I know that most of our dignified and thoughtful elected representatives are ashamed that the ignominious “boycott bill” would even be debated in our proud democracy. I know this because so many of them – 35 in total – protested by refusing to show their faces at the vote. Only 85 of our 120 members dared to take part, and 37 of them voted against. I am thrilled therefore to report that the clear majority of our parliament – 73 members – did not vote for it.
I am even more proud to imagine that 35 of my elected representatives thought creatively and decided to stage civil disobedience by boycotting the vote. They were so clever not to state their intentions in advance, so as not to get sued under the new law the moment the roll call was read. And yet their defiance at breaking the law upon its birth rings like a bell of freedom.
What? It wasn’t a protest? They were just indolent elites who ignore the one and only job they were elected to do? In case anyone didn’t get it, I’m not proud – I’m enraged and ashamed that my elected representative would dare not to show up to a critical – or any – vote.
But luckily, the law did in fact pass. And now, people who participate in a boycott can be sued for damages even without proving any monetary damage.
So I’d like to sue Prime Minister Netanyahu, for boycotting the State of Israel – after all what greater symbol of our state exists but our Knesset plenary? He abandoned our state at a critical hour. I can prove the damages, even though according to the law I don’t need to: just look at my tax returns. I pay your salary, Mr. Prime Minister, and you have scoffed at your duty to the citizens, made fool of the hardworking folks trying to close the month in order to pay you. Give us our money back.
Defense Minister Barak, I don’t know if you receive a double salary for your two positions as Parliamentarian and Minister, but if so, I want both back.
Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar, I request that you step down immediately, for defiling your position. You have set a personal example of the worst kind of truancy, making a laughing stock of the whole democratic process. Your absence from this vote has taught a whole generation of voters that they too are justified in staying away from the polls, shirking their civic duty – you did it today, why shouldn’t they do it on election day? Perhaps you are not aware that voter turnout has dropped dramatically over the last decade, participation is down and apathy is up, especially among young folks. But if not, you’re out of touch, and now – you’re partially to blame.
This is not the first time our elected representatives have seen fit to bail out on our lives.
Here is another despicable example: the Minister of Education, again, was absent from the vote about the Nakba Law, which is targeted at state-sponsored institutions (such as, er – schools) that might dare to mark an event in Israel’s history. I’d say that studying or marking the history of this land has something to do with culture, but apparently not – because the Culture Minister Limor Livnat did not show up either. So what is this bill about, if not education or culture? Maybe it’s broader, and actually touches on every aspect Israeli identity, and therefore surely the Prime Minister would have expressed his opinion. But he didn’t. (Marvelously, the Prime Minister has thoroughly embraced the demise of democracy by stating today that “I affirmed the bill,” (Hebrew) as if this self-styled exemption from the vote is anything beyond totally meaningless.)
It is insult to injury that the Education Minister now “slams” the bill proposing Knesset veto power over Supreme Court Justice nominations. Protecting checks and balances, Mr. Minister? Why all of a sudden? When a politician behaves so recklessly on one issue, he loses credibility on all others. Fair-weathered friends of democracy ought not to make it their profession.
For the Nakba bill – 35 voted in favor, 25 were opposed – just half of our elected representatives bothered to vote. Whole factions didn’t show up, so there’s not even a pretense of ‘dog-ate-my-homework’ individual excuses, 60 times over. Independence (Atzma’ut, the Labor breakaway faction), for example, just ran away from both the Nakba and the boycott bill votes.
There are 56 MKs currently in the building as I’m writing this – fewer than half of the Parliament and it’s not even 6pm on a Wednesday. Maybe they’re tired after making all those anti-democratic laws. Friends, some advice: making laws that you can stand by and vote for or against proudly instead of hiding from them in shame takes a much lighter toll on your conscience. Maybe then you’ll be able to stick around past 6pm – or think straight all day long.