2023: The Eclipse of Democracy

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What follows is a first draft of the opening pages of a short story I am working on.

The narrative is written in the first person

As the title suggests, this (fictional) short story is based a couple of years hence in 2023 and follows the unraveling of Israeli society following the power-grab by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The background scenario sees Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the backing of his lackeys in the Knesset, hijacking the presidency following the term-end of President Reuven Rivlin.

In installing Netanyahu as President, his Knesset minions further push through legislation placing all power and decision making in the hands of the President. Netanyahu then declares a State of Emergency, introduces a form of Martial Law enforced by the Black Shirted S3 organization, and suspends the Knesset. Several of Netanyahu’s senior Knesset lackeys are appointed to a rubber-stamping cabinet.

Within days of grabbing power, the suspension of the Knesset and all other democratic rubrics, the round-up, and detention of dissidents, the so-called enemies of the state, and members of the media begin.

And so Israel’s democracy is trampled on, the flame is almost extinguished, but not a flicker remains.

Far fetched, maybe, but some see this scenario partly coming to play out in the not too distant future.

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It was just a few minutes after 4:00 am, I know this for a fact because I had been listening to the news on the radio. News is perhaps the wrong word given that the people of Israel are fed a diet of achievements carried out by President Netanyahu and his cohorts.

The media, in all its numerous forms, is controlled by a rod of iron welded by Minister Miri Regev. Nothing which is not wholesome, in praise of the Netanyahu presidency or family can be published, broadcast, or distributed. Censorship is total. This includes the vetting of music, movies, theater, and the complete range of what is termed entertainment to ensure that nothing “non-Israel” is included. Minister Regev’s word is final, as many journalists now in detention can confirm.

Since grabbing the presidency 18 months earlier, following the crises brought about by the dissolution of the unity government, President Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled as a totalitarian dictator. He claimed to have taken the steps because Israel was being undermined by the left leaving the country ungovernable. And that he, heeding the call of the majority of citizens, had no choice but to step in and seize the reins of power. That the Knesset has been suspended, along with political parties and the introduction of emergency powers that control the Internet and social media use, censor newspapers and broadcasting in general, seems to have been overlooked as Netanyahu’s allies consolidate power.

So, I was not that surprised when a few minutes after 4:00 am, my apartment door was broken down and the Black Shirted para-military brutes of the State Security Service, S3, as they had become known, poured in. S3 was not the Shin Bet of past years, rather, a militia of rightwing thugs under the direct control of the heir apparent, Yair Netanyahu. The core of S3 is built on the far-right La Familia supporters of Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, Although exact numbers were unclear, I and others of the “dark web” estimated the force at ten thousand strong. And I, as many thousands of others have, already felt the strong arm of S3.

With S3, there are no good mornings, greetings, requests to help with their inquiries. S3 specializes in pure brute force, zero sophistication.

There is no point in fighting the S3 brutes; they live for the opportunity to beat anyone to an inch of their lives. All you can do is go with the flow, ride the punches and kicks, and keep your mouth firmly shut. In short order, I was handcuffed, hands behind my back, leg-irons around my ankles, and pushed to the floor. From this position, I watched as my captors ransacked my apartment. In addition to my PC, two laptops, cellphones, and tablets, anything they came across of even questionable value they pocketed. Pictures, photos were smashed, chairs, mattresses were cut open, curtains torn from their railings. In the space of fewer than five minutes, my apartment was completely trashed. And I was manhandled down three flights of stairs, why use the evaluator when its just so much more fun dragging someone down the stairs. If my neighbors were inquisitive as to the uproar, they know better than to interfere, lest they join me and many thousands of others being held in detention.

Out in the street, I was bundled into the back of a van, face-down on the floor, my back was used as a stool by four, five, or possibly six pairs of boots. And naturally, I felt not only the bumps in the road but the almost constant hammering of boots on my back.

What was my crime, what sin against our dictatorial leader had I committed? The truth was that in the eyes of the regime I had written and published, via the Dark Web, “fake news”.

Some weeks earlier I had started work on a piece that I had given the working title “My rendezvous with destiny”.

The line is taken from an address that US President Roosevelt gave in June 1936 to the Democratic (Party) National Convention.

I was trying to work the line into a piece equating Stalin to President Netanyahu. With hindsight, I should have chosen a far less contentious example, Stalin was a step too far. Maybe I should have looked to the North Korea ruling Kim dynasty instead? (As difficult as it is, keeping a sense of humor, even if it’s black, helps to keep the spirit, and body alive. Put it another way, don’t let the bastards beak you.)

My opening paragraph read “Stalin, we know, purged hundreds of thousands of his countrymen due to his paranoia. Under Stalin, the process was called "repression", the term officially used to describe the removal and prosecution of people considered counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people by the then leader of the Soviet Union.

The facts are not wholly correct. While the various “show trails” during his reign did result both directly and indirectly in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens, on Stalin’s orders it’s estimated that twenty million may have perished. This is of course without the ravages of war.

The gist of what I was trying to say was, just like Stalin, and dictators throughout the ages, Netanyahu is paranoid about the people around him. Add to this volatile mix the media, the “Left” and anyone and everyone he perceives as not 100% agreeing and supporting him, and its any wonder that we are in the mess we are in.

In the 1930s, the question was often posed by politicians in the UK, US, France, and elsewhere, outside of the Soviet Union “why not remove one man rather than that one man, no matter how benevolent he may appear, removes thousands?

And I, in turn, posed the same question with regards to Netanyahu. I was not under any circumstances advocating violence, rather peaceful demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, much as Mahatma Gandhi used against the British in India, or Martin Luther King spearheaded in the US.

Although the piece was far from finished and certainly not published/distributed on the “Dark Web” or elsewhere by me, the authorities somehow found out that I was writing what might be considered a subversive piece. Believe me when I say that there many hundreds, if not thousands who are far better writers than me. That said, I am proud to be counted in their august number and doing my insignificant part to fight tyranny and the suppression of democracy.

With civilian and military prisons overflowing with detainees, and the army reluctant to house additional numbers on military bases, in major cities around the country, S3 commandeered football and sports stadiums as holding pens.

(It’s widely known, although Minister Regev’s censorship committee tried to block the leak, that the police and army were reluctant to support Netanyahu’s power-grab. While some commanders and units did side with Netanyahu, most have opted to stay neutral, as far as possible. This has been achieved by a non-violent purge of senior offices in both forces. Due to S3 tactics, there is little for the police to do beyond traffic control; crime investigation is handled by S3 while the army is confined to its bases or border controls. Working on the principle of divide and rule, the annexed Jordan Valley is patrolled by Israeli border police units made-up exclusively of Druze and Bedouin.) The state of emergency has also temporarily closed much of the incoming tourist business. Following on from the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and 2021, the tourist industry has been decimated.)

The van came to a stop, the rear doors were thrown open and I was none too gently pulled legs first to the ground. Standing upright, actually, I was dragged to my feet, it came as a pleasant surprise to find myself at the gates to Bloomfield Stadium rather than the grim Tel Aviv headquarters of the S3.

I also counted myself lucky that I had been dressed, including shoes, when S3 came calling. Many, if not most are dragged off by S3 as they are, that includes both males and females in various forms of dress or undress.

Once processed, I was pushed into the general population of the stadium which following renovations has a capacity of 29,000. As dawn broke over Tel Aviv, I went looking for friends and acquaintances. There was after all no way of knowing how long I or any of us would be held in detention.

All rights reserved to Murray Lewis Freeman

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