Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

Worrying Echoes

Knesset building, Jerusalem

The echoes of events that happened in Germany just a few decades ago are continuing to disturb my peace of mind and give me sleepless nights.

We all know that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position is precarious and that his main goal is to avoid having to stand trial for the various offences of which he is accused. The coalition government he cobbled together after the last general election by incorporating elements from the extremist right-wing and ultra-orthodox Judaism parties has created a situation in which those elements have him over a barrel at every twist and turn in the road. That is why the Minister for Public Security sees fit to seize every opportunity that comes his way to threaten to overthrow the government. That is why he has now made his assent to its continued existence contingent on the creation of a separate military force, under his sole control, in contrast to the country’s official police force, which has its own Chief of Police.

It’s no secret that the minister concerned is at loggerheads with the current Chief of Police over the treatment meted out by the police force to the demonstrators protesting aginst the government’s programme of judicial reform. The protestors claim that the reform will give the government virtually unrestricted control over the judiciary, obliterate all vestige of checks and balances between the agencies of government and put an end to the equal rights and rule of law delineated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

In claiming to have been given the mandate by the electorate, the Likud party assumes that this is tantamount to having been given the right to rip up the lawbook and destroy the consensus regarding equality and basic human rights that underlies Israel’s society and has constituted its basis since its establishment in 1948. In the framework of the State’s initial institutions – the People’s Council and the Provisional Council of State (selected debates of which have been translated and published under the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) – the basic tenets of the Declaration of Independence were incorporated into law. Paragraph 13 of that declaration states unequivocally that Israel will ‘ensure complete equality of social and political rights for all its citizens, irrespective of creed, race or sex. It will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture.’

One cannot help but wonder at the hutzpa of someone who spent his youth protesting actively against government policy, being indicted in several cases of terrorism and hate crimes, demanding to have a militia of his own. What would he use it for if not to further his own ends of spreading hatred and inciting terror? Against whom? The people who don’t agree with his policies, which is the majority of liberal-minded, law-abiding Israelis. Not to mention the Palestinians. As matters stand now, the hate crimes committed against Palestinians by settlers in the occupied territories generally go unpunished.

And what name would he give his militia? The Security Service (SS)? The Security Association (SA)? The whole idea of someone whose ideology is one of violence and oppression being given so much power is one that makes one’s stomach churn. The future of Israel’s society is at stake, and we cannot stand idly by and watch the country being torn to shreds simply in order to save the prime minister’s skin.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.