Admittedly, Germany may not be the right country to serve as a model for Israel. Not even 75 years after the end of the war nor after Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the occasion of her memorable speech in front of the Knesset in 2008, elevated “Israel’s security as part of Germany’s raison d’être“.
However, what could certainly be a model for the frustrated, disappointed and impoverished Israeli society is what – between September 1989 and March 1990 – brought about a peaceful political reversal in Leipzig and in other cities of the former GDR. Under the slogan “We are the people”, citizens demanded a new political order and the reintroduction of individual civil rights during mass demonstrations. On November 9, 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall had already heralded the imminent end of the dictatorship in what had once been the part of Germany occupied by the USSR. The demonstrations ended with the first free, and at the same time the last, elections in the GDR on March 18, 1990.
One of the biggest differences between the former GDR and present-day Israel is that here we do not have the Stasi. Our internal security service protects us against terrorism; it does not protect the government against the people.
But since reading the following sentence in the newsletter of an extreme right wing Zionist NGO yesterday: “I have no doubt that our employees, activists and volunteers are the elite commandos defending Israel on the front line”, I don’t think it would take very long before here, too, men in dark coats come knocking on doors at dawn. Yes, according to a court verdict in 2013, that group can be edged ideologically close to Fascism. No, I shall not call the group by its name here, since I really do not feel like getting into the sights of that organization!
How did Herzl position himself when he wrote his novel Altneuland in 1902? Undoubtedly as a Zionist. The social system of the then still fictitious state shows evident cooperative traits, though private property exists beside them. The “new society for the colonization of Palestine” regulates all the economic, socio-democratic and political structures.
Herzl’s vision that nobody may run for public office, i.e., not even for government, seems utopic. But when we take a closer look, we discover a picture like what I would urgently wish for in present-day Israel. Nobody would be allowed to make any political campaign, which would lead to his disqualification. The person elected would be the one with the best qualifications for the office according to his/her education, performance and personality.
What connection is there between the personality of a politician and his/her (hoped for and desired) performance? What qualifications are needed? Plato perceived and formulated it well. There is hardly a modern management seminar where he is not quoted.
The following outline taken from Conny Dethloff’s blog is self-explanatory. In this blog, Plato’s approach is explained under the heading “Qualities of a good leader”.
If we add the three pictures, that of the peaceful demonstrations which led to the non-violent change in the former GDR and the demand for highly qualified politicians with the corresponding personality profile and take the risk of projecting them on to Israel of the year 2020, in the middle of the second Corona wave, there arise both rage and hope.
Our government, and in the first place a PM who tries ever more to establish himself as an autocratic leader, consists of “good friends”. Our PM who, like no other, seems to be very efficient in finding ways of holding on to his seat, while his party comrades, who for the most part do not possess adequate qualifications, are helplessly trying to manage their ministries.
They do however possess a quality that is desired and required by the PM: they follow him like lemmings.
It is not only the politicians; it is also the voting public who blindly and naively time and again elect the same people and their policies. They also display the herd-behavior of those small rodents.
During recent weeks and days, since the second wave of Corona came rolling over the country with full force, we see every day how we are being presented with unplanned and mostly contradictory decisions.
Just one example:
Last Thursday July 16th we were advised that starting the next day at 5pm, all restaurants, bars, cafés etc. would be closed until further notice. Only food deliveries and take-out without personal contact would still be allowed. Several businessmen announced that they would not follow the instructions. The economic damages of the first lockdown had not yet been overcome, they said, and their employees were ready. On Friday, 4pm, the next directive was published. In order to avoid cases of hardship, the businesses would remain open until Tuesday at 3pm. In this way, they would be able to use the stocks and release employees in orderly fashion. And on Monday, the third announcement arrived: Now all gastronomic businesses would be allowed to go on operating as before…
As mentioned above, that is only one example. There are many more.
Meanwhile the people have been filling the streets every evening. Tens of thousands are demonstrating in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, demanding that our PM, who besides his mismanagement of the Corona crisis has to deal with his court proceedings, should resign at last. They demand clear directives about future measures that will be taken to contain the virus causing up to 1,900 new infections daily. 28% of the population is unemployed.
So what do we hear from Jerusalem?
They are happily arguing about the dismissal of ministers, in this case the dismissal of finance minister Israel Katz. MK Miki Zohar, agitator and coalition chairman, is the one who loudly demanded this today. Both Zohar and Katz were meanwhile summoned by the PM.
Well, maybe politicians can be calmed down in this manner. But the people who demonstrate on the streets – probably not.
For them, the future autocrat devised another form of appeasement. He has modified the Roman “panem et circenses”into “panem et pecuniam”. Every Israeli over 18 will be given a “candy” of NIS 750.- (€ 200), for each of the first three children, there will be additional NIS 500 (€ 130). The remaining children do not get anything. All in all, this grant is burdening Israel’s budget with NIS 6 billion. Nobody knows where that money is supposed to come from.
A country galloping towards an abyss. The abyss will be deep and will push us, who have already been carrying the red light of the last man in OECD countries, even further into poverty.
After this double crisis, Israel will not be the same.
My rage is directed against those who pretend to be governing us, but are actually only mutually slapping each other’s backs or verbally fighting.
My hope is turned towards those in the opposition who will hopefully, at last, understand that it is their duty to liberate us from the governing ignoramuses by means of a vote of no-confidence and national insubordination.
My hope is also addressed to the people – those who are fed up with being no more than a herd of lemmings and will finally emancipate themselves. Demonstrations are a good beginning!
© esther scheiner, Israel
© translated: Translations International, Herzliya