When Channel 13 hung the blue and white Israeli flag next to its logo in the top right corner of the screen, its producers accused of taking sides in the domestic political conflict, namely that of the left-wing activists who have been demonstrating against the controversial judicial reform of the national-religious governing coalition for the past eleven weeks.
What always catches the eye in the weekly protests are the many Israeli flags in the hands of the demonstrators. All over the country, people are protesting against the intentions of the government, which they believe is trying to grab absolute power. Every Israeli has his claim on Israel, everyone claims his vision of the nation, his Israeli flag. This probably surprised right-wing voters. Usually, the country is decked out with Israeli flags during Independence Day in May, or Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates the reunification of its capital. In recent years, national-religious Jews have paraded through the Old City of Jerusalem with the Israeli flag on Jerusalem Day, which the left sees as a provocation.
The fact that the blue-and-white Israeli flag is now being used in protest against a national-religious governing coalition is new for right-wing and religious voters. For this reason, right-wing critics probably misunderstood when they criticized the Channel 13 on social media for using the flag next to its logo. What, does the Israeli flag only belong to right-wing and religious Jews? Just like God belongs only to the religious and Orthodox Jews? In Jerusalem, I witnessed right-wing voters scuffle with protesters simply because they used the Israeli flag in their demonstration against Bibi and his judicial reform. “Anyone who opposes the State of Israel must not use the Israeli flag for anti-Israel purposes,” one man yelled at the protesters. And that, of course, led to a heated debate.
The Israeli flag is a symbol of the nation, and everyone who feels connected to the nation of Israel hoists the flag and has every right to do so, whether right or left, Jew or Arab, secular and religious. It’s true, in the most recent protests, the colorful gay flags are mixed in between the blue-and-white Israeli flags. Whether we like it or not, they too are part of the nation of Israel. On the other hand, when national-religious Jews demonstrate or celebrate Jerusalem Day, other flags get mixed up, such as the yellow “Kahane Lives” flag. In the eyes of liberal Israelis, Kahane was the champion of Jewish racism. These Jews are also part of the nation of Israel. Among them is current Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, a former follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
I have never seen so many Israeli flags in the country as in the last few weeks. Even if the protesters are, according to the government spokesman, radical leftists, anarchists, terrorists and all sorts of other unsavory things, they have every right to use the Israeli flag for their purposes. The flag of Israel belongs to all of us, just as God belongs to all of us. No one has a monopoly on the flag or on God. “Bibi has lost control and is hurtling into the abyss. I don’t trust him,” said former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, who served five years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his first and only interview, he declared: “If the protesters are anarchists, then I’m a proud anarchist.”
In his weekly sermon, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef referred to the reform of the judicial system and called for an urgent dialogue. “It is imperative to prevent a civil war, but they (by whom he means the Supreme Court justices) must also be told not to interfere in religious matters,” said Yosef. “The Supreme Court must know its place and must not place itself above our religious court.” The chief rabbi also understands the danger of a civil war, of course from his point of view.
In Haifa, former general Uri Sagi warned Netanyahu in his speech to demonstrators: “Bibi, wake up! You are the donkey of the Messiah. You are being used by the messianics and racists to transform the State of Israel into an undemocratic and racist Halachic (ie. religious) state. Bibi, this is not how you build unity among the people of Israel.” He also reminded Netanyahu that he was only 20 meters from Yoni Netanyahu in Entebbe when the prime minister’s brother fell. “We were all dozens of warriors, in your words anarchists and terrorists, who all went to hell, but we were willing to sacrifice our lives to save 103 Israeli hostages. Bibi, these warriors are turning their backs on you today,” shouted Sagi.
So far, the so-called “silent majority” has always been passive, they could hardly be persuaded to protest. But this time the silent majority exploded and this is happening for the simple reason that they feel the judicial reform is not reform at all, but a coup d’etat. Whether that’s true or not, that’s what they feel. And they’ll do everything to protect their Israel, and they show it with the blue-and-white Israel flags week after week.
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