When the Benjamin Netanyahu diehards personally abused members of the previous coalition, harassed their children in schools, barred their entrance to synagogues, and intimidated them with threats, I thought these were despicable acts of violence that totally cross the boundaries of legitimate protest. But in the end, they achieved their goal - they drove the left-wing members of the Knesset crazy.
Promises of coveted positions for those who would be willing to defect were ultimately the reason that the coalition collapsed, and those who were defectors at the right time became ministers in the new government.
The terror tactics perpetrated by Netanyahu's fanatic supporters against politicians from he other side, marked a violent, dark, and dangerous chapter in the history of Israeli democracy. It must not be repeated. Those who were mortified by such tactics then, cannot stand behind similar behavior carried out by those protesting the government's assault on the judicial system. Violence is violence, even if its intentions are purportedly noble; a violation of the rules of the game is still a violation even if the violators are on our side. Sometimes it's just that simple.
The goal of Netanyahu's supporters was to bully lawmakers and weaken their resolve so that they cross the lines. In the current Knesset, the likelihood of that happening is slim: for now, the united 64-seat bloc remains in power. The protest movement hopes to push ministers and Knesset members toward two other goals.
The first is to throw off the politicians, humiliate and belittle them. The second is to channel energy into the protests themselves: When protesters hound politicians they often clash with police and are even arrested. the viral videos and headlines that appear in the wake of such incidents, fuel the weekly protests.
Let's take the case of Simcha Rothman and the megaphone. A group of protesters followed behind the lawmaker who with his wife and three bodyguards walked down the street in New York City on Saturday night. the protesters called on him to go back home to Israel and free the country from his judicial coup.
After hearing from his guards that they were not able to stop the heckling, Rothman suddenly and forcefully snatched a megaphone from a woman protester's hands. The protesters achieved their goal - the far-right architect of the judicial legislation was caught in a violent act on camera. Regardless of the excuses he gave, in endless interviews after the incident, he was seen buckling under pressure.
Rothman truly has an anger management problem. He experiences outbursts of rage. I myself was a witness to one such event even before he became Chair of the Knesset Constitution, Law, Justice Committee. He later tried to explain himself, but the matter was pushed aside as his legislative push took center stage, but what happened to him in New York was an escalation.
The first rule for any public figure in such circumstances, including journalists, is to avoid physical contact and never raise your hand at anyone. In contrast, I am reminded of an incident in 1981. Then Labor Party leader and candidate Shimon Peres had been at a campaign event outside Tel Aviv. We were sitting in the back seat of his car when a young boy knocked on the window, Peres opened it. The boy did something I did not see before Peres rolled the window back up. He didn't say a word, but when I looked at the car window, I saw a long streak of spit on it and some on the leading politician's shirt. Unlike Peres, Rothman was unable to control himself.
The protesters are convinced, rightfully so to a large extent, that the new coalition intends to fundamentally change the identity of their country. It threatens their values, their patriotism, their livelihood, and their welfare, perhaps even their very existence. These are people who were raised on the principle that in war, the end result justifies the means.
The protest movement is fighting against a government that has lost control. There is no choice but to fight an aggressive, determined, and unapologetic battle. But it must be fought without abandoning the values it stands for.
Even families of despised politicians deserve the right to privacy, and anti-democratic politicians also have the right to freedom of expression. Beyond that, those who test the boundaries must understand that their actions might ultimately destroy everything they had worked towards. Netanyahu, Yariv Levin, Itamar Ben Gvir, and Bezalel Smotrich are waiting for just such an opportunity.
Ethical superiority versus Jewish superiority; national responsibility versus sectoral abandonment; democracy versus religious law; justice versus plunder - the protest has something to offer. The solution is not a weak protest, but rather a mature and clever one.