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Israel: democracy?

On the pages of most Israeli Internet news sites, thousands of comments are posted every week accusing anyone who does not agree with the Netanyahu government of being an anti-Semite and any Jew who voted for Obama and supports a two-state solution is called a self-hater and enemy of the Jewish people. This right-wing drumbeat has permeated Israel, with former heads of the Shin Bet, Mossad, former generals in the IDF and former and current members of the Knesset called traitors and the enemy because they do not agree with Netanyahu. Former Prime Minister Rabin has been called a traitor to his people, as has former Foreign Minister Zippi Livni, and former Defense Minister Barak, who is the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history. When Moshe Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, publicly stated his opposition to bombing Iran, his loyalty to Israel was questioned and even he was called a traitor by thousands of people. Justices on Israel’s Supreme Court have been called traitors by the far right and religious. This is total madness, and American Jews must not tolerate it. We must speak out against it, because it will wind up destroying Israel in the end.

Israel’s supporters love to claim to the world that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. If that is so, why do these same people engage in character assassination, debasement and demeaning of anyone who dares to criticize the policies of the Netanyahu government? Why is it wrong for former and current generals in Israel’s military and members of Israel’s security agencies to criticize bombing Iran? Why is it wrong for American Jews and many Israeli citizens to support a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?

When Bush and Cheney were in office anyone who questioned parts of the Patriot Act because they might not be constitutional was called a traitor and supporter of bin Ladin, which was a disgusting, horrible slur. The same right-wing fanaticism is on display in Israel. Either you agree 100 percent with the current Israeli government or else you are an anti-Semite or, if you are a Jew, a self-hating Jew. No sane person can accept this, but yet it is getting worse by the day. More and more people are being silenced and more and more people are being slurred and have their reputations destroyed with accusations of anti-Semitism.

Any country that tries to silence its critics is not a democracy. What once made Israel so special was the fact that spirited debate and disagreements were a vital part of its democracy. Attacking someone’s Jewishness, their character and trying to destroy them is not what the founders of Israel ever envisioned. Impugning peoples motives, their integrity, and branding them an anti-Semite simply because they oppose policies of the current Israeli government is repulsive and must be resisted by all those who truly love Israel.

Mark Jeffery Koch

Cherry Hill, NJ

Jan 11 2013 - 11:03am