Monday, May 03, 2004

I really don't want this blog to be so political but one comment on yesterday's referendum is irresistible. I don't believe that the results of the referendum will matter all that much in the long run. But there was something positively revolutionary about the process. Of course the notion of a one-party referendum is bizarre and only happened as a consequence of political maneuvering. But it all resulted in something very beautiful: teenagers from various yishuvim went out to places like Shechunat Hatikvah in Tel-Aviv to persuade Likud members to vote against the plan. They knocked on doors unannounced. Almost without exception, they were invited in, offered food and drink and given a sympathetic hearing. It really doesn't matter how their hosts voted in the end. It was quite clear that in these homes, these "settler" kids -- dati, Ashkenazi, often with Anglo backgrounds -- were not regarded as strangers or what some politicos call a "neta zar" in the Likud. They were clearly seen as brothers in a common struggle. This campaign was a watershed in Israeli politics because it was a victory for old-fashioned listen-to-what-I-have-to-say politics over high-priced spin-doctoring and father-knows-best demagoguery.

Israeli politics has been so party-centered, so ideologically moribund for so long. I think this campaign signals a big change. I'm waxing nostalgic for grass-roots campaigns these days after reading Yossi Klein Halevy's article about Jacob Birnbaum and SSSJ.


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