If it was your job to bring Israel back together, to help it find its balance, what would you do? What can you do?
Israel is powerful and strong, fragile and vulnerable. It is a miracle, but a miracle that can disappear in the blink of an eye. Yet here we are, throwing all caution to the wind, without concern for the consequences.
We like to believe we can insult and attempt to demolish each other, break all the rules and cross all the red lines. We can thoughtlessly ask other countries to intervene in our internal affairs, deplete the country economically and send a message of military uncertainty and weakness.
How is this not madness?
Yet both sides are convinced they are righteous, good and rational. That they are defending their rights. One side calls it defending democracy and human rights; the other calls it defending security for the Jewish people and Judaism.
Will we realize in time that we need both?
Can you, our journalists, come to Israel’s assistance? Your voice is powerful. You define which issues are emphasized. You can highlight the stupidity of a few people or you can help address the deep divisions in Israeli society in a constructive manner.
It is impossible not to be emotionally involved in these issues, but you must check your emotions at the door. You must seek to reflect all the voices in the country in order to help them understand each other and compromise.
What you see may outrage you, but to do your job honorably, you have no choice but to remain objective and understand all those involved.
There can be no victory for Israel if the judicial reforms are stopped. It would be undemocratic, denying the results of the last election and angering more than half the population. There can be no victory if the reforms are enacted in full while half the country is terrified of them.
Democracy cannot be allowed to threaten people’s entire way of life and deny their success in making and defending the country. At the same time, people who win elections cannot have their voices suppressed.
Victory for Israel is possible if everyone contributes to the judicial reforms in good faith. People must be helped to let go of the undemocratic intention of toppling the government and to explore the issues at stake with honesty, respect and compassion.
As journalists, you can platform those on both sides of the debate and their legitimate concerns without demonizing them. You must rise to the challenge of reporting on people you disagree with without despising them.
You can show that there are other ways for the opposition to defend its positions, such as forming a unity government, forging a compromise or waiting for its turn in the next elections.
You can help the coalition become an example of how power can be and should be shared magnanimously, rather than give in to their impatience or desire for revenge. You can show them how to moderate their goals in order to unify the country. You can help them see those areas in which they do not contribute equally to the country’s economy and defense, while acknowledging that they need structures that do not threaten their way of life and that changes are taking place, albeit slowly.
These are times of runaway polarization, in which people take sides without nuance. This polarization takes on a life of its own. It diminishes our ability to see the whole picture, find solutions and play according to the rules. It invites psychological and finally physical violence. Everything becomes justified.
The world in general seems to be going through a cycle of polarization. No nation has escaped it, including Israel.
As journalists, you can easily gauge and help citizens gauge the extent to which they are caught up in this polarization. You should understand and help them understand that polarization means being trapped by an intense passion that expresses itself in condescension, contempt and hatred of those we think are totally wrong. It is being convinced, as the song “I Don’t Hate You” says so well, that half the country is mad, ignorant, hateful, racist, chauvinist, autocratic and fascist; and that the other half is arrogant, atheist, anarchistic, aristocratic, racist and treasonous.
You think those who do not think like you are pathological. You are convinced that only you are correct; that you are morally impeccable. Maybe you are a bit kinder and think the other side acts this way because they are traumatized, but nonetheless, you are certain their beliefs are not valid.
Perhaps it is more dangerous to hate outside enemies and safer to simply vent our anger on each other. Maybe it is, but only if we know when to stop. The moment to stop is now.
Journalists, if you help both sides listen carefully, they may accept that they both need to change. Each side has legitimate concerns and needs. This means they must adjust themselves in order to live together.
A therapeutical concept called “titration” is needed. It means change that comes in small increments and, most of all, with dialogue, respect and empathy. That is where, as journalists, you can work magic.