Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Boycotting Democracy

The Israeli government just voted to pass a law exposing those who call for a boycott of Israel (or just Israeli settlements) to civil liability (without requiring proof of damages). A Yisrael Beiteinu MK is already promising to sue another MK under the law who called for a boycott of the Ariel settlement. Meanwhile, the Israeli left now appears to mobilizing behind a boycott of settlement goods in order to protest the new law. Finally, the ADL, typifying the American Jewish inability to criticize Israel, released a statement that the law may "impinge on the basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression." Wait ... that sounds like a statement critical of Israel! Perhaps they tripped. Or perhaps the meme that they're unable to do so is stupid.

Anyway, and speaking of stupid, one thing we have to remember is that Israel has a government. That, pretty much by necessity, means that some of the people in the government will be stupid, and it also means that sometimes those stupid people will even gain a majority. I'm not sure how anyone in the United States could fail to realize that possibility -- look at our own House of Representatives. Sometimes circumstances conspire so that a Michele Bachmann is a bona fide political force. One hopes that such times are rare, but one cannot hope to extinguish them completely. And when the nuts do take over the asylum, they pass constitutionally dubious (I'm skeptical this one will survive review by the Israeli judiciary) laws that turn out to be massively counterproductive.

Israel's problem isn't that it has a higher propensity for electing stupid legislators than other countries (particularly those who use proportional electoral representation). All countries have their share of idiots, and all experience times when their electorate wafts in favor of unreflective populism. Israel's problem is that it is more vulnerable than most other countries, and thus is less able to afford periodic flights of madness.

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