Reinventing the Jewish state / De Dokwerker, Amsterdam

Speech  in Amsterdam during demonstration 'Democracy for everybode' in Israel

I have ten grandchildren. Eight of them are living in Israel. Each time there is a rocket alarm, they are very, very afraid, and I am afraid for them.

But not only for them. I’m afraid for so many other people, in Israel and in the Occupied Territories, where the number of victims is incomparably higher. And this madness goes on and on. Each time the vicious circle is becoming more vicious. We all agree that this can only stop if there is a lasting solution for the tragic and seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The current Israeli government will not bring a lasting solution, but only lasting conflict. The racist, supremacist, theocratic fanatics and even outright fascists on whom depends this government have their own solution: annexation. That means: the best guarantee for tragedy. The current wave of unpunished assassinations, destruction, assaults, violence and provocations in the West Bank can be the prologue of this catastrophe.

So there is much more at stake than the judicial overhaul. Everything about this project to destroy the independency of the judiciary has already been said: it is thoroughly antidemocratic, it denies the rights of the minority, it establishes the dictatorship of a police state, and it’s very bad for everything: for Israel’s economy, its own security, its international prestige, its vital relations with the United States, and the support of the American Jewish community.

But all this seems to be less important than the goals of this government, which owes its existence to the desperate need of the Likud leader to stay out of jail. He cannot afford to refuse the extremist demands of his allies, because that could be his political end.

I think the events in Israel are part of the global polycrisis we’re living in. Democracies are being hollowed out from within, societies are extremely polarized, reconciliation seems impossible, violence has become commonplace, neoliberalism turned out to be a resounding failure. And Israel is also part of a dangerous confrontation between the superpowers, and of most of the other big global crises.

Never in its history Israel has seen a protest movement so vast and so persistent as the one we are witnessing the last five months. Yesterday’s demonstrations were, as always, completely peaceful. Nevertheless, the participants are called terrorists, anarchists, leftists, worse than BDS - but don’t ask by whom they are called so.

What to do? It seems the Jewish State has to be reinvented, because in this way it doesn’t function anymore. Jewishness, the Holocaust and a common language have not been enough to create a feeling of national unity and solidarity. Unity and solidarity are not possible with people who spread division and hatred. These extremists must be thrown back to the political fringes, and their leaders have to be brought to justice.

The only solution will come from democracy. Democracy for everyone, the words on the banner of this demonstration. A real democracy, in which the Mizrahi are not treated as second-class citizens. A real democracy, in which Arab Israelis have full rights and will not be excluded from pro-democracy manifestations. A real democracy, that doesn’t ignore anymore the ‘elephant in the room’ that nobody wants to see, although it is at the root of Israel’s biggest drama: the occupation.

But what to do now? Make clear that the current extremist policy will only result in disaster for everyone. That even the existence of the State is in danger. That there is no room for the leadership of a man who wants to destroy the judiciary, only to avoid justice and to keep clinging to power. There are signs of a rebellion in the Likud ranks, and the polls indicate that elections now would bring a resounding defeat for the current government coalition.

So there is hope for better times. But please, politicians of Israel, finish your eternal bickering and slinging mud to each other, use the moment to establish a real democracy, and open your eyes for the elephant in the room. Do it not only for my eight grandchildren, but also for yourself and, above all, for peace.

zondag 18 juni 2023