Encountering Peace: The darkness of our times

Today public calls for the death of Arabs are commonplace.

Right-wing rally in Tel Aviv, dubbed "United for the Land of Israel," March 15, 2015 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Right-wing rally in Tel Aviv, dubbed "United for the Land of Israel," March 15, 2015
An ill wind is blowing in this country.
The democratic, open and pluralistic space is shrinking rapidly. The legitimacy of opinions differing from those of the current government is disappearing by the day. Hatred has been let loose and violence against fellow citizens is on the verge of moving from verbal to physical expression. Today politicians, soldiers and civilians say things out loud that in the past were unimaginable. The legitimacy of the Left, of human rights and peace organizations has been reduced to frighteningly low levels. Names such as anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, self-hating Jew and even traitor are thrown not only at me, and not only by readers of this column – they have also been hurled at the defense minister, the chief of staff, leaders of the Zionist Union Party and certainly members of Meretz.
Today public calls for the death of Arabs are commonplace.
The political campaign against the Supreme Court is now supported by the loudest voices in the governing coalition.
More anti-democratic legislation is on the way. The massive public support behind the soldier who killed a wounded terrorist is more than alarming. The killing of the wounded terrorist cannot be excused – certainly not by anyone who considers the IDF to be the most moral army in the world.
The killing has done enormous damage to the State of Israel. The public support for the killing has done even more – the killing was the crime of an individual; the massive public support for it is a crime by our whole society.
Of course we have the right and the obligation to defend ourselves against the terrorists who try to kill us, but when the terrorist is down and no longer poses a threat is not self-defense, it is an inexcusable crime. This is against Jewish values and it is against the rules of engagement of the IDF itself. Public defense of the soldier’s actions are despicable and frightening.
I watch the Knesset channel on television.
I sometimes sit in committee meetings and the plenary sessions of the Knesset. I am sickened at the hatred coming from the Right against the opposition. The hatred coming from a large number of right-wing members of Knesset toward left-wing members and especially toward Arab members is terrifying. I am appalled at the ways some of the members of the government twist democracy in order to destroy it. Our prime minister had enough respect for the Supreme Court to appear before the justices to try and justify the creation of a monopoly over Israel’s natural gas reserves, against the interests of the people, yet when the Supreme Court ruled against the monopoly deal the court is seen as interfering in our democracy.
Those same members of Knesset who spew hatred also besmirch the legitimacy and the importance of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court protects our democracy from those who choose to forget that the sovereign is not the government, not the Knesset but the people. The heart of democracy is not “majority rules,” the heart of democracy is the rights of the minorities – the human and civil rights of all citizens against the majority’s ability to pass laws that infringe on those rights.
This government believes that because it has a majority – even a majority of one – it has the right to stomp on the rights of minorities. This government has demonstrated too clearly its lack of respect for those of us concerned with the human and political rights of the minority. This government works to pass laws that are aimed at shutting down the voices of opposition, dispelling elected MKs who represent voters; this is not democracy. This is the abuse of democracy and it is dangerous to us all – even to those who can’t recognize it yet.
The biggest crime of this government is the fostering of hatred between citizens of this country. There has never been so much venom spread by a government in Israel as by the present government, and the chief culprit is the prime minister himself. Never before has a prime minister of Israel hated so many of his own citizens. Never before has a prime minister of Israel gone to the lengths Netanyahu has gone to cast groups of citizens against each other and to have whole segments of the population labeled traitors. Netanyahu has proven how dangerous he is to the State of Israel. The longer he stays on as Israel’s leader the more broken this society becomes. For the sake of Israel, Netanyahu must be sent home.
He has twisted and destroyed the dream and the vision of Israel so brilliantly stated in our Declaration of Independence. This vision and dream will not exist as long as Netanyahu is leading Israel.
“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book, Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel, has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.