I am very worried about Israel’s reputation amongst her friends and I am sure that as a working Chaverat Knesset you appreciate more than most how important perception is.
That Israel has been the only democracy in an unwelcoming sea of petty despots and dictators is undoubted. But it is not just a matter of saying we are democracy, it is crucial that we behave as one. The boycott law raises serious question marks about the fundamental pillars of our democracy, and one of those is freedom of speech. Democracy, imperfect though it is, is strong when minority opinions are given as much respect as majority ones. That is one of the tests of democracy and we would surely fail it if the boycott law is adopted.
We are acknowledged as the regional military power and one of our strengths is that that power reflects our open society. It is part of the inherent dynamic that makes us what we are and how we are perceived. Our democracy is envied especially by other peoples in the region, who recently have expressed their desire to have democratic frameworks that are identical to ours – free speech, free elections and the creation of institutions that provide the checks and balances – the means of accountability – to their democratic aspirations.
The democratic principles we have sought to enshrine in our country are threatened by a law designed to shut up minority dissenting views. It is unbelievable to imagine that the very essence, the key to our very survival as a people and then as a democratic state – our right and our skilful ability to question – will be removed from some voices that others do not like or do not wish to hear. What kind of Jewish people do we become, if a law disabling that crucial part of our historical discourse is passed? What would set us apart from those tyrannies that have surrounded us? Such a law would be a major step on the path to being just like them. We need look no further than at Syria to see the kind of reflection of what awaits us, where challenges to authority are met with violence and bloodshed.
Most important of all is that in passing such a law, we would be denying the very fulfilment of our own dreams and aspirations to ‘be a free people in our own land’.