A recent article in the Jerusalem Post got me thinking. For all that’s been written about how Israel’s democracy is in danger and is spiraling out of control, the government appears to be embracing technology as a way of increasing transparency and engaging citizens about major political debates and legislation.
The story cited a more updated website and the Knesset’s TV channel as perhaps the two most important. Arutz HaKnesset as it’s called in Hebrew, or the Israeli version of CSPAN, is also available to stream on the Knesset’s website when the plenum is in session. When it’s not in session, you can get info on where you can watch it on cable and satellite dish.
While Binyamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Michael Oren and others have embraced English-language social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as ways to speak directly to individuals around the world, the Knesset’s initiatives show it is committed to involving Israelis in Israeli politics.
JPost reporter Judy Siegel-Itzkovich writes: “One of the projects is the E-parliament, in which viewers can see the plenum and committees in action through video and text. Knesset director- general Dan Landau called the idea a ‘unique project’ that didn’t exist even in Europe. The system, which follows legislative action, is now being developed in cooperation with the cabinet secretary and the Justice Ministry, he said.”
This push relates to something acclaimed author Daniel Gordis pointed out when I saw him speak in the Boston area at the end of January. He mentioned how he was talking to someone who had recently spent a lot of time in Jordan, and that this person said that the Knesset TV was the single most popular channel among Jordanians. The reason makes complete sense, especially in light of all the currrent turmoil in the Arab world. The reason, he said, is that someone like Ahmad Tibi, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Arab Israeli MK (or any other Knesset member for that matter) can get up and lambast Israel, Netanyahu, the government, you name it, and then go sit back down in his chair and nothing happens to him. In the Arab world, you go on a tirade against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, or even Jordanian King Abdullah II, you probably won’t be seen again. In Israel, you wake up the next morning and go back to work.
The right to free speech is something we all take for granted, and in the face of increased attacks on Israel and Israel supporters, we need to make sure our voices remain strong and steadfast in showing that all Israels, be they Arab or Jewish, Muslim or Druze, have a say in their government and its policies.
Last night’s Academy Awards provided another reason to be proud of the diversity Israel’s detractors conveniently ignore. Filmmakers Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon took home the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for their film titled “Strangers No More” about the Bialik-Rogozin school in south Tel-Aviv. This school, unlike any other in the world, teaches 800 children from 48 countries (that’s no typo), the vast majority of whom are not Jewish and who came to Israel along with their parents as refugees to escape war and other human rights violations.