Israeli political discourse must become less childish – editorial

The level of speech in Israel appears to be deteriorating at a rapid rate. Reasoned debate about policies and issues has been replaced by name calling, verbal harassment, and worse.

As Israel nears a final decision on whether to vaccinate children ages five to 11, violent and abusive threats are on the rise, including death threats against healthcare professionals.

But it’s not just disgruntled anti-vaccines who are erasing the norms of acceptable social behavior. We are seeing it more and more in the Knesset, which emanates or is directed towards the deputies and the ministers and government officials.

Although the shouting and boos of the opposition during the speeches delivered by the Prime Minister are a long-standing (albeit rude) tradition, the extent to which opposition MPs and their leader Benjamin Netanyahu interrupted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during his speech the Last week after the 2021 and 2022 budgets were approved it was nothing short of gruesome.

Consider these other examples. Likud MP Orly Levy-Abecassis verbally attacked a Knesset usher last week after she was expelled from a Knesset Finance Committee on instructions from the chairman of the Knesset Committee.

Orly Levy-Abecassis (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“Get your hands off me … don’t touch me,” he yelled at the usher in the televised altercation.

Knesset Chairman Mickey Levy condemned the behavior of MK Levy-Abecassis, saying: “The verbal violence used by members of the opposition has crossed all borders. The Knesset employees will not be the punching bag of the deputies who have lost all control ”, and called on the opposition to allow the formation of an ethics committee, in order to deal with recent troublesome incidents.

Levy also summoned Yamina MK Shirley Pinto to a meeting after calling her colleague at Yamina, Amichai Chikli “a virus” in a television interview.

Later, Pinto told 103 Radio that he was referring to a virus on a computer, not a virus that damages people’s health, but the damage and the intention had been done.

And then there is the curious case of Yamina MK Idit Silman, who told Channel 12 News on Saturday that she had been physically attacked at a gas station last month by a man obviously angry that Yamina was part of the government.

It is an extremely serious incident, but critics, including Netanyahu, have questioned the veracity of the claims, and Silman herself has declined to elaborate. Regardless of whether or not it actually took place, there are enough other examples of similar behavior that are raising the general alarm.

What kind of example is this kind of behavior for the rest of the country? If the leaders we are supposed to look up to as role models act in such disgusting ways, then it is no wonder that verbal abuse, mutual disrespect, and argumentation have become part of the fabric of Israeli society.

Children and teens learn from the adults around them and what they see online. And what they see from the corridors of the Knesset is not pretty.

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid reacted to the events on Monday, saying: “The danger is not just that more politicians are killed here … the great danger is that this is what we are becoming. This violence seeps into all aspects of our lives. On the roads, in schools. If we don’t stop this now, together, that means we have become this: a hateful and violent society. “

He also revealed that he and his wife had recently received threatening messages, one of which expressed the wish that he die of cancer and compared him to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

“The political discourse must change,” Lapid said. “We can debate fiercely, we can disagree, but we cannot stay in the [Knesset] plenum and shout personal and despicable insults and slander. We must stop the hate before the hate stops us. “

The change has to come from above, from the interaction that we witness in the Knesset. The budget has passed and there are a lot of pressing issues that the country has to deal with. It is time for both the coalition and the opposition to focus on the politics and the issues and put aside the insults and street attacks. Our elected leaders should be an example to the rest of us, not an embarrassment.

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