It’s hard for me to put into words how angry I am with the recent decision of the ministerial committee for legislation to support bills intended to prevent foreign funding of left-wing civil society in Israel.
When they teach you of the development of parties in Political Science 101, you learn how parties started out as elitist organizations, which developed into mass parties with the rise of labour movements, and then went through a process of degeneration into skeleton parties that are only really active within society during election campaigns. The problem with skeleton parties is that it’s hard for them to get funding. So they evolve into what is called the “cartel party model”. Actually, it’s more of a “cartel party system model”, where the different parties join hands to create a legislative web that keeps them in power and prevents new competition from entering the field. Funding becomes dependent on the state, and obstacles are put in place for new parties to organize and run for parliament.
In Israel we are now seeing something new: a cartel government. A government that abuses its power to prevent the opposition from posing a real electoral threat on it, unless they accept the government’s own ideology, by pain of severe economic damage to them and to organizations dear to them. In essence, the government is saying that organizations that do not serve the its interests or those of wealthy capitalists, cannot exist financially. This is true of the new laws against donations to organizations, and it is true of the boycott law.
A democracy is a system based on legitimacy. Legitimacy in democracies comes from the recognition that the system is fair, that a minority can become the majority through persuasion. That, after all, is the limitation Israeli Arabs are facing: they can never become the majority, and therefore, as long as the system discriminates them based on their nationality, they cannot view it as legitimate.
But with the new laws, another group is excluded by Israeli democracy. Now human rights organizations are also not allowed to try and convince the public of the value of their values. They are forbidden, effectively, from trying to persuade the public, to reveal reality as they perceive it, and try to become a majority that will alter public policies in those areas dear to them. If previously Israel was democratic for its Jews and Jewish for its Arabs, now it isn’t even that anymore. Not it’s Jewish to its Arabs and Rightist to its Jews. A state of all its Rightists.
Neither Your Honey Nor Your Sting
The EU, US and Canada must react forcefully to this decision by Israel. They must inform Israel that if their money smells so bad when given to civil society, then it smells just as bad when it is given to the state or its businesses. All foreing aid to Israel must be suspended immediately. Trade agreements too. Israel must be banned from the OECD. Sanctions should be placed on all donations by private donors to Israeli organizations – thus at least leveling the playing field between right- and left-wing organizations in Israel. If Israel doesn’t want the sting, it can’t have the honey, the world must say to Israel.
If Israel is boycotting the money of the international community, the international community must boycott Israel. Plain and simple. We can’t keep playing this game of touch-and-go democracy. If the cartel government takes away from the opposition the most basic democratic tools allowing it for fight for its beliefs legally, then we have no alternative but to fight illegally. Bring it on.
(No, without violence.)