I was recently in a nasty Facebook war with someone close, and it got ugly. Unfriending ugly, in fact. And the fact that it became so emotional leads me to conclude that there must be more fueling the argument than just my rival’s vociferously Cro-Magnon political views.
It took me a week or so to figure it out. And it’s something I’ve been wrestling with internally for the past several years: the increasingly-clear line in the Israeli collective consciousness between questioning and acceptance, between conscience and loyalty.
Growing up in the US, I never gave a second thought to the expression of criticism. And after a quarter century in Israel, I’m no slouch when it comes to complaining loudly and publically. In fact, based on the results I’ve achieved on a local level, I’m more effective than most native Israelis at it.
However, once upon a time there was a blessedly blurred line which has in recent years coalesced. Complaining about certain things, to certain audiences, is not just complaining any more – it’s considered disloyalty.
Israel is a microscopic country that is literally an island in a chaotic and hostile region. It is our national cohesion – in stark contrast to the ineffectual discord of our neighbors - that has kept us alive thus far. I swore an oath in my IDF induction, and understand the value of loyalty. But I also believe in conscience, even within my harshly realpolitik weltanschauung.
Here’s the thing: all nations do bad things and some national actions are wrong. Some are wrong because they’re actually counter to national interests, some are wrong in the context of modern political traditions, and some are truly immoral.
But the issue is not what is or isn’t wrong. The issue is can you say something – anything - is wrong, and to whom? I am of the opinion that dissent is always legitimate. In an open society there is never a clash between conscience and loyalty, as long as the words are respectful and don’t incite.
Recognizing a wrong and calling attention to it does not imply disloyalty, my ex-Facebook friend. It doesn’t imply anything except recognition. And so, don’t question my loyalty. Thank me for my conscience, and respectfully disagree.