Last Saturday, on a chilly day in the mountainous terrain of northern Samaria, two German tourists who were visiting Israel decided to pay a visit to the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Nablus. In order to reach their destination, they rented a by-the-hour car offered by the City of Tel Aviv to all; what the tourists did not realize is that driving into Nablus with Israeli license plates, let alone a Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality sticker and an Israeli flag is a suicide mission. The German tourists were brutally attacked by the locals, barely managing to escape with the help of an Arab Israeli and taken to an Israeli Defense Forces unit outside of the city. It was reported that only after the Germans helplessly shouted they were not Jewish, did the Arab youth attacking their vehicle take it down a notch.
I have to make a confession, in the first ten weeks that the protests in Israel over legislation that aims to ‘reform’ the judicial system have been going on, I have been skeptical. This is not to say that I agree with the efforts of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, I do not. In fact, I believe that despite the wisdom from ‘experts’ outside of Israel who claim that the reforms are not dangerous, the legislation will place enormous power in the hands of whatever governing coalition is in power at the time. To put it bluntly, it scares me.
Despite my concern for the changes, I have simply not been able to identify with the protesters. From the waving of Palestinian flags in the early days of the struggle to the claim that Israel’s democracy is in danger, the messaging has not resonated with me. It is my belief, that Israel’s democracy, more specifically, Israel’s system of government was never completed and so, any tinkering with it today cannot undermine what did not exist in the first place.
Make no mistake, Israel is a free, open, tolerant and compassionate society, period. The country has democratic elements, but I never would have called it a democracy as there are too many components missing to make it so. The lack of a constitution, the party-centric system that prevents direct representation and the weak system of checks and balances contribute to water down the ‘democracy’. Some argue, me among them, that the system itself fosters cronyism and corruption, and given the number of lawmakers, past and present, who were accused and convicted of crimes, that allegation has some merit.
The only long term solution for Israel's current crisis is for it to adopt a written constitution that includes protections for civil liberties & civil rights. Until it does so, it will be subject to political maneuvering that undermine rights and freedoms https://t.co/hbdic775o0
Even with this truth, I still could not find a reason to attend the protests in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, both less than half an hour away in either direction. So, when a protest was announced in my hometown of Modiin, I decided the ten-minute walk was worth it. It was an eye-opening experience and while I was not moved, or swayed or influenced in anyway about my opinions, I did gain clarity as to why there was no resonance with me.
From the long-winded, factually dubious speeches sounding alarms about how the government is destroying Israel, to the ridiculous chanting of even more long-winded slogans, the event was negative in tone. Looking at history, successful protest movements typically did not rally against something, but for something. This protest, as with the ones I have watched on television these past few months were all about doom and gloom and less about the integrity of our government, and more about the visceral hatred many in the crowd have towards this specific government.
The only relevant component for me at least, the part that I was able to identify with, were the women who marched silently in ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ outfits. While nothing about the judicial reform points directly to this, I do feel that with the new laws, it would be easy for a coalition with a religious majority to roll back freedoms for women in Israel. From segregated public busses to separate seating at national events, both ideas that have been floated by members of the current government, a threat does indeed exist. Aside from this, I simply found myself listening to people with political aspirations complain without offering solutions.
If I was organizing these events, I would protest for a constitution. In Israel’s Declaration of Independence, it clearly states that the Knesset would work on and ultimately deliver one. It even gave a timeframe that came and went decades ago. Nearly seventy-five years later, there is still no set law for Israel – and that is what all this protest is supposed to be about, who makes the laws and who checks the laws.
Israel needs a constitution or at least something akin to one the fact we are at this point is insane. There needs to be a final authority that both the Courts and Knesset must respect. https://t.co/CZVydlFxHq
I would also protest for a change in the system. Today, there is one legislative body in which the people elect parties, not people. Unlike most of the democracies in Europe and America, if an Israeli citizen wants to contact their local representative, they cannot – as there are no local representatives. There are parties and as the world can see, with Israel the small parties hold too much power. I would protest for a second legislative chamber, like the US Senate or the British House of Lords. These are proactive, not distractive which the current protests are aiming to be. Instead of fighting for Israel’s democracy, the protests have become a condemnation of the political philosophy of the current government.
Women protesters in Israel continue to capture the attention in their silent Handmaid's Tale protest. Today in Tel Aviv, they did it again. pic.twitter.com/fjqbCOu73y
— Louis Fishman لوي فيشمان לואי פישמן (@Istanbultelaviv) March 16, 2023
The protests are impressive in size, and yet I maintain that if there was goal to achieve something other than slowing down a process that in itself shows the weakness of the system, there would be millions protesting and not simply hundreds of thousands.
Elan Ganeles, a 27-year-old Jewish boy from Connecticut was killed in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists on Monday morning near the Dead Sea. His killers have not yet been found, but they can be certain when they are, they will be paid handsomely by the Palestinian Authority using funds supplied to them by the United States under President Joe Biden.
While the Israel Defense Forces can be counted on when it comes to delivering justice, the US government under the Biden administration is putting American values, such as protecting the rights of minority ethnicities and religions, and the security of its people to shame and violating a US law known as the Taylor Force Act in doing so.
Rumors of some sort of peace agreement, or normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have been spreading like fire, and for a good reason; common fiscal and security interests have put the two sovereign countries in a unique position that can easily be solidified into a concrete signed document. Some say, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, that peace with the Arab rulers of Mecca will bring an end to the entire Arab-Israeli conflict including the internal Palestinian one. The question that will not be answered until the agreement is in place, is can the agreement serve to remind the Muslim public of their theological priorities of Mecca before Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa?