Usually these are sketches of after elections, when many Israelis pull out their foreign passports or the jobs that will win them lucrative jobs overseas, in an act reminiscent of football fans who, after a particularly humiliating loss in the derby, tear the scarf off their necks and swear that they are done with this team.
Only this time it seems that something really cracked. The feeling that demography is defeating democracy has never been stronger.
“Israel will not be Iran”, I try to reassure those around me, that many nearby are already broadcasting “about the luggage”. My words are not spoken abroad, I sincerely believe that Israel will not turn – certainly not overnight – into a dark dictatorship whose laws are guided by religion. Still, Iran may not be, but also a bad place between Turkey and Lebanon, for example, is a rather gloomy future.
Why did I choose these two? Because no matter how we look at it, there are similarities: in both cases, populist leaders, reinforced by religious priests, incited against an elite that was overrepresented in the corridors of power – and in both cases, masses of innocent supporters, who all in all wanted their voices to be heard, found themselves under a government they did not wish for. It destroyed Lebanon forever. Turkey (which was replaced by an elitist “democracy” Muslim leadership that preserved Western values under the auspices of the military) has changed from one end to the other, and to say the least, not for the better.
The struggle between the right and the left hardly bothers me, and therefore the fact that Itamar Ben Gabir will enter an office tailored to his needs, the “Ministry of National Security”, is in my eyes nothing more than an unfortunate expression of a legitimate aspiration of the majority of Israeli citizens: to start speaking to the Arabs in Arabic.
If the governments of Israel for generations had done this, we would not now need a clown who is also a convicted felon who did not serve in the army, to manage Israel’s internal security, when the only asset he brings with him to the important office is mainly a belligerent style.
And despite the bad impact of this, whoever is pressured and decides to fold from here, is wrong. The first time he is wrong because public opinion is a pendulum. Those who until yesterday were horrified by the deterioration of personal security, are already horrified today when they see who is appointed to manage Israel’s economic affairs. With all due respect to the threats from outside, Bezalel Smotrich in the Treasury and Yitzhak Goldknopf in Housing, plus Moshe Gafni as chairman of the finance committee, are a different kind of threat, which will soon become very tangible. I want to say – despite the feeling that all is lost, public opinion is a fickle matter.
But there is a deeper confusion: the suitcase packers are also wrong when they tie crowns to the heads of the places to which they are thinking of immigrating. Israel, for all its discouraging complexity, is still one of the best places in the world to live. It’s true, it’s a lie, it’s true that religion is involved in state life more than it should be in reformed countries, it’s true that there is a constant security threat, but when it comes to domestic issues, Israel is not fundamentally different from most of the places my friends turn their eyes to: just as Tel Aviv is not a representative sample of Israeliness but the liberal tip Its secular, so is New York, San Francisco, London, Paris – and the list goes on.
With all due respect to Manhattan liberals, most Americans voted for Trump and most Britons voted for Brexit – as a glorious act of stupid national separatism (today they are paying the price, and this is just the beginning). That is, chauvinism steeped in religion is the new-old opium for the masses, one that will always enchant many. My friends who indulged in the dream of relocation, will discover after they have assimilated into their new living environment, that Ben Gavirim and their supporters are everywhere, even when they speak in English.
The fact that the thoughts about immigration from here originate from a mistake – and will eventually turn out to be a mistake, does not mean that the phenomenon should not worry everyone whose eyes are in their head. Mainly because collective disappointment is a contagious matter, which may turn into a real epidemic. Because among us, who are the ones leaving? Those who have an alternative. Educated and enlightened people who are worried about what demography is doing to democracy (there is an internal contradiction in this, of course, so it will be emphasized: what religious demography is doing to progressive democracy), who accept the voter’s decision on them, but decide not to be with us anymore. Their departure could be the difference between a reversible process that is an expression of public displeasure, and a process that feeds itself and spins like a tornado.
Therefore, even as someone who does not really sit on the suitcases, I am anxious about the following: Israel may not be Iran, certainly not “that” Germany, but even if we become “only” Turkey, it will be the beginning of the end.