Monday, November 21, 2011

"times, they are a-changing"

Last month I was part of a group of active Israeli volunteers being hosted by the governor of the greater Jenin area in northern Palestine. At the Jelemy border barrier it took us one and a half hours of waiting before we could continue to the Palestinian city of Jenin. One of our group, a well known and distinguished reporter from "Haaretz" was having difficulties with a permit to pass. We encountered just a slight "smidgen" of the feeling many Palestinians still have on their way to work morning after morning, waiting to pass through one or another military barrier. (understandably, we waited comfortably in our cars.) Life goes on.

Some things take time. Some revolutions take years rather than days. But years are simply a wink and a blink in the long run.

I expect my children or perhaps my grandchildren may be living in a different Israel than the one known and acknowledged by most of our Western world as a democratic and Jewish State in the turmoil of Middle Eastern strife. Regardless of disputes over political necessities, most of our Western world accepted us (willingly or begrudgingly) as a bastion of democracy in a region growing with fundamentalist belligerence and totalitarian hostility.

But "times, they are a-changing", unless some unknown hand of fate changes direction.

The attack is on !! …. with government supervision and parliamentary initiatives …. all done legally….new laws …. and laws make things legal. The selection of Supreme Court judges is being further politicized at the direction of settler-oriented Ministers and parliament. Human rights organizations, those who consider Arabs also as humans with rights, are being hounded with new legislation to prevent their funding. Leftist thinking and expression is being officially branded as detrimental to the State. Arabic, as one of our official State languages is being downgraded with legislation. Street signs with Arabic translation are being minimized to Hebrew-only. Legislation is in the works to subordinate Democratic principles to Jewish Law. Citizenship status would be subordinate to tribal belonging. Ultra-fundamentalist Judaism is creeping into the army with the intent of shamefully downgrading the status of women. Jerusalem, our capital, is adding more and more segregated buses and erasing women's faces from public advertisements. We have legitimized State employed Rabbis to prohibit the rental of homes to Arabs. Our State Broadcasting Authority has taken steps to replace journalists critical to rightist government politics within radio and TV. And the list is expanding…….

Our New Right sees our courts, our government, our Knesset as tools for ensuring Jewish tribal supremacy. This is not the Old Right of Jabotinsky and Begin and their remnants (such as Rivlin, Meridor, Arens and a few others who still share with us some semblance of basic democratic principles). Our New Right has become drunk with the power of Jewish sovereignty.

Everything is legal…….legislated by a majority……after all, majority rules and decides…….democratically, right? The minority is subordinate, second-class, perhaps third. Isn't that what democracy is all about ?? …………..or….. is….. it ? …………….

None of the above is felt by most of us liberal thinking Jews. Perhaps we hear things ….. perhaps we sometimes read about …… but it hasn't really touched our lives directly. ….. so we remain awfully passive. After all, we know our country is democratic. Therefore, we remain at best, armchair liberals. It's easier and less complicated ….. certainly less frustrating, and perhaps this is the only way to survive in our turbulent Middle East. …………..or….. is….. it ? …………….

The ruin of democracy can be a slow process via passive acceptance of one small change after another, democratically. The return to democracy is much more difficult.

Will my children or grandchildren see us becoming more and more like our fundamentalist enemies ? Will they too be hoodwinked into believing that this is the only way to survive in the Middle East ? Will they too learn the art of passivity ?

As stated above, "times, they are a-changing", unless some unknown hand of fate changes direction….. or, perhaps, unless more liberal armchair "passives" lose their armchairs…………….


Moshe Chertoff said...

Excellent reading, though very sad. Even sadder for me is that I agree with your forecast. But, it's important you said it. In the Dylan vain, "If god's on their side, then he'll stop the next war." It seems that god's having coffee at the Aroma in Ariel with the Foreign Minister.

Tzipora said...

I agree with Aaron and like him I'm very sad. Democracy that doesn't protect the minority and allow it freedom of speech can lead to terrible things - Germany??