Exactly two weeks since Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, with a platform that defies his country’s fundamental liberal values, he already faces broad public opposition that Israel can only envy. Masses marching in the streets, giving of their money and their time to the victims of Trump’s edicts and demanding action from their elected representatives in Washington. Since Trump signed an executive order last Friday, closing the borders to refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, tens of thousands of demonstrators and thousands of lawyers descended on international airports in the United States, holding welcome signs and, in the case of the lawyers, offering free legal aid to detainees.
Others donated generously to human rights organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting the executive order in the courts, said it raised $24 million online over the weekend alone — six times its annual online donations. Contributions to additional organizations — especially Planned Parenthood, which advocates for and provides access to abortions and contraceptives — have also spiked since Trump’s election. Politicians and large corporations have also joined the condemnations. Mayors have announced their intention to protect undocumented immigrants in their cities even at the cost of losing federal funds, and Democrats in the U.S. Senate are boycotting confirmation hearings and votes for Trump nominees.
The energy of the opposition movement and civic involvement in the United States stand in stark contrast to the situation in Israel. Most of society is totally indifferent to the loss of the state’s liberal character. The increasingly corrupt occupation, growing religiosity, discrimination against Israeli Arabs, the incarceration and abuse of asylum seekers, suppression of the free press and growing inequality are all met with meager opposition.
Human rights organizations, which are under brutal attack, cry out for funds and public support, to little avail. In the Knesset, the opposition and the coalition have long since become indistinguishable. The left impersonates the right and the right impersonates the far right, under the leadership of politicians such as Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, who choose to preserve the injustices instead of fighting them.
There is no way to know what would have happened to the spirit of liberal protest in America had its citizens experienced prolonged abuse of the kind suffered by the Israeli left. Still, there is much to be learned from the combative opposition and the civic solidarity on the other side of the world.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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