Opinion |

Time for a Public Uprising

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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A woman wears a face mask and walks with a black flag during a protest against Benjamin Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv, 2020.
A woman wears a face mask and walks with a black flag during a protest against Benjamin Netanyahu, in Tel Aviv, 2020.Credit: Oded Balilty / AP
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

In light of the attempts to whitewash the incoming government, along with the surrender of mainstream media to the “decision of the voters” and the explicit threats to our lifestyle – we need to go on an all-out counterattack: public, moral and most of all effective.

Many have written about the meager preparations of the opposition in the Knesset against the government that is about to take shape. Some propose establishing a new left-wing party, some are busy with analyzing the mistakes of Merav Michaeli and Yair Lapid, and some are attacking Benny Gantz for his – improper – attempts to undermine Lapid’s standing as leader of the opposition.

But even if the opposition functions with maximum efficiency, it will not be able to provide the main response to the insatiable appetite of Religious Zionism and the ultra-Orthodox parties to change our lifestyle. The answer will not come from the opposition benches, but from rebellion in the public sphere.

The United Torah Judaism party is acting as if the creator of the universe has given those “studying Torah” a special seal of approval to insolently declare war on secularism and its values. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the lawyer who defended every rioter and harasser, demands to be the lord of the Israel Police with which he is very familiar for years now by virtue of being a permanent criminal suspect.

Far-right MK's Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich in Jerusalem, in 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Bezalel Smotrich – who without Ben-Gvir would have been telling interviewers today how he helped his party just scrape by the electoral threshold – has no shame in demanding the defense portfolio, no less, and, like Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Viktor Orban, declaring war on human rights groups.

The answer is clear: We need to go to war against this warped reality in which the rioter has become the ruler; we need to stand up against the threat to liberal and democratic values, expressed in the aspiration to put women back in their “natural place” at home and to place limitations on those from the LGBTQ community who are unwilling to recognize their “disability” and are refusing conversion therapy. The answer may or may not be provided on the parliamentary level – but either way it must find expression on the public level.

Well-known figures from the public and legal fields must join the human rights organizations. Demonstrative steps are needed that will make it clear to the out-of-control elected representatives that their election victory cannot give them a blank check to trample the fundamental values of the large public that did not vote for them.

Hundreds of people demonstrate during a swearing-in ceremony of the new Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, 2021.Credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND - AFP

The liberal public must join the Pride parades and turn them into mass events; the young women who enlist in the Israel Defense Forces must demand training tracks, even for combat roles, in which they are equal partners with the young men.

We need to preach against separation, against all discrimination for any reason whatsoever. Men and women must not, even slightly, change their dress code out of a fear of the responses of religious people.

We must also open new programs for people who no longer want to be religious, in order to help Haredim who fear for their financial future – and to provide anyone with the tools to contend with infringements on human and individual rights, which will become more common and more severe.

The struggle for the soul of the people in Israel requires investing energy, and also money, and Jews from outside Israel must join in. Israeli citizens are the ones who elect Knesset members – and only then does the Knesset vote in the government. Given this, citizens must first obey their consciences and morals – and only after that must they obey the Knesset and the government.

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