Democracy in Danger: A Call for Revolt

Israel’s left is becoming increasingly hysteric in its outlook, now openly calling for violent revolt and even civil war

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The left’s slogan for the 2019 election campaign is “democracy in danger.” Everyone and anyone opposing Netanyahu and the right feels obligated to warn us about the end of Israel as a democratic state. 

At the Cybertech TLV 2019 conference held last month, Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and former member of Knesset with the Labor Party, told attendees that “right up until the moment of the election Netanyahu, a political figure seeking to be elected, controls the civil cyber defense system is a clear and present danger to Israeli democracy.”

Among others to sound the same alarm in the past month alone was Labor Party MK Shelly Yachimovich, who said that “we face a national challenge that poses a danger not only to the rule of law, but also to Israeli democracy.” Tzipi Livni, a former Likud member and now head of the Hatnuah party, said that “Netanyahu is the greatest threat to democracy and rule of law, and Israel must be rescued from his grip.” Yair Lapid, head of centrist Yesh Atid party, said that “a prime minister in Israel can’t attack the legal authorities … this is a danger to democracy, a danger to the rule of law.” Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak spoke about a “murky anti-democratic wave,” and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak decried a “danger to our homeland … in a short time we will have either a non-democratic state, or a non-Jewish state.”

These few examples out of many others reveal the distress of the left. Justified or not, the left does believe that Israeli democracy is in danger, to the extent that calls for revolt are now being openly expressed. Until now, the left has tried to change the political scene by using its bastions of power, primarily the media and legal system, to shape the way Israelis perceive the situation. But if anything, after decades of relentless attacks against traditional values, it seems as if too many Israelis have only dug their heels deeper in the conservative soil.

The latest call for no less than civil war came from Daniel Baltman, a professor of Jewish history and Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his column titled “Who will lead the revolt?” published in the daily Ha’aretz on January 31, Baltman sought an Abraham Lincoln-type of leader who could lead his nation into a bloody civil war. “We are a minute away from the apocalyptic crisis Netanyahu is leading Israel toward, which demands the breaking of old conventions and organization of a new fight different from anything we have previously known,” he wrote. This fight, Baltman continued, means a “difficult war,” a “violent struggle” against those who oppose liberal democracy.

The pessimism and despair of Baltman is real and acute enough to raise the banner of armed struggle against those who do not share his worldview. Anti-democratic as this call is, for the like-minded the paradox of violent revolt against a duly-elected government is justified as being the only way to save true democracy. As of yet, however, Baltman bitterly laments the fact that no contemporary left-wing figure possesses the leadership qualities of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. But, he hopes and prays that such a leader will emerge soon, before all is lost.

So far, the police and the legal system have made no attempt to press charges against any one of those who publicly call for (illegal) mutiny, and most likely they never will.

PHOTO: Israeli leftists demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting he is a threat to democracy. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)


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