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Opinion

Today, democracy means ‘getting what I want’

In the new order, sovereignty of the people is only acceptable when the right people are sovereign.

Anti-judicial reform protesters interrupt Knesset member Simcha Rothman during a panel on the Law of Return, Tel Aviv, April 24, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Anti-judicial reform protesters interrupt Knesset member Simcha Rothman during a panel on the Law of Return, Tel Aviv, April 24, 2023. Credit: Courtesy of the Jewish Federations of North America.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at: dougaltabef@gmail.com.    

The ethos of the Me Generation has spread to the point that has impacted the very foundations of political theory and philosophy.

The ethos goes like this: I no longer live in a world in which democracy means the right of the people to choose their leaders and express their policy preferences and values through voting in elections in which the majority rules.

This system no longer works because I might find myself on the wrong side of the vote and the subsequent decision-making processes, which means I cannot actualize my desires.

So, something has to change. How I can possibly be disenfranchised? Me, a responsible, sober and above all highly virtuous soul, who feels compassion for the oppressed and takes the side of all the downtrodden of the world.

How can my worldview not prevail? If it did, this would be truly democratic, because I stand on the side of truth and justice.

And those who constitute the so-called majority? Do we really mean to enfranchise and take our cues from the clueless, the less enlightened, the despicables who, given their way, would consign us to a medieval theocracy and rule by autocratic thugs?

So, there it is: The lines have been drawn and the sides have been taken.

In Israel, the result of this ethos has been a wave of anti-social behavior: Deliberately disruptive protests taking place while soldiers are putting themselves in harm’s way. More shocking still, there are calls for what sounds very much like insurrection from former leaders of the country.

The question is what can be done in the face of this mindset?

The Israeli right has learned from the current wave of protests—ostensibly against judicial reform—that failing to field an opposing team is unacceptable. Not to respond is tantamount to acceptance.

So, there has been pushback, with a strong signal sent to the citizens of Israel that the protesters’ worldview has been rejected and those who elected the current Knesset majority will counter it.

Even more important, the principle that democratic legitimacy resides with those who were duly elected by the majority of citizens is being asserted. This does not mean that minority rights will be trampled. But it also does not mean that the will of the people will be set aside because of some “reasonableness” standard or an ethos of “we know better than you, and you should be grateful for it.”

It is also essential to continue to make the case that the policies advocated by the majority are just, humane and thoroughly appropriate for our society.

Not just the willingness but also the responsibility to reach out to the undecideds, those who are unaware, in order to educate them, is part and parcel of a democratic society. This can be done without vilifying those in opposition. Instead, it should be done with an assertion of the need and the wisdom of enacting policies supported by the majority of citizens.

Finally, the bizarre accusations that the majority is seeking a dictatorship, a theocracy, a perversion of an allegedly Edenic situation in which a benign Supreme Court, Big Brother-style, is seeing to the needs of our society, must be countered.

We need to stand such claims on their head and reiterate that the arbitrary rulings of an unelected, unaccountable and self-generating oligarchy are the antithesis of what a democracy is about.

The true guru of the current protest movement is the totalitarian regime described by George Orwell in his book 1984, which gave the protesters a road map to a world of absolute doublespeak.

I am very proud of my colleagues on the Israeli right who have consistently embraced the need and the obligation to preserve Israel’s social fabric, even if it comes at the expense of compromising on their policy goals. This is the essence of responsible advocacy, because it prioritizes social unity over specific policies.

The right does Israel a great service by adhering to the classic norms of democratic expression and political conduct. Faithfully maintained, these norms will see Israel through the current maelstrom and allow us to maintain civility, equanimity and, yes, democracy.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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