The only democracy in the Middle East is perhaps unique, but it's doubtful if it's the real thing. Results of a poll published in Haaretz yesterday reflect what has been known for a long time: a combination of ignorance, a basic lack of understanding and a fascist mood. An ill and dangerous wind is blowing toward a government that is threatened with collapse.
According to the poll, which was conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, there is a clear, solid anti-democratic majority. It's a majority that wants to punish people who expose wrongdoing by the military, and it's not willing to allow human rights groups to operate freely. It's a majority in favor of punishing those who call for a boycott on Israel, and it wants heavy sanctions against journalists who reveal information about immoral acts committed by the Israel Defense Forces.
Punishing and punishing, and delighting in the silencing of the critics - that's what the people want. That's their opinion. Of all the real and manufactured dangers lurking against Israel, this is the greatest, most real and most immediate.
Take accountant Haim Yoavi-Rabinovich in the Anat Kamm case. He called for the arrest and trial of Haaretz's publisher, Amos Schocken, for blackmail and treason, no less. "Kamm is not a spy, she's a traitor," Rabinovich wrote, calling for Kamm to be punished accordingly, too. It can be assumed that in the view of people like him, an execution in a public square would not be an excessive punishment.
Rabinovich is not alone. His ideas are all over the Internet and have attracted plenty of support. But he's not the problem. The likes of him exist in every proper, civilized society. The problem is that in the Israel of 2010 almost no system remains to halt this dark and ignorant Rabinovichism and defend freedom of expression, which 98 percent of the respondents in the survey, believe it or not, said is important to them.
How Israeli it is to be (theoretically) in favor of freedom of expression yet in practice be so much opposed. You don't need a poll. Most Israelis believe that democracy (only) means elections every few years, because it's enough for a narrow majority of MKs to raise their hands in the Knesset in favor of every kind of crime and injustice to make it all right. Security is used as a cover for everything. There is a connection between the politicians' flattery campaigns in the primaries and democracy; that anyone who dares criticize, expose wrongdoing, step out of line or voice a different opinion is destined to the same fate; that the majority can do whatever it wants and the minority must be powerless.
Most Israelis are fed up with any system of government supervision, which is the true test of the nature of government. To hell with the remnants of real journalism in Israel, and to hell with the Supreme Court, which doesn't necessarily always do its job. And enough already with those treacherous human rights organizations. Let's have an Israel without a High Court of Justice and without human rights groups like B'Tselem.
Such an Israel is ready to move forward in the face of any threat. Israel is ready for a monster. Nothing will stop it. Every kind of violent and dangerous leader and every war crime will be welcomed here, welcomed by the stupid and ignorant.
Our immune systems have long weakened. The press will be silent, and the Supreme Court will forgive. Meanwhile, protest slumbers and civil society, a concept on the rise in world politics, doesn't exist. Go explain to the Israel of 2010 that the media's role is to expose wrongdoing, the non-governmental organizations' role is to warn us, and the Supreme Court's role is to be a gatekeeper. Instead, all of them are to be punished. Go explain that the tyranny of the majority is no less dangerous than control by the minority. Go explain that democracy means unlimited, free criticism.
All this is gone and forgotten. We have no one to instill these values. We have survived Pharaoh, and we will survive Iran, but not this problem. It filters down from within, threatening to bring everything down on the people. The current public atmosphere is the classic breeding ground, as if it were taken from the history books for cultivating savage regimes. There is no need for a military coup in Israel. The defense establishment has excessive control over most aspects of life. There is no need for a dictator, either. The tyranny of the majority is dangerous enough.
"Mr. Schocken, editor of Haaretz," as Rabinovich ignorantly called him, will not be put on trial for now. And Anat Kamm will not be executed. But democratic government in Israel has already been put on trial, and the punishment is being delivered right in front of our eyes.
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