HomeOpinionOpinionWhat Netanyahu is doing has even led our staid...

What Netanyahu is doing has even led our staid Jewish Federation to protest

By BERNIE BELLAN The story within the Jewish world that, of late, has been crowding out almost every other story of particular interest to Jews has been the determined effort by the Netanyhau government to emasculate Israel’s Supreme Court – and the fierce opposition that effort has engendered, not only within Israel, but within much of the Jewish diaspora as well.
Has there ever been a time when so many Jewish voices have been raised in criticism of an action undertaken by a government in Israel? Elsewhere on this website you can find a story (https://jewishpostandnews.ca/rss/pro-israel-stalwarts-miriam-adelson-and-noa-tishby-join-chorus-condemning-judicial-reforms-as-protests-enter-10th-week) about two staunch defenders of Israel also raising their voices in protest of what the governing coalition in Israel is doing. The fact that the nature of the opposition that has emerged as a result of the Netanyahu coalition’s dogged insistence on “judicial reform,” as it’s proponents like to euphemistically refer to what they want to do, is so widespread, has to be of concern to Jews everywhere. The reason I’ve selected that story – about Noa Tishby and Miriam Adelson criticizing the Israeli government, is because the credentials of both those two women as fierce defenders of Israel cannot be called into question.
What the current Israeli government is proposing to do is not only to control appointments to Israel’s Supreme Court, which until now have been the prerogative of the President of Israel – acting upon the advice of a Judicial Selection Committee, but to prevent the Supreme Court from overturning any legislation passed by the Knesset.
When you see someone like Miriam Adelson who, together with her late husband, Sheldon Adelson, were two of the foremost backers for Likud over the years, pouring millions of dollars into Likud campaigns – emerging as a critic of what is being proposed – well then, you have to realize that Netanyahu is really taking a chance on alienating some of his staunchest supporters.
While Myron Love may purport to be a fierce defender of anything that the right wing coalition currently in power in Israel may want to propose – and he has been turning to someone named Melanie Phillips to provide a kind of twisted reasoning for that defence, here’s something you should know about Melanie Phillips: Her columns can be found on the Jewish News Syndicate website which, by the way, is free for anyone to look at or subscribe. And do you know who have been the largest financial supporters of the Jewish News Syndicate? None other than Miriam Adelson and her late husband, Sheldon.
Sheldon Adelson also started a newspaper, “Israel Today” or “Yisrael Hayom” in Hebrew, which has been given away free ever since its inception, simply because he wanted to offer a counterweight to what he thought was the excessively liberal bias of Israeli media.
The lesson in all this is that, if you’re a journalist or a columnist, and you want to make some money writing about Israeli issues, the money will be there for you if you take a right wing slant. And, it’s not just individuals working in media that have found they can make money by adopting a right wing position when it comes to speaking out about Israel – there are a whole host of organizations and public relations firms that have found there is much money to be made by doing the same.
So, what are we to make of someone like Miriam Adelson coming out in criticism of the Israeli government for its anti democratic position when it comes to judicial reform? I wonder whether any of those many right wing columnists who are being paid by the Jewish News Service might be having second thoughts now, especially if one of the most prominent supporters of that news service has taken a position that is at direct odds with what almost everyone writing for that new service has been advocating?
As publisher of this newspaper I’m beholden to no one. Lately I’ve been asked many times why I continue to tolerate Myron Love’s extreme opinions? It’s not as if there’s any particular financial reward for this newspaper by continuing to carry what I myself dismiss for the most part as right wing zealotry on Myron’s part.
But Myron’s latest column in our print issue (not published on this website) is really over the top when he refers to another one of Melanie Phillips’ columns (taken from the Jewish News Syndicate) in which she justifies anything the Israeli government might do on the grounds that it represents the wishes of Israeli voters.
Do I need to remind anyone that the National Socialist Party in Germany also won a fully democratic election in that country in 1933 with only 33% of the vote and was able to take power as a result? Once in power, of course, the Nazis began the rapid emasculation of democratic institutions within that country, among which were the courts.
