Wow! About 80,000 people stood together in the Tel Aviv rain protesting the Netanyahu government and all it stands for and all the people who serve in it and all the policies it wants to promulgate. This is a major news story only in a media that sees itself as part of that crowd and eggs them on through fawning coverage and uncritical support because they share the same hostility towards Israel’s democracy.
Let’s crunch the numbers. Far more people attended the funeral last week of Rav Shimon Baadani zt”l not too far from the protest site, but that received a tenth of the coverage of these protests.
In the middle of Tel Aviv, 80,000 people got together to hammer the new government just days after it took power. But in Tel Aviv approximately 170,000 people voted for the parties that are not in power, including more than 29,000 people who voted for Meretz alone. In other words, the rally attracted fewer than half of the Tel Avivians who voted for Lapid, Gantz, Labor and the defunct Meretz, and they didn’t really have to travel that far.
It stands to reason that no one there voted for Likud, the Religious Zionists, Shas or Yahadut Hatorah. Why then is it even interesting - much less worthy of front page coverage in the Wall Street Journal and banner headlines in Israel’s left wing media outlets - that a relative handful of those whose election favorites lost are disappointed in the results?
It is because these protests are aiding and abetting those entities that seek to harm Israel. The disgruntled are bolstering those who profess that Israel is a corrupt, illegitimate tyranny. Free people have a right to protest but thinking people who protest have some attainable goal in mind and know when the exercise of certain rights is foolish and counterproductive. And it has led to the wildest and most outlandish accusations levied against Israel in recent memory: that the peoples’ vote heralds the end of democracy.
Irony does not begin to describe how preposterous this sounds. It is quite astonishing how un-self aware many people can be. The protesters bloviate about the death of democracy simply because the people voted as they did, the truest expression of democracy. These democrats like the “crat” (government) a lot more than they like the “demos” (people).
They unwittingly recall Brecht’s sardonic advice to the government that had lost the confidence of the people: “it should dissolve the people and elect another.”
Worse, they seemed floored that, for once, politicians are trying to implement the platforms on which they run. In essence, they are asserting, politicians who campaign on the issues, attract voters accordingly, and then attempt to fulfill those promises are threats to the public order. That is the height of cynicism, especially in light of the previous government whose leaders voided their promises shortly after the votes were counted. And who then is the real threat to democracy?
You cannot claim to love democracy and then declare the people’s choices illegitimate.
You cannot claim to love democracy and then vest unlimited power in the hands of one or even fifteen unelected people.
You cannot claim to love democracy and coyly threaten violence and civil war in order to thwart the will of the majority. Democracy is “government by the people.”
Government by the elites is an oligarchy but it is hard to conceive of an international media uproar if the Tel Aviv protesters chanted that the new government represents a “threat to the oligarchy.” It is not as catchy. And there is no more formidable oligarchy in Israel than the judicial establishment.
It takes a special brand of narrow mindedness to bewail the proposed limitations on the jurisdiction of Israel’s Supreme Court. The morally compromised, “two-state delusion” supporting Alan Dershowitz feels that Israel’s Supreme Court is the “gold standard” of international judiciaries. Really? Is he referring to a court that intervenes to halt the demolition of a terrorist’s home but does not intervene to stop the expulsion of 9000 Jews and the destruction of their homes? Is he referring to a legal system that allows the investigation and prosecution of right-wing politicians to continue in perpetuity? Is he referring to an attorney general who sets up himself or herself as an unelected power center to determine which government policies may be adopted and which laws may be enacted by the peoples’ legislature?
This Supreme Court did not allow PM Netanyahu when he served as an interim prime minister to appoint a dog catcher in Nahariya while it allowed - in open violation of an existing statute - the previous interim minister to give away some of Israel’s previous natural assets to a hostile foreign power. The legal reasoning that rationalized that and improperly removed its determination from the Knesset is unworthy of a first year law student.
The “gold standard” is looking a little tarnished and needs to be polished, which is the purpose of the proposed Knesset legislation that has so relatively few people in a tizzy. It is the death of the oligarchy, not the democracy, that has brought the likes of Aharon Barak to scream from the rooftops. It seems that many of those who insist that Israel always define itself as “Jewish and democratic” want Israel to be neither Jewish or democratic. They wish to preserve the secular oligarchy that has long trampled on the rights of Israel’s traditional and conservative majority.
It is the death of the oligarchy that brought only 80,000 people into the streets. Perhaps that shows that, media oligarchs aside, most Israelis prefer democracy to oligarchy.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky was an attorney and rabbi in America. He lives in Israel where he serves as Israel Region Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values.