1. Once again they interviewed Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon on the topic of democracy and the "danger to democracy" that has become a mantra of late. Why is he superior to other, more competent experts in the fields of government, constitutions and democracy? (Radio station producers, feel free to ask me for an up-to-date list.) So what if he established a wealthy, Left-leaning institute that employs quite a few cronies who also have positions in universities or other educational institutions. So what?
Ah, I see, he called his establishment "The Israel Democracy Institute." Now I understand. It's "the" institute of democracy in Israel, which means we don't have a right to disagree with it. The relationship between Carmon, his institute and the media is like an allegory of the impossible reality we face in this part of the world.
Democracy, poor democracy. Whenever the rule of the Left -- in the courts, prosecution, media, and academic sectors -- is weakened, and whenever an opportunity arises to change the one-dimensional political system that characterizes those institutions, from monolithic to pluralistic, to a more open-minded society that needs to exist in our complex "Israeli experience," someone pulls out the humiliating mantra, "You are damaging democracy."
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Remember when people protested against the Orthodox monopoly over the Bible and tradition? The Left is doing something similar with democracy. I'll try to put it gently: It really doesn't seem that the Israeli Left is committed to democracy more than people who consider themselves conservatives or neoconservatives. I can actually detect radical revolutionary tendencies among leftists, which in times of crisis may cause them to abandon democracy in favor of other values they believe in.
Israeli democracy is weakened by such claims, not by laws legislated by members of Knesset. The Supreme Court has been weakened over the past 20 years -- its support among the public cut in half -- because of the legislative revolution that former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak slipped through the back door of the legal debate.
The public saw that as a move to politicize the legal system. Who determined that the values of one person -- however great he or she may be -- are identical to those of an entire nation? Who authorized Aharon Barak to decide for the general public the "right virtue" and policies concerning political and cultural issues that have always divided our society?
Recent events in the Knesset are the direct result of the sin of hubris, which has infected our legal system. Which democracy are we talking about when the reputation of our legal system is at an all-time low, and people no longer consider it a pillar of courage and justice for all? We know that if not for the legal system, "one will swallow another" (a rabbinical reference to civil war). So why aren't we making an effort to strengthen it? The status quo, which leftists wish to preserve, is the true threat to our legal system and democracy. Our faltering legal system cannot be repaired through propaganda and fright, but through more practical means. The responsibility for this lies with the Knesset, among other bodies.
The recent slew of proposals for laws and regulations in the Knesset constitute yet another step on the road to returning the legal system to its proper owner -- the public -- and restoring the public's trust in that system. They represent an attempt to clip the wings of the megalomania that has spread throughout our legal system, an attempt that supports human and social justice, rather than intervene in our national and political justice, which we have been experiencing for decades.
2. Back to Carmon. In an interview with Razi Barkai on Army Radio, Carmon was asked if he thought the High Court of Justice should debate the recent proposals for laws, or avoid them, since they concern the High Court itself. Carmon said, "The court -- and I believe in its integrity -- will have to deal with those petitions. I suspect that the court's defensiveness prevented it from responding the way it should have."
With that single sentence, Carmon revealed the world view of the social circles in which he dwells, and, in fact, destroyed his own claims. The court "should have" reacted in a way that Carmon and the rest of us "knew" it would. Surprisingly though, the court has become unpredictable, which in our language would mean it is becoming more just and attentive, and less pre-determined. In Carmon's secret code, we can put it this way: The court no longer sides with "us" automatically.
At the end of the interview, Carmon spoke about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Barkai's encouragement, and said, "Benjamin Netanyahu belongs to a liberal movement, with liberal foundations. He needs to take hold of the leadership, and use it to hold back the tide." But that is in fact the point: Netanyahu did exhibit leadership, just not the type that Carmon and his friends wanted to see. The Likud's brand of liberalism is more trustworthy. Netanyahu and his friends understand the historical distortion, and the fact that the legal system is embroiled in it, and are working to correct it and restore the public's trust in this vital institution.
3. However, in the Israeli media, there are almost no balanced debates on these issues. The totally one-sided front that is presented strangles and dilutes the public debate, and does not allow even a single positive word to be said about the proposals. There is no complex reality of advantages versus disadvantages. There is only the “sons of light” versus the “sons of darkness,” heaven versus the abyss.
As a general point, why are all the proposals lumped into one basket by the media? Each proposal should be dealt with individually, pointing out its advantages and disadvantages. What problem does the law or regulation aim to solve, and what are its weak points? We would be glad to conduct in-depth discussions on the issues. I am mocking myself.
I know many fair, honest and wise intellectuals who believe the proposals have the power to rectify historical wrongs, and are capable of strengthening democracy. But those wise people receive absolutely no coverage in the media. Why? Indeed, the media betrays its own credo, and has itself become a political player.
Another widespread contention is that in a democracy, the majority needs to consider the minority. This is a good principle, but did we hear about it during our disengagement from Gaza, when then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his flock of journalists trampled the public's will? And did we hear that claim during the Oslo Accords?
The most decisive agreement since the establishment of the state, the poisonous fruits of which we taste every day, was achieved thanks to a promise of perks in exchange for the deciding vote. Was there talk among the priests of democracy about a danger to the regime then? Did the media encourage an in-depth public debate about the dangerous ramifications of the agreement, and did it pursue then Chief of General Staff Ehud Barak to understand why he claimed that the agreement was "as full of holes as Swiss cheese"? Were Benny Begin's warnings given proper coverage, or were they ridiculed, similar to the way Shimon Peres called him "Abu Amar" (Yasser Arafat's nom de guerre, but also a play on the Hebrew word "amar," which can mean "said nonsensically").
As I become more familiar with the seventh power's (a.k.a. the media's) obscurity, I am shocked by how much charlatanism, anti-intellectualism, silencing of voices, and lack of independent thinking there is among those considered top-rate media personalities. There is no desire at all to maintain a balance, hear the voices of people who think differently, and accord legitimacy to different world views, even if they are widespread among the public.
Do you understand why we need revolutionary legislation? The Left taught us that. Sometimes there is no alternative.
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