Campaign Mud

Campaign Mud

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

When the first Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897, as well as during the subsequent gatherings, representatives from almost all branches of Zionist ideologies at the time were in attendance.  The differences among them were based on religious versus secular, socialist versus communist, liberal versus conservative, etc.  There was no discussion about whether anyone of the attendees was not a Zionist. Non-Zionist did not participate. Among the attendees there was only a debate over degree or tactics or philosophy but not commitment to the ultimate goal.

Now, suddenly in the 2015 election campaign being held in the Jewish homeland for which these forefathers and their ancestors for centuries had struggled to achieve, political parties–challenging each other for the leadership for the next Israel Government–are accusing their opponents daily of being non or anti-Zionist. This type of political gamesmanship has brought the election campaign to an outrageously low level.  It is insulting to all the “founders” of the Jewish State and is a truly disgusting attack on the character and credentials of other politicians with whom you might disagree but whose commitment to the Jewish State is clearly impeccable.  

Similarly, political leaders are now attacking their rivals–who are participating in one of the most transparently democratic elections in the world—suggesting that their opponents are undemocratic or even anti-democratic. In genuine democracies throughout the world opposing political leaders often dislike and even savage their opponents about tactics, strategies, and policy priorities. No one suggests that their political adversaries reject the fundamental political ideology upon which the nation is based.

Israel is a remarkable country and has made extraordinary strides as a nation over the past 66 years. Given the region of the world within which Israel resides and given the enormous potential security threats which the country faces it would seem appropriate that the character and tone of its political debate should reflect a much more reasonable less embarrassing tone.  Americans are certainly very familiar with political mudslinging in election contests, but attacks on the fundamental values of the nation are rare if ever present. Zionists and democrats throughout the world are shuddering as they consider the degrading campaign emanating from Jerusalem. 

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