Israel Elections: Why I may not vote this time - opinion

Should I cast a protest vote for the greens of whose wider agenda I know little, or defy my own principle and abstain?

WORKERS HANG a large election campaign poster in Jerusalem last week. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
WORKERS HANG a large election campaign poster in Jerusalem last week.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
 My experience of general elections goes back to my life in the United Kingdom and stretches for more years than I care to remember. As is the norm there, political parties vie for votes in a variety of ways. Their leaders and prospective candidates travel the country from one end to the other. They shake hands, smile at people, cuddle babies and hold speaking events. Sometimes they are accompanied by a senior political personality, an obvious sign of endorsement. 
Posters of the candidate’s friendly picture over the name and the slogan to vote for him or her appear on prominent sites. Newspapers carry articles, expounding the differences between the policies of the parties and advertisements spell them out, with a political bias.
Of course, in the UK, the number of serious parties on the list usually does not exceed four or five. A few others, like the “Loony Party,” with its representative in costume register for every election and inject some light-hearted relief into the serious business of choosing the next government.   
While the rhetoric of the candidates may include criticism of opponents, it will ever only be in the context of their policies. I cannot recall to have ever heard or read personal insults or untoward language. In any case, like election expenditure, the framework of canvassing in the UK is strictly regulated.
Unfortunately, it is not so in Israel. Here, it seems to be a free-for-all under the erroneous mantle of free speech. 
In this country, we have adopted “political correctness” as the norm. Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn announced that several official forms issued by the Justice Ministry would be amended to accommodate the demands of the LGBT community. Government documents will cease to specify the gender of the parents and that instead of “mother” and “father’ they would state “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. 
It seems that it is also deemed politically correct to use any language that comes to mind when describing the political opponent. So, when choosing the party for which to vote, should I not also to take into consideration their moral and ethical standards? Should I not also assess the character of the candidates to see how they behaves toward their fellow citizen?  
COVID-19 is not the only cause for fever. As the election temperature in Israel is heating up, so is the realization of the parties and their leaders, that this time the result is not cut and dried. In their desperation to denigrate their opponents in order to enhance their own chances, they resort to language that is not only unbecoming to your neighbor, but totally against Jewish ethics.  
There are many references to that subject in our scriptures.
In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) we read: One who publicly humiliates others, he has no share in the world to come.
Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beytenu Party wants to dispatch Netanyahu and the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in a wheel barrow to the trash heap. 
Rav Hirsch also in Pirkei Avot explains that embarrassing others is the gravest of all sins against the dignity and nobleness inherent in every human being, by virtue of the fact that he has been made in the image of God.
Along the same lines, the Me’ri notes that one who humiliates or embarrasses others shows an ethical flaw, indicative of a grievous lack of basic human decency. Our scriptures abound with such statements.
Yet following the latest Supreme Court ruling on conversion, (which is unacceptable), the ultra-Orthodox in their election advertisement call the Reform Jews “clowns and dogs”, accompanied by the picture of a dog wearing tallit and tefillin (prayer shawl and phylacteries). Where is their respect for human dignity?
As the rift between Likud and the Blue and White parties widened, their mutual accusations became more and more acid. The exchanges between Yamina Party head Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar, who leads the New Hope Party, have become bitter and unbecoming to a civilized election campaign. The hunger for power is overwhelming our senior politicians.
It is no secret that my political leaning is to the Right. So, what is my choice? Likud? Today’s still largest party, which will inevitably be led by Netanyahu, about whom I have already voiced my opinion, as having to retire because of the indictments hanging over his head. Or Gideon Sa’ar, who, as an opportunist, thought he could displace Netanyahu and therefore came out of his “basement”? 
Should I vote for Naftali Bennett, who keeps his cards so close to his chest that I believe he would ally with anybody to gain power? Or would that leave me no choice but to place the letter for Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party and his ally, Itamar Ben-Gvir, into the envelope? But they call their opponents dogs, and that does not sit well with me. My political and humanitarian beliefs do not allow me to support religious extremists who do not realize that we have to consider the non-Jewish world around us. That for me excludes the UTJ (United Torah Judaism) Party as well as the Shas Party.
It has always been my strong belief that it is every citizen’s civic duty to vote in at least general elections.   You will by now have realized that I have a problem. Should I cast a protest vote for the greens of whose wider agenda I know little, or defy my own principle and abstain? Events during the next week will be decisive.
The writer, at 97, holds the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest active journalist and oldest working radio host. He presents Walter’s World on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) and The Walter Bingham File on Israel Newstalk Radio. Both are in English.