Avrum Burg:
Long Live Freedom and Solidarity

I was two weeks in solitary confinement, soon there would be a general curfew, it was time of joy and worries rolled together. Between the utter calmness of life and my long runs on the mountains around, I rediscovered the harmony I lost a very long time ago. It’s been a while since I enjoyed home so much as I have never been so worried about everything going on outside of it.

I am not so worried about the Corona. It seems to me that the attitude of my circles toward this Corona can be described by personal characterizations. The pessimists became addicted to any scary news, spread panic numbers, put on gloves and masks, seclude inside themselves like a black hole, and listen obsessively to every political gloomy prophecy. The optimists love the spring break forced upon us, read articles that calculate completely different the morbidity and mortality data, hope the world will reboot itself for better the day after. I have yet to meet one who crossed the lines to the opposite camp. Those see a lot more blacks and those – like me – know with absolute certainty that a better goodness is already waiting around the corner of the Corona

This happens all over the world. And here, as usual with us, everything is exaggerated. When I look closely at our reality, I have no choice but to conclude that the great challenge is not the Pandemic but the maladies of the Israeli democracy that might not recover from this plague. At the background of the Illness; Israel went three times in a one year to the ballot box and failed to reach a decision. The distribution of political camps is not right v. left, conservative or liberal, not even fearful of corona or calm and peaceful ones. The political struggle in Israel focuses on one person and his personality – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For more than a decade he has been prime minister and nearly a quarter of a century he is the most significant and influential political actor. His supporters have long since crossed the line of support and became worshipers of the nation’s “father” persona. As the magnitude of the emotion for him, so is the intensity of the loathing against. and he? A brilliant politician, a superb tactician, and an unparalleled marketing agent, takes advantage of the Corona to the end. Lucky for him. Two days before his trial began, the epidemic closed down Israel and “by accident”, also the court that was scheduled to hear his case. Two weeks after the elections in which the majority of Israelis voted for “only not Bibi” parties, he is running the crisis all alone, in the methods of intimidation of violent fathers. I’ve seen it in some families. “Reality is so awfully dangerous”, Dad scares his children. “So you’d better listen to Dad and obey. Because he’s the only one who can save you”. Although many of these fears are nothing but fabrications the tyrant father’s invents in order to control the child, his/her childhood and future fate.

Meanwhile, there is no government in Israel but a single de facto leader, illiberal, non democratic and voted out PM. Parliamentary oversight is weak and anemic. The government exerts on its free population the means of surveillance and geolocation that have enabled it to control the Palestinian for the last fifty years. Yet millions of people say “leave us with your democracy, let Him take care of Corona”. Against them my friends and I answer: “The Corona will pass. But a once blocked democracy is not sure to ever restart or recover”. So now I leave the indulgent isolation, put a black ribbon on my car and to join my co-democrats to fight for our beloved home. It won’t be pleasant. But the hell with the corona long live democracy, long live freedom and solidarity. That’s the only health insurance I trust.

March 30, 2020

Avrum Burg, former speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, is currently NYU-AD professorial lecturer in Abu Dhabi and a recurrent Visiting Fellow at the IWM.


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