I look back to 1996 when Bibi beat Peres in an election no one thought would go the Likud’s way. It was mere months after the Rabin assassination. Depending on your politics, either Bibi fanned the flames of incitement against Rabin and the Oslo Accords or stood idly by and basked in its murderous heat. Many were convinced – myself included – that there was no way that decent Israelis would ever allow Netanyahu anywhere near the chair Rabin warmed just seven months before. I remember going to sleep with Peres in the lead and waking up to a different reality.
I would not repeat the same mistake on Tuesday night, November 8.
When folks ask me for my take on the outcome, I reply: I wish there was a German word that expresses my sadness and lack of surprise.
Because after what I saw in Israel in 1996, and again and again and again over the next two decades, I realized that, in democracies, people get the leaders they want and the leaders they deserve. And it broke my heart.
The Israeli voter wants Bibi. The Israeli voter deserves Bibi. And Bibi and his henchmen have delivered!
They have been instrumental in fundamentally changing the way Israeli democracy works.
The PM’s office would like us all to remember that Israel is a democracy, the only one in the Middle East! However, in practical terms, that does not say very much. Israel is ranked 101st by Reporters Without Borders in their 2016 Press Freedom Index… right in between Gabon and Uganda! And two slots up from Kuwait!! Israel is ranked 32nd on the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International… right in between Cyprus and Lithuania! The United Arab Emirates, BTW, is ranked 23rd.
Most important, the Israeli voter wants the corrosive and illegal Occupation to continue – and Bibi continues to deliver it to them.
Without shame, and despite his claims of wanting peace, Bibi takes credit for dismantling the peace process with the Palestinians.
It took Netanyahu and his cronies about 10 years to chip away at the cornerstones of Israeli democracy… and ten years more (with some breaks) to thoroughly compromise the foundations.
Oh, and let us also not forget this last minute plea / naked appeal to racial animus from the 2015 election:
Which is all to say that, I believe, Trump is embarking on a similar course.
Though pledging to “drain the swamp” in Washington, his court jesters (Chris Christie who will be criminally implicated in the Bridgegate scandal, Rudy Guiliani who wants to take the racist and unconstitutional policy of stop-and-frisk nationally and Newt Gingrich who is just repugnant) will bring their own tanker truck of even dirtier swamp water.
But the biggest concern is that there is no branch of the American government to tell him NO. The House and Senate are solidly GOP. The Supreme Court will be stacked shortly GOP-ward.
I guess this is what a majority of American voters want. (I am aware that as of now, Hillary won the popular vote but not the electoral college. I suspect that statistic will change in the coming days.)
I have heard from Trump supporters that NOT ALL Trump voters are racists, antisemites or xenophobes – and that it’s not fair to fit them all with the same Klan hood. Many are staunch supporters of the GOP, patriots, lovers of Israel who sincerely believe in conservative policies or that Trump is better for Israel. Perhaps they even held their noses and voted Trump. Many just hated Hillary more. Fair enough. But you did vote for this guy. You should own it. He’s your boy. The mess he might make is yours too.
I hope I am wrong. But I have seen how this goes in one democracy.
I don’t know if you recall a post of mine from way back … but in July, 2014, I noted that the (Third) Temple Institute took to Indiegogo to solicit crowdfunding for the building of the Third Temple. They met their goal, but, alas, they have not started construction. BOO!
Well, the Third Temple folks have been busy this Pessah season. Under a different banner, this time, a Headstart campaign, they raised 30,011 NIS to fund a practice run of near-offering the paschal lamb, or korban pessah.
Here’s the two minute pitch. Alas, it is in Hebrew.
My favourite line, spoken by the Dad to his curious son: “Together, we’ll practice. Together, we’ll get used to it. We’ll see and we’ll learn how we’re supposed to near-offer the korban pessah.”
According to reporting from Elhanan Miller at the Forward, the near-offering of the korban pessah went off without a hitch. This event, it should be emphasized, did not take place on the Temple Mount but at an overlook on the Mount of Olives. However, it is part of a larger and disturbing trend to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
In April, 2016, an unidentified couple conducted their Jewish marriage ritual on the Temple Mount. According to the report from YNet, which quotes a post on the Temple Institute’s Facebook page, Rabbi Chaim Richman, the Temple Institute’s manager of international activity, married the couple. While a member of the group distracted the police and Waqf officials, the vows were quickly made.
