The frenzied attempt by Israeli authorities to silence all local reporting about the journalist Anat Kamm, who is under house arrest, is an outrage. But it might also be an opportunity to expose some false objects of worship in Israeli society for what they are.
In university, I had a brilliant professor of Christian history who described the Spanish Inquisition as the violent throes of an empire watching its death draw near. The political and social grip of the Catholic Church was threatened by the heterodoxy of its subjects; terrified by the Reformation, the tribunal stepped up its brutal pace.
They didn't only burn people -- they burned books.
But cracks in the orthodox armor cannot be filled by force. A system that has to bind and gag its critics, imprison them in secrecy, is self-loathing; it struggles to deny its deterioration. The Israeli orthodoxy is cracking. Not the god-fearing orthodox parties in Parliament, but the state religion of Israel. In the 1980s, political scientists Eliezer Don Yehiya and Charles Liebman famously illustrated the civil religion of the country: modern civic holidays of commemoration and independence, holidays that were secular and wholesome. They were wrong on one count: Israel's religion isn't civil at all, it's military.
Israel lives in a cult of securitism, a glorification of the army and security matters. Its believers are suffused with nothing less than full-blown religious awe, including deep reverence for the unknowable aspects of this deity.
This is a completely average observation. Year after year, the Israel Defense Forces receive the highest levels of trust in Israel's annual Democracy Index surveys, levels hovering around 80% marks. Those levels of trust soar far above all other social institutions; in the public's eyes the IDF stands above the press and politicians by a long-shot, but also above the police, the Supreme Court, the president. Year after year, the best jobs are doled out to combat unit veterans. Families push their kids to succeed in the army the way Americans push their kids to get a college education. In the Jewish state, education is an afterthought.
Israel must justify this social investment that dominates and overshadows, without exaggeration, the whole social, political and economic life of the state.
Of course, Israel has a Security Threat which demands that no expense can be spared. But the material and fiscal expense is the least of our problems. The real threat is our appalling willingness to sacrifice all things equal, democratic, free and universal, at the altar of security.
Israel has long since sacrificed equality, from the moment the ink on our liberal declaration of independence guaranteeing it was dry. The fact that Arab citizens don't serve in the Army has a logical basis and there are alternative national service options today. What's illogical is that this institution holds such tremendous power over life. As such, non-participation -- or the lesser participation of, for example, women -- is a recipe for endemic, chronic, savage inequalities.
Israel is increasingly sacrificing the integrity of its court system. Among the most dangerous manifestations is the insidious trend of Court decisions being delayed, ignored -- or actively fought by the legislative or executive branch. Of course, it is often those decisions that pit security against human rights, freedom of press, freedom of expression and other basic rights.
Lately the grip of desperation is getting tighter. Israel has started sacrificing the right to assembly -- over the weeks and months that the Army and police have unapologetically been stealing the right to legal protest in Bil'in, Nil'in, Sheikh Jarrah. Human rights activists have been arrested, shot at with rubber bullets and tear gas, prohibited from reaching protest sites of -- repeat -- legal protests. Supreme Court orders to dismantle the wall in Bil'in have been ignored (see above); court rulings that the demonstrations are legal seem to be irrelevant (see above).
And now Anat Kamm, a journalist, has been placed under house arrest and the whole story was placed under a gag order. That became a farce, when the news was widely reported in the international press , and partially reproduced in the Israeli press.
Are the authorities concerned only about the story she exposed? Allegedly, documents she might have wrongly photocopied were used to report on the Army's violation of Israeli law and Supreme Court rulings (surprise) in executing Palestinians.
But perhaps the authorities are equally fearful about giving attention to the story of a journalist who apparently used any means to expose the information, and inform the citizens what their beloved institution is doing in their name.
There have already been comparisons in the Israeli press to the General Security Services cover-up of the Bus 300 incident: in 1984 bus hijackers were captured and died en route to hospital of their "mortal wounds," where they were taken by the GSS forces -- but only after they were photographed, alive and walking, in the care of their wardens. The censures tried to stifle the incident but the truth was even stronger than the internet, which didn't yet exist, and a scandal was born.
Apparently after a quarter-century, the lesson has been forgotten, so here's a repetition: The state of Israel sometimes does terrible things in its zealous worship of the security god, things it reveals to know are wrong through cover-ups. That has to be stopped, because security is not religion and in a democracy nothing should be above the law. The only real security is the freedom to know.
"Violence has no way to conceal itself except by lies, and lies have no way to maintain themselves except through violence. Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle." Alexander Solzhenitsyn said this upon receiving the Nobel Prize. Israel should take it under consideration.
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place