The situation is going from bad to worse. Everywhere. In every country, every town and village, every house and every apartment. People who are lucky enough to have a home to stay in should be counting their blessings. I should be counting my blessings. But it’s getting harder with each passing day.
The nightly news programmes on TV here in Israel are full of gloom and doom, with predictions from health and financial experts of the awful fate awaiting many of us. The icing on the cake comes in the form of the almost-nightly harangue from our ‘beloved leader’ telling us of the latest restrictions and attendant penalties awaiting us on the morrow. Each such harangue is peppered with supposedly casual references to that person’s wonderful relations with foreign leaders, great achievements in Israel’s general situation and transparent digs at his political opponents.
The fact that Israel’s current political situation is a mess is due in no small measure to the manipulations and shenanigans of that particular leader. I’m reminded of Dickens’ Artful Dodger, who is both clever, sly and dishonest while presenting a front of being kind-hearted. Another fictional character who comes to mind is one from a satirical series on Israeli TV from several years ago, ‘Polishuk,’ which portrays a politician who is initially out of his depth in the murky waters of Israeli politics but eventually becomes as corrupt and self-seeking as the rest of the pack.
But enough of this Bibi-bashing. The sad fact of the matter is that after having held three general elections within a year Israel is still without a government, so that the acting prime minister is in a position to use his powers to manipulate the political situation, paralyse the parliament and the system of due legal process, control the air-waves and even introduce an emergency order permitting the government to snoop into citizen’s private phones. Hasn’t he ever read or at least heard of George Orwell (‘1984,’ ‘Animal Farm’), Aldous Huxley (‘Brave New World’), or even our own Arthur Koestler (‘Darkness at Noon’). Each one of those seminal works, not to mention many others, provides an object lesson in what happens when the democratic process is undermined or even overthrown because ruthless, ambitious politicians have set their minds to it. The situation they describe may be fictional, but the world has seen it happen more than once.
In Israel’s case, all those anti-democratic actions are compounded and in fact justified by the current coronavirus scare. It provides a convenient weapon for setting aside all the processes by which Israel’s democracy has been sustained throughout the seventy-two years of its existence.
As we watch the dissolution of due legal process and total disregard for democratic institutions we are obliged to remain confined to our homes, but it feels as if we are drowning and the lifeguard has taken leave of absence.
We can only hope that somehow, someone will come to our rescue and enable us at least to keep our heads above the water.