Why the demonstations outside the Prime Minister's home are so evil

There is a vast difference between protesting about new issues vs.refusing to accept the results of a free election. Opinion.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer ,

PM's residence, Jerusalem
PM's residence, Jerusalem
Hezki Baruch

I have been watching the nightly coverage of the demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s home with especial disgust. There are several reasons for my contempt.

1. The Difference Between Protesting at Public Venues vs. Outside Private Residences.

There is a distinction between demonstrations at public areas for protest versus rallies outside private residences. When people gather at Rabin Square or at such places, they give voice to their views, make their noise, and generate their publicity. They can gather in their thousands, and their protest is registered loud and clear. By contrast, there is something pernicious in demonstrating outside a residence, any residence. With bullhorns and noisemakers, chants and riots, those assembled destroy the peace and equanimity of hundreds of regular citizens and residents who happen to live near Balfour Street. It is not fair. It is frankly downright despicable.

In the United States, which is no less committed to free speech (at least meantime . . .) than is Israel, the courts often have limited speech based on considerations of time, place, and manner. Thus, the same speech that would be permitted during day hours often might be curtailed at night. Loud and raucous demonstrations that would be permitted in public squares might be curtailed in residential communities. And bullhorns might be barred and chanting might be restricted at certain hours, while placards would be permitted.

With a proper court order at hand, everyone should be arrested if they do not have a permit. Do it a few times and impose sufficient monetary fines, and those rallies will take place fewer and farther apart.
Back in the 1970s when we marched for Soviet Jewry, our favorite target was the Soviet Union’s United Nations building and Consulate at Manhattan’s East 67th Street between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue. We would gather all hours and make a ruckus. Finally the neighbors went to court and got an injunction that barred us from using bullhorns at certain hours, and in some cases even restricted the number of demonstrators allowed. On special occasions, we knew what lay in store for us if we defied the court’s injunction, but we defied it anyway, and we all got locked up. And I mean all — not just the leaders. That is how it goes. The cops brought out the buses, we made our tumult and got our coverage, and we all got busted.

Residents have rights. Demonstrators should be enjoined from congregating night after night with loudspeakers and noisemakers in a residential neighborhood. It should not take water cannon to enforce. With a proper court order at hand, everyone should be arrested if they do not have a permit. Do it a few times and impose sufficient monetary fines, and those rallies will take place fewer and farther apart.

2. The Difference Between Protesting over New Issues vs. Refusing to Accept the Results of a Free Election Where the Issues Were Litigated

The rallies in Rabin Square focus on the way the Government is handling the coronavirus, the economy, and the nation’s way of life. These issues are legitimate for protest. As it happens, no matter whether one is more in favor of closing down everything for health reasons, or keeping it all open for economic reasons, the Government has been acting without a coherent policy, and it is driving everyone nuts.

First they announce one plan for schools, then another. They announce on a Friday that they are closing down all restaurants after the restaurateurs have taken reservations, purchased the foods, and hired the employees. It was not long before the Government reversed itself. Meantime, people with reservations had reservations, then they didn’t, then they did. And so it went with the health clubs and gyms, the public swimming pools versus the hotel pools. That does not seem the way to run an economy. It is a legitimate matter where reasonable minds may differ.

And then there was the cockamamie idea of pumping money into the economy by giving money to everyone, which, despite the plan to omit the highest incomes, politicians insisted had to be given even to the wealthiest. It just made no sense, except as a populist gesture to buy votes. Maybe that is a good idea, to buy votes. Maybe a bad idea. Maybe it is a good idea to leave hotel pools and health clubs open, but not others. Maybe gyms should be shut, maybe not.

All these are bonafide areas for disagreement, and it is fair to protest against what seems harmful. The educators feel they are forgotten. The social workers feel it. Those who own gyms or restaurants or swimming pools. And of course the self-employed independent entrepreneurs. So protest is fair.

By contrast, the protests at Balfour, outside the Prime Minister’s residence, are unfair and anti-democratic. Here is why:

Those demonstrations focus on demands that the Prime Minister leave office because of the various criminal charges pending against him. But, unlike the coronavirus issues that consume the Rabin Square demonstrators, the issues of the Prime Minister’s status were litigated fully and publicly during the last national election.

Voters knew exactly what he was charged with doing, they knew his side’s defenses in broad terms, and they went to the polls to choose.The public easily could have voted Likud and Netanyahu out of civilization. Instead, Likud came out with a very successful result as Israel’s largest party, and they came just a whisker short of winning an outright coalition parliamentary majority. After a few weeks of horse-trading, a majority of Knesset members from freely elected parties coalesced into the current Government.

Put simply, the policies and positions of the Government as to best methods of dealing with the coronavirus never were put to the voters in the last election. Those policies and positions emerged only afterwards, so they are certainly open for protest. By contrast, the public voted that, despite Mandelblit and his incredibly undemocratic one-man authority to bring charges against a Prime Minister, they still opted for Likud and Netanyahu.

Therefore, it is particularly sinister for the losers then to go to the streets and demonstrate behind a banner that essentially reads: “We don’t care what the last election decided. We demand the opposite! Opposite Now! Opposite Now!

3. It would be legitimate to see demonstrations demanding that the Government extend sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. That issue, too, was litigated in the last election, and the majority voted for sovereignty. But those rallies should not take place outside the Prime Minister’s home or anyone else’s home. They should take place in Rabin Square — a perfect place, named for precisely the person whose colossal blunders at Oslo made Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria inevitable.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer, a high-stakes litigation attorney of more than twenty-five years and an adjunct professor of law of more than fifteen years, is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California. His legal career has included serving as Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerking for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and then litigating at three of America’s most prominent law firms: JonesDay, Akin Gump, and Baker & Hostetler. In his rabbinical career, Rabbi Fischer has served several terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, is Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, has been Vice President of Zionist Organization of America, and has served on regional boards of the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith Hillel, and several others. His writings on contemporary political issues have appeared, in addition to Arutz Sheva, over the years in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the American Spectator, the Jerusalem Post, National Review, American Greatness, The Weekly Standard, and in Jewish media in American and in Israel. A winner of an American Jurisprudence Award in Professional Legal Ethics, Rabbi Fischer also is the author of two books, including General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine, which covered the Israeli General’s 1980s landmark libel suit.