Moti Shklar
Moti Shklar
Photo: Shuka Cohen
Police using water cannons to disperse a protest outside the PM's residence in Jerusalem

To create change, the tribes of modern Israel must work together

Opinion: Organizers' unspoken demands for loyalty to certain ideals have kept many right-wing, ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis from participating in just protests against government's indulgence and corruption, but we must accept our differences and unite

Moti Shklar |
Published: 07.24.20 , 23:11
Where did the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing Israelis who took part in the protests outside the prime minister's residence on Balfour Street disappear to?
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  • After all, they have been affected just as much as any other citizen during the coronavirus pandemic.
    הפגנת מחאה מול מעון ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ירושלים הפגנה עם דגל ישראלהפגנת מחאה מול מעון ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ירושלים הפגנה עם דגל ישראל
    Police using water cannons to disperse a protest outside the PM's residence in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AP)
    Most of the members of these two sectors don’t agree with the prospect of having someone facing criminal charges occupying a leadership role, heading a political party, or managing an institution.
    Why then are they not protesting?
    This severe dissonance can be resolved through a number of insights.
    אופנה אופנה
    Protests outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AP)
    Many attribute their unwillingness to protest to the fact that the main focus of both the ultra-orthodox and the right-wing are issues of religion and state and the idea of the Land of Israel.
    It is no surprise that some of them are busier with the issue of West Bank sovereignty and annexation even during these crazy days when the coronavirus pandemic is running amok. This is true to the core of their beliefs.
    And so, the question remains, where are the rest of them and why are they keeping quiet?
    מחאה בירושליםמחאה בירושלים
    Protests against corruption outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem
    (Photo: EPA)
    To offer at a partial explanation, we can look back at President Reuven Rivlin's speech from 2015, in which he says Israel is comprised of four tribes (religious Jews, secular Jews, ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs).
    We are currently in an age where solidarity with one's tribe is everything and the conversations we have on issues and ideas depend completely on one's affiliation.
    We have to work to change this template. We must abandon the notion that allies must agree on a package deal. Protesting against the government's conduct does not have to go hand-in-hand with a demand for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign due to the criminal charges he is facing.
    ההפגנה בתל אביבההפגנה בתל אביב
    An anti-government protest in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AFP)
    Including political messages in the demonstrations only serves to diminish the validity of the protest and ostracize the religious population and the right-wing bloc from participating in any future protests.
    Furthermore, one cannot expect to see these sectors when the unwritten condition for participating in such demonstrations is a general agreement and unanimity of opinion on all issues raised during the protest.
    We can approve of using Shin Bet technology to track confirmed coronavirus patients without being labeled an enemy of democracy and at the same time speak out against a prime minister on trial for serious criminal charges.
    We can criticize Supreme Court judges and at the same time protest against a prime minister who cares only about his own massive tax rebate as the coronavirus is destroying livelihoods.
    עימותים ועצורים אחרי ההפגנה: "זו מלחמה"עימותים ועצורים אחרי ההפגנה: "זו מלחמה"
    Protesting against the government's conduct in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square
    (Photo: EPA)
    As long as the protest organizers fail to understand this is not a binary world, it is unlikely we will see significant participation of these other "tribes"- most of whom do not see the world in black and white.
    Even the morality espoused by some of the protesters has become shaky seeing some of the protests against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit as "kosher" while other criticism of him from one another "tribe" is seen as a danger to democracy.
    Unfortunately, the media has also contributed to this phenomenon.
    When Brig. Gen. (ret.) Aryeh Eldad and Col. (ret.) Moti Yogev were beaten up at an event overseen by the police, no one screamed about the disintegration of the State of Israel - unlike when the police brutalized leftist Brig. Gen. (ret.) Amir Haskel at a protest.
    עימותים ועצורים אחרי ההפגנה: "זו מלחמה"עימותים ועצורים אחרי ההפגנה: "זו מלחמה"
    Israelis protest in Tel Aviv over the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis
    (Photo: EPA)
    If we want to see true change in our society, change that will trigger a protest movement against injustice and corruption - especially when it comes to immoral phenomena such as a prime minister facing criminal charges – we must make our voices heard loud and clear, without any double standards.
    We should heed the advice of the Jewish sages who said that, "gentle words of the wise are heard."
    Those calling for Netanyahu to be jailed before his trial is even over and those calling for people to come with torches to the prime minister's residence may be good at helping the members of their tribe blow off steam, but they will surely fail in recruiting the best and brightest from other sectors, even if their protest is just.
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