We are living in turbulent times.
Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned from his post, prompting speculation about whether national elections in Israel would soon be called. Just a day earlier, a ceasefire was reached that brought an end to a terrible day of fighting in which people were killed, hundreds of rockets were launched, and families on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border were living in fear.
This awful, and thankfully short, period was a powerful reminder that the status quo for Israel and the Palestinians is not stable. There is an ongoing crisis in Gaza that must be addressed in a manner that the current Israeli and American – to say nothing of Palestinian leadership – policies are not doing. We at NIF are trying to do our small part to draw attention to this crisis, to protect human lives and rights, to promote accountability, and to take bold action toward a better future for all.
What happened in Gaza came as we in the United States are still processing the consequential midterm elections, in which Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and won 24 of the 35 Senate seats that were up for election. The election also brought significant progress in the representation of minorities and of women.
This is a dramatic outcome. It is the result of effective organizing and sustained efforts by progressive Americans to push back against racism and populism. It reasserts a critical check-and-balance into our democratic system. It shows that change can happen. It doesn’t always happen overnight. But, with ongoing effort, it is possible.
There is one thing about the U.S. election result that I find particularly inspiring: Time and again, the dog-whistles and xenophobic rhetoric that was constantly deployed just to win for the most part failed.
In short, governing and running based on division, on scapegoating, and on inflaming tensions was defeated by movements based on unity, equality, and democracy.
As you’ll read in this edition of NIF News, something similar happened in the recent Israeli election, which resulted in significant losses for those who tried to stoke divisions. The Likud’s decision, for instance, to run in Tel Aviv on a message of hostility to people seeking asylum in the city contributed to their party’s decline to hold only two seats on the city council. Meanwhile, a new movement, clearly identified with activists who spoke about the need to address the needs of the asylum seekers along with the needs of city’s other residents, ended up doing much better.
These are important signs of progress for the foundations of civil society and democracy. They are evidence that sustained effort can bring change. We have reason to hope that movements based on forward-thinking compassion can upend the base and mean-spirited politics of tribalism.
At the same time, we all know that these elections did not bring an end to the scourges of racism and populism in both Israel and the United States. Those of us who believe in equality and are willing to fight for social change, must continue to show the resilience that is required of us.
This is a marathon. It is not a sprint.