The Hypocrites' Parade: Israel’s Left Is Now Koshering Digital Tracking

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz
Health Minister Nitzan HorowitzCredit: Moti Milrod

As they say in French politics, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing beats this depressing proverb to describe Israel’s “government of change,” which has provided another clear example: The Shin Bet security service has resumed tracking to locate people infected with the coronavirus, this time because of the new variant.

Heading the parade of hypocrites is Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, who from the opposition benches once demanded that the attorney general block the use of such means without parliamentary oversight. “This is the sort of thing done in dictatorships,” he complained.

Now, from his plush ministerial perch, he gives a convoluted explanation: “There is a vast and essential difference between what was done then – sweeping, disproportionate tracking of a huge number of people for a long period – and the very limited thing being done now for just a few days: tracking just a few people.”

Suddenly, Horowitz doesn’t have a problem using measures he once called dictatorial. Now it’s all a question of scope and frequency. “We have approved emergency measures just until Thursday evening,” he told television news anchor Yonit Levy as if the Netanyahu government didn’t use the exact same excuse when Horowitz slammed it for this same practice.

Citing the principles of “proportionality” and “temporariness” is the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel. These magic words are supposed to make kosher any serious defect in a political system that purports to be fundamentally liberal-democratic. Occupation, censorship, torture, detention without trial – in democratic countries, such undemocratic practices get excused by their “proportionality” and are enshrined in “emergency” regulations that go on forever. The problem with the Shin Bet tracking isn’t the degree.

First, from a legal standpoint, as attorney Shachar Ben Meir noted in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition, the High Court of Justice ruled that the state must stop using “emergency” bypass routes and “take the highway.” So Horowitz’s assertion that it’s “only for a few days” contradicts the ruling. The High Court also restricted the government to using the Shin Bet only in extreme cases such as when a virus carrier isn’t cooperating.

Second, for those who are fond of the security argument, the Shin Bet itself is pleading not to be used this way, for fear of losing the public’s trust and exposing the secrets of its tracking tool. (That is, exposure of its flaws would undermine trust in its work methods against the Palestinians.)

Third, to those who tout the usefulness of this method, it has already been shown to be ineffective. And fourth, for fans of the deontological argument, the problem is a fundamental one: the very authorizing, under the Meretz party’s watch, of anti-democratic tools to be used on a civilian population in civilian circumstances.

Unlike Horowitz and Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg, who reportedly “did not vote in the end,” Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar had no trouble voting against – in keeping with his position in the past. He didn’t have to go through contortions to explain why he was flip-flopping – he just didn’t flip-flop. Once more we see that such contortions are the province of this government’s left wing.

Meretz’s Mossi Raz outdid them all when he told N12 television news: “Yes, I’m a dishrag, but you also need dishrags to clean up corruption.” As he put it, and this is what his friends tell themselves too, “It’s not like the alternative is Zehava Galon or Gideon Levy” – Meretz’s former chief and the famous Haaretz columnist. This is the attitude that lets Meretz sit in a government that deepens the occupation and ignores settler violence.

In recent days, they’ve also apparently come to terms with travelers being barred entry into Israel for political reasons; something has resurged at the airport. The red line will be the evacuation of the contested Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar or construction in the West Bank’s E1 area just east of Jerusalem, Raz says.

All the rest Meretz can swallow as long as its ministers are allowed to speak to the mainstream about health and the environment and consider themselves the ones holding back the dam of corruption – while their colleagues on the right don’t sacrifice a thing.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: