Saturday, October 16, 2004


Musings #76
October 14, 2004
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan


Being raised in the United States, in the middle of the last century, I was taught about democracy. We were given very clear definitions, based on the premise that the United States is a democratic country. As I remember, there were a few very basic principles, all included in American Law. The first, of course, is that the majority rules. I remember one Social Studies teacher (the daily course that combined history, civics and geography) told us that American Law is what five out of nine supreme court justices say. The second important principle is “checks and balances.” There are three equally important branches of American government, the executive, legislative and judicial. No one can over rule the two others.

Simple, no, yes, well, maybe if I hadn’t moved to another country. It seems like there are lots of countries that consider themselves democracies. There are even countries that include the word “Democratic” in their names. But when you take a good look at how the governments in these countries function….. well, not quite like I learned in Social Studies.

Unfortunately Israel is one of those “not quite” democracies. I guess that it was always like that here, a sort of “parliamentary dictatorship.” Once someone’s elected to office, he acts like a dictator, a paranoid dictator.

In the early days of the state, people discriminated against were more accepting of their “inferior positions.” Life was very difficult for most of the population, and few people had any idea how other democracies functioned. The 1977 Israeli election was a revolution. For the first time since the state was established in 1948, twenty-nine years earlier, that the “opposition” was victorious. The entire country was incredulous, and that included the victors who didn’t know how to rule. The “Labor Party,” though in the opposition still considered themselves the establishment. Four years later part of their campaign was to insist that since “the riff raff” supported Begin, he wasn’t legitimate shouldn’t win.

When Labor returned to office with Rabin as Prime Minister and the “Oslo Accord” as his chief policy, they accused those of us protesting of “endangering democracy.” Today Sharon, who only joined the Likud in anger at being passed over for the job as head of the army, is continuing and expanding Rabin’s anti-opposition policies.

We, simple, loyal citizens are being told by Israeli President Katzav and others that our disagreement with Sharon’s “disengagement plan” is incitement. They claim that we are endangering the country. They claim that we are not allowed to disagree with the prime minister. Tzachi Hanegbi recently said that for him preserving the Likud Party is more important than protecting and preserving the Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Shomron. His politics is more important than Zionist principles, more important than yishuv ha’aretz, more important than our country.

How can a political party be more important than the future of the country? The underlining principle of democracy is that the citizens have a choice, a voice in decisions. That’s what voting is all about. Democracy is for everyday, not just the few symbolic seconds in the voting booth.

My most formative years were the ‘60’s in America, a time when we were encouraged to believe that we could change the world. “The Man of La Mancha” was a Broadway hit. We were proud to go after those “windmills,” and I found mine here in Shiloh.

What is frightening Sharon and his underlings? Why are we being accused of incitement for disagreeing? Why was Arutz 7 Radio closed down? Why is Noam Federman imprisoned, and why is Nadia Matar being investigated?

Israel is supposed to be a democracy. As citizens we have the right to our opinions, and we have a right to voice our opinions. Politicians are supposed to remain in office only as long as they have public support. If they lose support, they must accept it. In a democracy no one is born with the right to rule, and once elected, one is still dependent on public support. A good politician works hard at keeping public support. And a true leader does not need to threaten to guarantee that he has followers.

We will continue to demonstrate and voice our opinions. It is our democratic right.

No comments: