Israel and the Assault on Liberal Democracy

Jun 22 2023
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Democracy, which enjoyed an upsurge not very long ago, has fallen into a deepening recession—in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, India, the US and elsewhere. About five months ago. the plague made landfall in Israel, with the election of the most radically right wing and religious government in the nation’s history, a coalition headed by Bibi Netanyahu, currently on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, several ultra-orthodox parties, and previously fringe elements of the racist, authoritarian right.

Eyeing its once-in-the-lifetime-of the nation opportunity, it proposed and tried to ram through legislation that, among the rest, would remove the power of judicial review from the Supreme Court, Israel’s only check on the otherwise unrestricted power of its executive and legislative branches, both, in its parliamentary system, invariably controlled by the same party or parties. The result, if successful, would be a Middle Eastern replica of what Viktor Orban, Hungary’s dictatorial Prime Minister, euphemistically calls ‘illiberal democracy,’ but which the Financial Times of London’s Martin Wolf more bluntly and convincingly terms ‘demagogic autocracy.’

The better news is, as stunning and heinous as this effort was and remains, the public uprising against it has been no less surprisingly heartening, massive and determined.

This lecture will look at both forces arrayed in this struggle for the future of Israel, its political system, national ethos and internal coherence. It will describe and attempt to explain the rise of this revolutionary coalition, the immediate and broader causes of its ascent; the spate of legislation it hopes to pass into law; and the massive, currently twenty-one-week-old nationwide demonstrations and protests against it.

Bill FreedmanBill Freedman was born in Newark, NJ, took a PhD in English Literature at the University of Chicago in 1964 and taught in the City University of New York system before moving to Israel in 1969. He taught English literature at the University of Haifa until his retirement in 2004 and, since then, he has taught part-time at the Sakhnin College of Teacher Education in the Arab town of Sakhnin. Bill received an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University in 1974 and was a practicing psychotherapist until his retirement in 2010. Bill has published books and a number of essays in literary criticism and theory, an oral history of baseball fans, and four books of poetry.



via Zoom