Israeli politicians are pushing the nation towards civil war

Shoshana Chen

Civil war may be the ultimate price Israelis will all pay if the fresh elections are held at the end of the summer. This troubles me much more than the economic cost of another election campaign.

Slowly the divisions in our society are deepening. From the different sectors we once inhabited, we have turned into a collection of separate nations.

We have become used to everyone occupying their own bubble and not knowing one another, but under the delusional cover of democracy, we no longer bother to even listen to one another.

We have become puppets controlled by power-hungry politicians, whose aggression combined with the toxicity of social media have brought the simmering mutual hatred in Israeli society to a new level. The political deadlock has transformed into us versus the secular versus ultra-orthodox – as if we did not already have enough problems.

Avigdor Liberman has become the hero of the secular right. With Russian-born constituents no longer voting in lockstep, incitement has become the main driving force for both sides in persuading their supporters to cast a ballot for them.

This why we have an absurd situation: while the ultra-Orthodox parties saw their voter tally increase in the April elections (and perhaps because of it) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to support their demands regarding the Haredi draft law, they have become a political punching bag for those seeking to score easy points.

But the ultra-Orthodox politicians would be wise to tone down their own rhetoric and realize that it is possible to stand up for your principles without trying to compete with Liberman’s aggressive tactics.

The seclusion and the sense of persecution felt within the ultra-Orthodox community has made many of them – as well as their leaders – indifferent to how secular society feels about them. This seriously undermines the desire for dialogue on both sides and leads to belligerence and aggressiveness. Reasoned speech is viewed as redundant and inflammatory rhetoric becomes the order of the day.

Against the backdrop of the political crisis, the harsh rhetoric between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox have intensified in recent days. Last week saw the release of images of policemen brutally beating an ultra-Orthodox boy on the autism spectrum. The boy’s blood-drenched face and his cries for his parents to help him led to furious coverage in the ultra-Orthodox media.

Why was he beaten? Was it because of his side locks? It is understandable that the prospect of 240 workers at the Phoenicia Glass factory in Yeruham losing their jobs over an ultra-Orthodox boycott for operating their ovens on Shabbat has triggered rage and fear, but phrases like “the silent majority will soon break synagogue windows” is truly horrifying.

Even justified outrage needs to be restrained when debating on divisive issues. We cannot abandon the culture of dialogue.

With all due respect to politics, we cannot afford to let our politicians gain by nurturing the hatred between us. Not with the threats, we face here and not with levels of anti-Semitism on the rise. We are so few with so much in common, so enough is enough.

We want to continue living on this small strip of land and share it in a rational manner.

Each sector of Israeli society needs to take a hard look at what needs fixing inside. We are in desperate need of a responsible adult to bring order to this kindergarten of aggressive children before they rip out each other’s eyes.

This is the price of fresh elections or at least the threat of them due to an alleged dispute between two sectors of Israeli society, and we do not want to pay it.


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