundry in public”, and that any act of criticism abroad, and especially at the hostile UN arena, plays to the hands of our enemies.

This is altogether contrary to the truth. It is precisely the creative and persistent resistance activity of those who are fighting to keep Israel a liberal democracy that shows to the enlightened world that Israel is not just its populist, authoritarian, and racist government, but also has many liberal citizens who are not willing to give up on it and have shown impressive patriotism.

All over the world people are impressed with the inspiring Israeli resistance movement. Hungarians, Poles, Turks, Russians, and others are all envious of us for refusing to let the government destroy the liberal values that have constituted the foundation of our state, and to allow what has happened in their countries.

The Israeli obsession about our image leads to attempts to “put lipstick” on a far from perfect reality in order to present a purified image of our country, and thereby aids, in effect, those who insist on ruining, by way of the judicial overhaul and the perpetuation of the occupation, everything that has been built here.

Patriots are supposed to fight for the essence of their country and for its soul rather than for its image, especially when doing the latter covers up our real challenges and prevents us from addressing them. If the agents and organization of the hasbara (public relations) had invested their resources and energies in finding solutions to Israel’s challenges rather than in cheap propaganda, we would have been much better off both in essence and as far as our image is concerned.

Those who believe the Israel has a marketing problem ignore the fact that there is a problem with the product which must be improved before it can be marketed successfully. Democracies are supposed to hold sacred the naked truth and not to cover it up with propaganda as dictatorships do.

Moreover, how would we wash the dirty laundry at home when the present government is trying to destroy the mechanisms whose function it is to clean and maintain cleanliness such as the judicial system, the gatekeepers, the news media, and the civic society. As Tzipi Livni has said, the contention that no outsider must know about the wrongs within is like demanding of an abused woman not to scream so that the neighbors wouldn’t call the police.

Our struggle for our liberal democracy is part of a global struggle against anti-democratic populists, such as Trump, Orbán, Putin, and others. There is therefore no reason why we should conduct our struggle alone.

The Israeli right realized long ago the importance of influencing decision makers abroad, and first and foremost in the United States. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza Strip, which defines itself as a political body, has even created a “Foreign Relations Branch” whose sole aim is to influence decision makers in foreign countries so that they would support it in promoting the settlement and annexation enterprise. Yosi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, did not object to “washing our dirty laundry outside”, when during the reign of the previous government he went to Capitol Hill in order to stop the “immoral pressure against construction in the settlements”.

It appears, however, that the Israeli right is having a hard time excepting that what is permissible to them is also permissible to others. Netanyahu and his propaganda horns who insight against the pro-democracy protesters in the US (just as they have insighted against protesters in Israel), do not really care about protests and other resistance activities abroad against Israeli government policies, unless it is directed against the government they support and the policies they wish to promote.

While representatives of the Israeli right wing, all too often with the support of the government, are soliciting support among antisemitic right-wing leaders around the world, the patriotic demonstrators are acting in whichever way they can, both in Israel and abroad, in order to make the voice of the protest heard and to stop the lunacy of the anti-democratic judicial overhaul. We will no longer listen to the moral preaching of right wing “eye rollers”. Those who did not want a broadcasting corporation, so long as they couldn’t control it, do not want demonstrations so long as they are not their demonstrations. And recently they have unfortunately even come out in support of murders, so long as they belong to their camp.

We will not let them preach to us, and we will continue to wash our dirty laundry everywhere in order to safeguard our moral values, which are far more important than manipulative image calculations.

About the Author
Nadav Tamir is the executive director of J Street Israel, a member of the board of the Mitvim think-tank, adviser for international affairs at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and member of the steering committee of the Geneva Initiative. He was an adviser of President Shimon Peres and served in the Israel embassy in Washington and as consul general to New England.
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