Friday, March 31, 2023

The cost of Internal Strife

The most effective BDS campaign targeting Israel may be unfolding before our very own eyes. The objective of the adversaries of Israel with BDS has had limited success. Still, the current kneecapping of Israel in the realm of security, economy, and diplomacy is going full throttle. In the greatest of sad ironies, this campaign has emerged internally from a growing number of Israeli Jews. Fueled by the dissatisfaction with the proposed judicial reform by the majority of elected representatives in the Israeli Knesset, this opposition has morphed into a force that is undermining the foundations on which Israel rests.  To be clear, I am not arguing in favor of judicial reforms. I am observing that there have already been consequences that have been harmful to Israel, and who knows how far this can unravel. Recently, a political opponent of the Israeli Prime Minister called upon the allies of Israel to boycott the elected leader of Israel. The PM of Israel visited the UK in London, and upon his arrival at 10 Downing was heckled by Israelis, declaring, "everyone knows that Bibi is a criminal!"  Some hi-tech companies have chosen to take their funds and assets out of Israel and relocate to countries that include Spain and Portugal. A few centuries after Jews were burned to death for not abandoning their faith and accepting Christianity, some Jews are choosing to return there because they do not like the judicial reform proposals in Israel. Most damaging is the refusal of many reservists in the IDF to serve. In normal circumstances, this would be treated as insubordination, but now some are reacting as if these soldiers are heroes for threatening not to serve. Israel's neighborhood has enemies that wish to destroy the Jewish State regardless of how judges are nominated. On the diplomatic stage, the leadership has been upbraided by its allies. Consider the following. French President Emmanuel Macron told the Israeli PM that Israel risks disconnecting itself from democracy if it pursues the planned judicial reform. Macron apparently had no issues lecturing Bibi, even though he chose this month to bypass French Parliament to force through a highly unpopular bill raising the retirement age in France. The UN has weighed in and declared that the reforms would drastically undermine the rule of law in Israel. This statement was especially rich coming from the UN Human Rights Council, which has autocratic and repressive regimes among its ranks. Who can blame the world for such a reaction when a growing number of Israelis publicly declare for the world to hear that Israel is turning into a dictatorship?  As Pesach is celebrated this week, it is worth remembering one of the main lessons of this season. An individual could not bring the Pesach offering. It must be brought as a group. Therefore, one had to seek out other people and connect with the group in order to celebrate Pesach. The larger idea is that we as a people must realize that despite our differences, we are one people and our similarities outweigh our differences. Our adversaries, historically and today, make no distinction as to which party one vote for or what one feels about the Israeli Supreme Court. There was a heartwarming anecdote that gives me some hope. The protestors opposing the reforms arrived in Bnei Brak, a predominantly Orthodox city, to demonstrate and challenge the residents on this contentious issue. What happened next, however, nobody expected.  The city's Orthodox Jews greeted the demonstrators with drinks and warm cholent, Jewish music was played, people danced, and the demonstrators' reacted positively to the overtures. It was the first time for many of those present that they met people who opposed their own lifestyle. Orthodox and progressives finally spoke to one another. It just took a bowl of cholent and some music to break down the barriers.  As we are on the cusp of Pesach, it may be worthwhile to recall the heartwarming story that occurred in Bnei Brak. The alternative path of division and discord will yield a price that will be unbearably painful to bear. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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