The never-ending impending collapse of Israeli democracy…or not

By Jonathan Greenberg, Originally published in The Hill

Last weekend, the headquarters of a left-wing Israeli political organization caught fire. The hand-wringing started right away. Other leftist organizations put out emergency fundraising appeals exclaiming that the office had been “burned down” – further “evidence” of nefarious right-wing Israeli incitement against and intimidation of the political Left that jeopardizes the foundations of Israel’s democracy!

Except that, in the light of day, it was found to have been an electrical fire. What an incredibly appropriate metaphor: after blaming its enemies, the Israeli Left is confronted by the fact that its own faulty wiring caused the problem.

Recently, Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an op-ed by its Washington editor, Chemi Shalev, calling for the American Jewish community to jump on the “Israel is losing its democracy” bandwagon.   Even the Obama administration is getting in on the act. Just this week, U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro chimed in about a series of proposed laws under consideration that would force Israeli NGOs (non-profit organizations) to disclose funding from foreign governments. Shapiro lectured Israelis that “a free and functioning civil society is an essential element of a healthy democracy, and that governments must protect free expression and peaceful dissent and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.”

Former president Bill Clinton, speaking last fall at the Tel Aviv memorial rally for assassinated Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, said that he, too, feared for Israel’s democratic future. He didn’t want to “see Israel come to a democratic crossroads where it has to decide whether it is a Jewish state or a democratic state.”

Things must be pretty bad, huh?

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