Opinion

Assaulting Law and Order, Trump and Netanyahu’s Minions Flirt With Sedition and Treason

GOP lawmakers give aid and comfort to Russia, while Israel’s right wing sparks public contempt for the country’s democratic institutions

Chemi Shalev
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U.S. President Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, during his visit in May 2017.
Trump and Netanyahu enjoying each other's company during the U.S. president's visit to Israel in May. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Chemi Shalev

Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently submitted grand jury indictments of 13 individuals and three companies from Russia. The charges depict a wide-ranging, devious scheme to subvert American democracy, sow dissent and discord among its citizens and block Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House in the 2016 election. Donald Trump’s reaction was preposterous but expected: He claimed, without any basis, that the indictments clear him of collusion with the Kremlin.

The reaction of the GOP was no less outrageous, though once upon a time it would have surprised: It stayed silent. Rather than fight a hostile and aggressive campaign to undermine American institutions, Trump’s minions continued their efforts to undermine the government agencies that do.

Even complete cynics find the phenomenon hard to digest. A party that has espoused a tough line against America’s enemies, especially Russia, prefers to turn a blind eye to anti-U.S. subversion on the internet and social media. Far worse, Republicans are doing nothing to compel Trump to take countermeasures to prevent further Russian sabotage in the upcoming Congressional midterms or in the 2020 presidential elections.

Trump refuses to confront the Russian threat for fear it would delegitimize his electoral victory and enhance suspicions about his own guilt — and the American right wing, with flew exceptions, is playing ball. If they weren’t politicians, Trump and the Republicans could be accused of giving “aid and comfort’ to America’s enemies “within the United States or elsewhere,” as outlined in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 on Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities.

Despite all the inherent differences, the conduct of the Israeli right wing, which is collaborating with Benjamin Netanyahu’s attacks on the rule of law, mirrors that of its U.S. counterparts. In both cases, political parties that take pride in their glorious past are succumbing to egocentric leaders who would burn the house down to evade indictments and remain on their thrones.

Some, like the ultra-Orthodox and Jewish settlers in Israel and Evangelicals in the U.S., weren’t such great fans of democracy and the rule of law in the first place. For them, the ideological end justifies all the means and expunges moral considerations. Then there are the sophisticated cynics, who are well aware of the gravity of the situation but are wary of crossing the inflamed masses who believe in the lurid conspiracy theories disseminated by the leader, with the help of rabble-rousing right-wing media. Finally there are the dense and delusional, who can’t tell fact from fantasy and are willing to lead the onslaught on behalf of their “persecuted” heroes.

In such an unhinged atmosphere, small wonder that kooks like former presidential aide Sebastian Gorka can describe the now-discredited allegations of FBI misdeeds in the memo concocted by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes as “a hundred times worse than the abuse that led to the American Revolution” or that Netanyahu’s coalition chief David Amsalem can portray this week’s revelations of inappropriate contact between a prosecutor and a judge who decided on the detention of suspects in the Bibi-Bezeq scandal as “the worst criminal offense in the state’s history” — without anyone protesting, calling them out or consigning them to clinical observation.

In both cases, there is a conscious effort to blow minor incidents into monstrous proportions in order to minimize the alleged offenses of Trump and/or Netanyahu, erode the integrity of those standing for law and order and undermine the public’s confidence in its own democratic institutions.

It they weren’t politicians, one could invoke Section 136 of Israel’s Penal Law which defines the “arousal of hatred, contempt or to disloyalty toward the State or its lawfully constituted administrative or judicial authorities” as sedition. If it were the other way round, the right wing wouldn’t give a thought to the nuances: It would have accused the left of treason right from the outset.

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