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In Israel and America, the battle for liberty against the state

“Top Story” With Jonathan Tobin and guest Heather Robinson, Ep. 92

Israel’s 75th birthday celebration this week was overshadowed to some extent by the ongoing efforts of the opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to topple him. JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin discusses the success of those making the disingenuous claim that the coalition’s plans to enact judicial reform is a cover for an attempt to swap the country’s democratic system for religious tyranny.

Tobin points out that the legislation, put on hold by Netanyahu, would make Israel more democratic, not less, and that those who oppose it are really interested in preventing Israel’s nationalist, religious and Mizrachi citizens from exercising power. But what is truly outrageous is the way American Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, have tilted towards the opposition in a way that can only deepen the divisions between Israel and the Diaspora.

Tobin is then joined by journalist Heather Robinson, who discusses a story she investigated about the way a California church that had stayed open during the coronavirus pandemic was harassed and sued by the government.

According to Robinson, the attack on Calvary Chapel San Jose in California’s Silicon Valley “was a real microcosm and a dramatic example of that kind of American spirit of independence versus the big government or you could say public health imperative to protect people at a very high cost to liberty.” The upshot of this case and many others like it throughout the country during the pandemic was that people wanted to be “free” to make their own choices about attending public gatherings and wearing masks.

The conflict caused Robinson to reflect on the way many Americans accepted restrictions on their freedoms in exchange for the perception of greater safety: “I personally think that there should be more respect for the common sense and the judgment of individual American citizens.”

She goes on to say that “the whole ethic of America, you know, that we are a self-reliant people, capable of assessing risk and free to fail—that’s part of the dignity of our lives. But people want to be taken care of by the government. That’s the socialist mindset. And I think we’re seeing more of it.”

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