Israel’s democracy has been showing worrying signs of decay for a while now. Ha-Hem’s “Slippery Slope” blog (Hebrew) has been documenting this decay step by step for a few months now. I’ve been following with horrified fascination.
I brought up the Holocaust in my post on Sunday. The Third Reich, or at least what I know about it, is often on my mind — and growing up in Israel doesn’t help, nor does living in Germany. For many Israelis the Holocaust is the formative national myth. For years now, I’ve been more interested in what came before it — the process of a formally democratic state collapsing into vile jingoistic totalitarianism. The lesson is not “look what those bastards did to our families” but rather “look at what a society considered the height of civilization can turn into, and how”. And this is a lesson applicable to any society. Naturally, I apply it to the society I grew up in.
And there are two very worrying things quite possibly about to be done to Israel by its current right-leaning government and parliament. Exhibit A: a loyalty oath to Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state” may be introduced as a requirement for non-Jews receiving citizenship (summary of details and call to action, by the NIF); Exhibit B: a new “Terror Law” would give the Minister of Defense the authority to announce any organization as a terrorist organization, as well as the authority to strip individuals of their rights (see analysis by Gurvitz).
This may be selfish, but the Terror Bill terrifies me more than the Loyalty Oath. Don’t get me wrong, this Loyalty Oath would connect citizenship with accepting the dominant ideology (and associated religion), making it basically impossible to even call Israel a democracy anymore. But the Terror Bill makes me wonder whether it’s worth the risk of even setting foot in my homeland again. I love visiting, I miss my family and friends, but if this law passes, a visit could potentially turn permanent if some politician’s whim decides I have too many rights. Not to mention I’m worried for my family in Jerusalem — my parents and siblings routinely take part in protests and political activity which may make them “terror suspects” under the new law.
I remember conversations with my mother, years ago, about how being in a country slipping into fascism must be like a frog in a pot full of water. The water is cold at first, gets warm, and the frog must be wondering whether (and when) it’s going to get so hot it has to jump out. For many Jews in Germany before WWII, this was what it was like. Once it was clear they had to jump out, they weren’t allowed to anymore (my paternal grandmother was one of a tiny handful that managed to get out after it was too late; most of her siblings were not so fortunate).
I think as soon as the Knesset gives the Minister of Defense the power to strip you of your right to leave, that’s exactly when it’s time to jump out. Wait any longer, and maybe you won’t be able to anymore.
Comments are open, and I’d love someone to convince me all of this isn’t really all that bad.
- Telegraph: “Israel’s ‘loyalty oath’ sets a vile precedent”
- Ha’aretz: “ANALYSIS / Lieberman’s loyalty oath isn’t unconstitutional, it’s unwise”
(There’s very little coverage of the Terror Bill to be found.)