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In the Midst of Israel’s Civil Nightmare, I Want No Part of “Being Right”

This is what the intoxicating feeling of being right can do even to people who love Israel—make them ignore the raging forest fire that has engulfed Israeli society.
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March 24, 2023
Protesters attend a massive demonstration in front of the Israeli parliament as opposition leadears call for a nationwide strike and protests all over the country against the Israeli government on February 13, 2023 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

It’s extraordinary to think that as Israel burns in rage over the judicial overhaul, as the society is torn apart like never before, as 500,000 Israelis continue to hit the streets in protest and even the Defense Minister shows signs of rebelling, and as our enemies are celebrating our unprecedented division, many Jews on the right can’t bring themselves to say: “OK, enough. We can’t afford a civil war. The government should just pause the reforms and negotiate.”

Why can’t they utter those simple words? Because their minds are flooded with one thought: They’re 100 percent sure that they’re 100 percent right.

This is what the intoxicating feeling of being right can do even to people who love Israel—make them ignore the raging forest fire that has engulfed Israeli society.

Instead of pouring water on the blaze, they spew their usual talking points bashing the left and urge the locomotive of judicial overhaul to keep charging ahead. In this view, anyone who disagrees with them—even hard-core Zionists who have fought for their country—is 100 percent wrong. There is no give. There is no middle ground.

But let’s grant, for the sake of discussion, that those pro-overhaul voices are indeed 100 percent right, which is why they’re digging in their heels. That would be like seeing your children in a horrible fight and instead of calling for a ceasefire, you escalate the fight by taking sides based on who you think “is right.” What kind of victory is that?

In the midst of a family fight that is spinning out of control, who the hell cares who’s right and who’s wrong? Confronted by such destructive ugliness, all one should care about is calming things down and reminding both sides that they’re still one family.

Let’s not kid ourselves: The Jews of Israel, just like the Jews of America, have never been very good at acting like one big family. We’ve been fighting and arguing for as long as I can remember.

What is happening now in Israel, however, is not just fighting and arguing. The provocative judicial overhaul is the equivalent of writing a Constitution for the whole country, which unilaterally establishes the fundamental rules of how power will be shared. The governing coalition decided that a tiny majority in the Knesset gave them the power to do all that.

In the face of this legal revolution, a significant segment of the population is rising up and demanding to be heard. This includes President Isaac Herzog, who advanced a good-faith proposal to negotiate a fair compromise and was rejected out of hand.

But let’s go back to my key point: Let’s grant that Herzog is 100 percent wrong and those pushing for the overhaul are 100 percent right. Are those supporters happy to see Israeli society tear itself apart? As they watch their country burn, are they comforted by thinking about how right they are?

As they watch their country burn, are they comforted by thinking about how right they are?

I don’t know about you, but when I see my brethren in Israel at each other’s throats, I find zero consolation in “being right.”

This new government, in fact, is so sure of itself that when it realized it had started a national fire, it poured oil on the flames, and there’s no indication it will stop any time soon.

If that’s what being right does to people, I want to be wrong all day long.

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