We have seen this played out in so many other countries, where an ostensibly democratically elected government begin either to dismantle or neuter democratically constructed institutions, especially courts, that were put in place by the founders of those countries to protect the citizenry from having their rights taken away by politicians who do not believe in democracy. We saw it with Donald Trump, with Jair Bolsenaro in Brazil, and we’re still seeing it with Narendra Modi in India.
To pretend that simply holding an election where a party or parties win enough votes – in whatever electoral system might be in place, is sufficient evidence that a country is democratic is either hopelessly naïve or it’s cynical to the extreme, when it is meant to serve as a justification for the trampling of the powers of the courts in a particular country.
I was glad to see that even the President and CEO of our own Jewish Federation here actually issued a criticism of what the government of Israel is doing in their most recent message to members of the community. Here, if you haven’t seen it already, is what Gustavo Zentner and Elaine Goldstine had to say in their message, which was issued on March 10, about what the Netanyahu government is proposing to do:
“Unfortunately, Israel has also seen an increase in polarization and tensions regarding proposed judicial reforms. This has sparked complex political debates that are taking place within Israel, and throughout the diaspora, with many of us concerned of how outcomes of these issues will affect our ties to Israel and Jews in the diaspora. While governments and policies change, our support of Israel remains steadfast. Yet, our strong bond and our love for Israel and its people has not stopped us from voicing our concerns regarding those policies, which have also been shared through our agency partners, as well as Jewish Federations of North America. In an open letter to the Government of Israel, our community highlighted that ‘the essence of democracy is both majority rule and protection of minority rights’ which is critical to the continued prosperity of Israel, its society, and people. We are monitoring the situation constantly and will continue to act accordingly.”
As well, you can read a story elsewhere on this site (Mike Bloomberg on Israel’s proposed judiciary reform) about what former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had to say about what is going on in Israel, when he compared what will happen to Israel’s economy if the judicial reforms that are being proposed go through with what happened to Britain’s economy following Brexit.
Granted, most of us are still supportive of Israel – and we draw a distinction between what we see as Israel and the government that happens to be in power at any given moment, but when Israel is tipping toward becoming an autocratic theocracy, many of us in the West – as well as a good many Israelis themselves, are disgusted. One wonders whether, if Israel’s economy does begin to suffer as a result of what the new government is doing, whether the religious parties in the coalition will be willing to absorb cuts to the financing of their religious schools as a result? Hardly likely.
Speaking of cuts in Israel, I was made aware of something that has happened in that country as a result of a story we published last issue about Miles Guralnick, who was trying to raise money for Parkinson’s research by collecting donations for a run he will be doing on March 17.
In that article, I wrote that Miles was a medical student in Israel. I was corrected by his mother, Rebecca Guralnick. (By the way, Miles’ wife’s name is also Rebecca – daughter of Jack and Belva London. Talk about confusing.) Apparently Miles would like to enter into Medicine, but if he does, it won’t be in Israel. Rebecca Guralnick explained to me that foreign students are no longer able to enroll in Israeli medical schools. I checked – and that is indeed the case as of September 2022. It turns out that Israel is suffering from a doctor shortage – the same as so many other countries around the world, and because many students from outside Israel had studied medicine there through the years, but had left Israel to return home – or practice elsewhere, the Israeli government had decided not to allow foreign students to enroll in medical schools there any longer.
I also looked into the nursing situation in Israel – out of curiosity. It turns out that Israel is suffering from a nursing shortage as well. I don’t know if you’re as surprised to learn that as I was. I suppose I was labouring under the misconception that Israel had a first-rate medical system, including plenty of doctors and nurses. Maybe that was once the case, but it appears it’s not the case any more.
So, while there is still much to admire about Israel, there is also a great deal that leaves me shaking my head – wondering where Israel is headed. And, as I’ve noted many times previously, with Winnipeg having become a prime destination for many Israelis intent on leaving that country over the past 20 years, one wonders how many more Israelis might be thinking about leaving as well – and coming to Winnipeg?

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