Israel's intellectually dishonest Left must return to sanity - opinion

To my leftist brethren, I say: Please stop being intellectually dishonest. Stop talking about an “end to democracy” when you are the ones trying to overturn the results of the last election.

 DEMONSTRATORS LIGHT a bonfire during an anti-judicial reform protest in Tel Aviv.  (photo credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)
DEMONSTRATORS LIGHT a bonfire during an anti-judicial reform protest in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: GILI YAARI/FLASH90)

It pains me that so many of my brothers and sisters of the liberal Left are having an unprecedented meltdown in the wake of the judicial reform process. As we commence the month of Elul, a time of renewal, introspection and self-improvement, it is my plea and prayer that we very soon return to a place of sanity.

The vitriol spewed, and poisonous tactics employed, by the left as part of these protests have been terribly malicious and irresponsible. To assemble and demonstrate for purposes of civil protest, through grassroots efforts, is one of the core features of a vibrant democracy. But to try and overturn a free election – by promoting foreign funded agendas and lobbying foreign officials to oppose the sitting government of Israel – is utilizing below-the-belt tactics. And the active engagement in army desertion, strikes by medical professionals, blockading of the airport and vital highways, and perhaps most significantly the intentional infliction of economic harm – simply crosses all red lines of normative political dissent. There is a big difference between expressing one’s dissatisfaction with government policies and attempting to damage the country’s economic welfare, military preparedness and diplomatic status. Political dissent should never be an “at all costs” equation.

Many of the tactics used by the protest movement would be deemed to be treason in another context. But somehow the liberal left gets a free pass, and is even glorified, by the liberal-minded media.

The prevailing narrative that the reform is “undemocratic” is a great sound bite, but rings hollow and is extremely hypocritical. For so many years, the deck has been stacked in the opposite manner, and nary a word was enunciated by the left, since that stacked deck worked in its favor. One of the most activist courts in the world systematically carved out an agenda which foisted a worldview subscribed to by only a small minority (leftist elites) on the will of the majority (everyone else). That is certainly not a feature of a representative democracy. But the label “undemocratic” was never heard from anyone on the left.

Israel's Left is undemocratic, trying to overturn a legitimate election

Other extremist labels also abound, such as the reform being termed an “existential threat” to the state. But wasn’t Israel a democracy in the 1980s before the uber-liberal court decided to reconstruct the Israeli judiciary in its own image? And where were the stalwart supporters of democracy when the mechanism for appointing new judges kept resulting in the self-perpetuation of an old boys’ club of liberal elites?

Protest sign against the judicial reform, Kaplan, Tel-Aviv Saturday evening August 12, 2023. (credit: GILAD FURST)
Protest sign against the judicial reform, Kaplan, Tel-Aviv Saturday evening August 12, 2023. (credit: GILAD FURST)

ISN’T THE most obvious feature of a healthy and robust democracy the holding of free elections (especially when there is approximately 70% voter turnout)? And isn’t honoring the results of such an election actually what is most democratic? Doesn’t it just make plain sense that any efforts to undermine the results of such an election are really what should be considered to be truly undemocratic?

Elections have consequences. You are not supposed to get a second bite of the apple the morning after just because your team didn’t win. The outpouring of anguish by the left, in its rawest form, is really just sour grapes. The right wing lived with the consequences of Oslo Accords and other major policy decisions by the left without threatening army desertion or economic destruction. Oh boy would the media have had a field day condemning the right if it had even contemplated the tactics utilized by the left.

Attempting to now put into practice what BDS has endeavored (but largely failed) to accomplish is simply shameful. It’s like a two-year old’s tantrum – the little guy doesn’t get what he wants, so he just throws his cuppy on the floor and to heck with the splattered mess. Adults can, and should, do better.

And the myopic media has been doing its utmost to fuel the fire. Aside from the ubiquitous positive coverage of the protest movement and the bashing of reform proponents, there have been many curious behaviors to note. One is that a traditional darling of the left – Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School – opined that the reform would not make Israel undemocratic, but rather would stand it in line with other Western democracies such as Canada, England and Australia. This perspective was stifled because it didn’t fit the agenda of the liberal media. It seems to be convenient to promote Professor Dershowitz’s legal conclusions only when they jive with the media’s narrative.

Another issue is that much of the protest doesn’t seem to really be about the particular reform itself. I believe that many of the people taking to the streets do not understand the nuances of what they are actually protesting. Rather, this movement seems to be a general conflating of the leftist agenda. 

I NOTICED rainbow flags front and center in the crowds in practically every picture of the protests, across a wide array of media sources. My understanding is that the outburst of contempt we have been witnessing by the Left is not so much about any particular aspect of the reform, but rather a frustrated reaction to the eroding impact of its liberal ethos on Israeli society.

It also should be noted that the divide among Jewish Israelis is not as pronounced as is commonly characterized by the media. When taking into account Jewish party votes (as per current Knesset seats), the breakdown in votes over the reasonableness clause came to a 64-46 split. That is much more of a stark contrast than the 64-56 perceived difference when the 10 Arab-party seats are factored in. One should also remember that the Oslo Accords were never approved by a Jewish majority. While all votes in a democracy obviously count equally, I am merely pointing out that the support of Jewish citizens is an important consideration for any major policy decision of the Jewish state.

So to my leftist brethren I say: Please stop being intellectually dishonest. Stop talking about an “end to democracy” when you are the ones trying to overturn the results of the last democratically held election. If you don’t like certain policies, then by all means assemble and protest. Scream all you want. But stop shutting down the airport and highways. Stop becoming deserters of army service as a political tool. And especially stop using economic and diplomatic levers to damage Israel. You lost the last election – fair and square – and while you have every right to protest, your methods employed to undermine the state are to me nothing short of treasonous.

Ultimately, we have to strike a balance and live together, at least those of us who are not rushing to emigrate in the wake of the reforms. I am quite confident that the right wing of this country is not going anywhere. And I hope that many with leftist views still feel the same way. Clearly, the best option is to find a happy medium on the issues of the day. Politicians are answerable to the electorate, and if enough people want to achieve a balance, then the politicians will have to come around, even if that result doesn’t suit their narrow agendas.

I see a real opportunity here. My hope is that the Left will recalibrate its focus to become a productive partner in crafting a solution. My leftist brothers and sisters – please come to the table, instead of trying to burn it down. Please strive to reach a middle ground. That is our path forward. Sanity is the only way.

The writer made aliyah in 1994 and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and children. He learns in kollel every morning and in the afternoons/evenings works as a US lawyer.