Regev Responds

Our battle is grounded in our belief in justice, equality, and freedom

This is not the democracy we aspire to

The thoughts of many of our readers, especially in the United States, are on yesterday's events in Washington, DC. It’s hard to believe that those events occurred, and they will make their mark on American society and politics for a long time to come.

US Congress, source: WikipediaUS Congress, source: Wikipedia

With all the importance that must be attached to this gross and violent attack on American democracy, and to the lessons to be learned from it, the challenges facing the USA with the pending government transition in an era of severe pandemic, financial crisis, shattered political system, international struggles and threats… These and other crises will need the attention of the new President and his administration, and they will be followed by new headlines and a busy agenda, which America and the rest of the world will have to deal with.

As hard as it may be to believe that such an attack on the US Congress is possible at all, it is instructive to recall a chapter in the history of Israel’s Knesset, in which there was an attempt to attack the Knesset physically and violently. This was due to opposition to Israel’s political move: the reparations agreement with Germany in 1952. It is worth reading the details of the event, identified with the then-leader of the Herut party, Menachem Begin [LINK]:

“Police headquarters received information that after an open-air meeting arranged by the Herut Party, the demonstrators would try to enter the Knesset building. Consequently, the police received instructions to prevent such penetration and the Jerusalem police received adequate reinforcement.

“At 4 P.M. the open-air meeting of the Herut took place at Zion Square and was addressed by several Herut leaders, including Prof. Joseph Klausner and Menahem Beigin. Approximately 2,000 people attended the meeting, after which they moved in two echelons toward the Knesset where they were met by the police who ordered their dispersion. The demonstrators did not yield and the police were compelled to use water hoses against them.

“The demonstrators then made a vigorous push, beating policemen with sticks and iron bars and with whatever fall into their hands. They also stoned the police from surrounding rooftops. The policemen who were hit and fell to the ground were stamped on by the demonstrators and injured. Several firemen were also injured.

“Bands of attackers succeeded in heavy clashes in breaking through the police cordons and approaching the Knesset, where they began stoning the building. The police attacked the mob using tear gas bombs, but the mob replied with the same, simultaneously making an effort to break into the building from other sides.

In the clashes between the police and the mob approximately 140 policemen were injured. It is impossible today to estimate the number of civilians injured...

“Approximately at midnight the police succeeded in repulsing the mob and clearing the streets. Military units which were sent to reinforce the police did not participate in any action. Ambulances of the Mogen Dovid Adom were attacked by the mob and stoned. The mob severely damaged many private cars stationed around the Knesset by igniting kerosene poured on the roads.

“In the clashes between the police and the mob approximately 140 policemen were injured. It is impossible today to estimate the number of civilians injured, since they had beforehand organized first-aid stations. However, it can be estimated that between 200 and 350 civilians were injured. Altogether, approximately 400 of the mob were detained today in the early morning hours while in buses returning from Jerusalem to other parts of the country.”

Unfortunately, and to our great dismay, a combination of violence and extreme political messages is not so rare, even if this is not reflected in a physical attacks on the legislative institutions of our countries. We have seen this in Israel in recent months, in the democratic demonstrations for the change of government in Israel and in the threat to its rule of law. One of the most worrying expressions of this is the need for bodyguards to protect the Attorney General and the prosecutor in the trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as some senior prosecutors dealing with the prosecution of the heads of criminal crime gangs. In addition to them, the President of the Supreme Court and other Justices in certain cases, for example: the leading Justice in the Prime Minister's trial.

The battles over religion and state in Israel have also led and often lead to physical confrontations, and even Rabbi Uri Regev has received phone calls over the years, threatening him with violence and murder. Police investigation identified their origin to be from a telephone booth near a Jerusalem yeshiva, but dropped the investigation at that point.

This is not the democracy we aspire to, nor is it the will of the vast majority of the citizens of the United States or Israel. We will not accept violence as a way of enforcing opinion or belief, and our commitment to strengthening and correcting the societies in which we live will be expressed in a value-based social and legal battle, grounded in our belief in justice, equality, and freedom.

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