|Goren: Very fully. There is some gap in the sense of urgency between most people in Israel and many people abroad. People in Israel are going to the streets in enormous numbers, because they really feel a tremendous threat to the democratic integrity of the state. It’s extremely tangible—and visible—that it’s all happening at a very fast pace. The government may try to advance this legislation even before Passover, which is in about a month. So it’s happening quickly, and it would be very hard to go back from. That’s why there’s such a sense of momentousness about it.
Out in the international community, it may look different. Some say, Maybe it’s exaggerated; it’s a process; it’s still in debate; let’s see what happens; let’s wait and see if it’s for real or not. So there’s a real gap in how this legislation is being perceived in Israel and abroad. For the vast majority of Israelis who support their country’s democratic institutions, for the vast majority of Israelis who understand their country to be essentially democratic in nature, this issue is something that needs immediate attention and an immediate response—from them and from any allies in the international community who are willing to pitch in.
Valentine: What do you think the response within Israel says about the country’s political environment?
Goren: Our society has always been very active politically—something you can see in the consistently high voter turnout in Israeli elections over decades. But increasingly, many in Israel, across different political ideologies, feel they need to do something more—and that something more has been evolving.
It’s interesting to see how this new protest movement came to life. It didn’t begin with the regular weekend youth demonstrations you see today; it didn’t begin through organized institutions. It began with sporadic actions coming from the bottom up—from people within their own local communities, or professional communities, speaking out against statements by ministers or top government officials who are calling for new forms of discrimination, who are expressing support for curtailing women’s rights, who are advancing anti-LGBT policies, and who are supporting this legislative effort to weaken the judiciary.
So people began to protest against the new government in a very unorganized manner. And once that happened, the protests grew in momentum. They led many people to go into the streets regularly. And increasingly, it’s now leading them to go beyond demonstrations, to identify concrete actions they can take and have an impact with. That’s meant high levels of involvement, high degrees of engagement, and more coordination across Israeli society.
Now, it’s important to note, this isn’t true in all parts of Israeli society to the same level. Specifically, you don’t see many from the Arab participation in this movement. Which is not so surprising. In Arab-Israeli society, many feel that their status has never been a good one, so for them, the erosion of democracy isn’t something new. But in the experience of the mainstream Israeli population, it’s definitely a new occurrence—and an unprecedented threat.
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