Michael Boyden

Will Israel remain a democracy?

The Holocaust Encyclopedia informs us that “Hitler transformed Germany by manipulating the democratic political system. Hitler and other Nazi leaders used existing laws to destroy German democracy and create a dictatorship.”

The Renew Democracy Initiative, chaired by the Soviet chess champion Garry Kasparov, tells us that “Dictators may rise to power in a democracy through several ways. One way is the result of political polarization, where the competing political sides no longer want to cooperate with one another, allowing violent or extremist groups to take over politics instead.”

With respect to Hungary, the European Parliament declared: “The country has a constitutional system in which elections occur, but there is no respect for democratic norms and standards making the country a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy.”

As for Poland, Freedom House reports that “national governance remains democratic, but the ruling parties have changed the system to their advantage, capturing and instrumentalizing key institutions such as the Constitutional Tribunal”.

All of this sounds all too familiar: “manipulating the democratic political system”, “political polarization”, “no respect for democratic norms and standards”, “the ruling parties have changed the system to their advantage”.

The proposals outlined by Justice Minister Yariv Levin with the intention of reforming the judiciary will in effect leave the Supreme Court powerless and enable a mere 51% of the Knesset to determine the fate of our country.

Those living in countries like Russia, China, Iran and Turkey know what the consequences are of a judiciary beholden to the dictates of the government.

The mass demonstration planned for Saturday evening is not about Bibi. It is not about a Likkud-led government, but about whether Israel will remain a 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.
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