Although our unbroken connection with the Temple Mount is age old, spanning centuries and two sacred edifices, and serves as the the locus of the prayers of the devout, this kind of behaviour is nothing more than naked provocation. And though the Israeli High Court of Justice, in its 2012 rejection of a Temple Mount Faithful petition, upheld the theoretical right of Jews to pray on the Mount – it also ruled that this right is not absolute and may be limited where human life is at risk.
These activities are designed to incite and put human lives, many human lives, at risk. How can any rabbi sanction them?
But then I remembered my Jewish history and earlier days and other activities centred on Jerusalem and the Temple Mount… and shuddered.
The handful of examples brought up in the piece, however, represent a larger trend which has been building up steam for years.
I know of at least two congregations in TO where all sermons and d’var torahs have to be vetted before delivery in fear of roiling the laity. I am sure there are more with more informal “arrangements”.
Although many folks are only now tsk-tsking this unfortunate trend because it is has steamrolled over a handful of beloved congregational rabbis, as I wrote in Chapter 9 of End Of The Jews, Israel has stopped serving as a rallying point for the Jewish community for years.
Coupled with the flailing of the right-tilting establishment who try to force the dichotomous “Either you’re with us or against us” party line (especially in times of trouble in Israel), what we are seeing in the mainstream media (finally) is a bubbling up of that ubiquitous disaffection and perhaps a little soul-searching.
Nonetheless, no one likes being presented with ultimatums, but if forced to choose, many fair-minded folks who cherish Jewish values might sadly choose the door. Some, like suburban Chicago’s Rabbi Brant Rosen, have already hit the bricks.
In Chapter 1 of End Of The Jews, I wrote about the Temple Institute and their drive to rebuild the Temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah. As part of their state of constant vigilance, Institute artisans have prepared all the vestments, implements and ritual objects so when the time comes, members of the organization will be ready to assume all the duties, responsibilities and functions of that institution – including animal sacrifice. Though calling back to a Judaism that predates the common era, the folks at the Temple Institute also employ 21st century tools, namely the internet and the power of social media.
In other words, even the Temple Institute folks are NEXT JEWS!
And like many a thoughtful Next Jew in need of financial support for their project (see also Jewcer), the folks over at the Temple Institute have launched an Indiegogo campaign.
Check out this speech from Rabbi Yisrael Eichler, MK from United Torah Judaism, a Haredi party representing the Litvaks (non-Hasidic Haredim). (Alas, it is in Hebrew…)
He delivered this speech on the occasion of a memorial session of the Knesset in honour of assassinated Prime Minister Itzchak Rabin. He took the opportunity to tear into the current government, specifically its coalition partners, for its incitement against the Haredi population. (Which, if you think about it is not really the most appropriate time to make political speeches, but I digress…) The pull quote from his invective (translation mine):
The incitement against the Haredi public will not bode well for any of this country’s citizens. I wish I could express the same optimism expressed by the Prime Minister that there will not be a war between Jews. What I can say is that we will not raise our hands against Jews or citizens of this land, but, God forbid, if we cannot live in this land, according to Jewish tradition, as a consequence of the government’s persecution, we will pick up our wandering staff and the centres of Torah will move from the Land of Israel to the Exile.
To which I respond: Are you gonna bark all day little doggie or are you gonna bite? And does it count as yerida (i.e., “descent”) if you leave Israel for religious reasons, as opposed to those maligned folks who leave for economic reasons – or, like Nobel Prize winners Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt, who leave because of career concerns? So, are you going to back that threat and start booking airplane tickets for Brooklyn or Monsey or Lakewood (refundable tickets, of course!) … or are your words merely the flailing and last gasp of a political movement that use to hold disproportionate power in Israel for decades but now, has been, due to the electoral process, put in its natural place – as a minority party sitting in opposition? Time will tell, Rav Eichler. And by the way, regardless of your digs against secular Jews and Reform Judaism, we welcome you to our tainted shores where you are guaranteed the right to believe and practice – but, SPOILERS, you cannot compel anyone else to tow your particular Litvak line. You might want to reconsider…