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Wednesday, February 08, 2023 

Israeli democracy is in fine shape

Gil Troy defends Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial reforms, and also made a point why the USA, as things stand today, is just not a good example to look at for inspiration, based on how things are going there now:
As the brutal videos from Memphis of Black police officers beating a Black man to death trigger yet another racial paroxysm, many Americans are claiming that Israeli democracy is doomed. While this juxtaposition may seem odd, disruptions in both countries can teach us that democratic life is often a roller-coaster ride. No democracy is problem-free—and it is self-defeating to hear every governmental initiative you dislike as liberty’s death knell. While there is much to debate about Israel’s judicial system, reports of the death of Israeli democracy are highly exaggerated.

Examining American democracy’s current challenges reinforces the confident conclusion that Israel is doing just about as well as can be expected on the democracy front. Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a democracy by its loudest demagogues, its most violent police officers, or its most controversial moves. In the Middle East, Israel’s ever-expanding unwritten constitution, guaranteeing more and more rights to more and more people while sustaining a strong sense of national community, is stronger than ever.

If you want to judge Israel’s democracy by its constitution, you can’t. Israel has no constitution. Popular mythology blames religious Zionists for insisting the Torah already was the Jewish constitution. But religious Zionists lacked much political power in 1948. It was Israel’s founding prime minister who refused to distract the year-old, fragile country with a divisive constitutional debate. David Ben-Gurion advised: “We should emulate the British People, who have deep democratic instincts, yet no constitution.”

These days, Israelis are more apt to emulate the American people than the British—for better and worse. It has become cliché to accuse Benjamin Netanyahu of “mirroring” Donald Trump’s behavior, to deem them both “right-wing nationalists” or “illiberal democrats” who thrive on “incitement, fear and hate”—even as some of Bibi’s judicial reforms seek to mirror the way that the judiciary functions in the United States.

The anti-Netanyahu assault that began with his Nov. 1 victory has followed the anti-Trump resistance playbook to a T. It began with hysterical cries that a democratically achieved election result threatened democracy. It built, during the transition, with blistering condemnations of the government-in-formation, even before it implemented any policies. It drew clear red lines, which sought to use the sanction of professional guilds and associations, along with social affiliations among the professional class, to create the appearance of unanimity among those who believe their opinions matter more than others: Either you repudiated Bibi’s dictatorship-to-be or found yourself repudiated by your peers. And now, it continues with the mass demonstrations boosted by periodic petitions of 100 self-selected “experts” here and 500 there—economists, business leaders, national security analysts—all predicting catastrophe. The parallels are eerie. It’s an attempt at an Israeli color revolution, built on the American resistance model.

Israelis beware. No country should use America today as a model for how to debate constructively and democratically. America is a democracy in crisis. All-or-nothing, do-or-die partisanship—from both extremes—encourages totalitarian thinking and a politics of “do it to them before they do it to you.” Such polarization makes it harder and harder to achieve the kind of compromise that Israel requires, and that all healthy democracies seek.
Sadly, Troy's right. With the way the USA's deteriorated into a hotbed of social justice propaganda and wokeness, and some states imposing policies hurtful to women, it's no longer possible to view the USA as a perfect role model for democracy and how to emulate it. Of course, everyone needs to beware of Israeli leftists too, who're going out of their way to encourage "civil disobedience", and for all we know, they could cause damage. So, let's hope even Troy's aware of the bad influence leftists in Israel can be, even if they're no longer in the Knesset.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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