[Opinion] Lessons from the Israeli Left: Civil Society Is No Substitute for Smart Electoral Politics
In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, many Americans disappointed by the results of the election are looking to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as a panacea to combat hate and preserve the values they hold dear.
Given this promotion of civil society as an antidote to what most Democratic voters see as the bleakness of Trump’s America – I want to urge a word of caution. Do not fall into the trap of the Israeli Left. Do not succumb to the allure of extra-governmental political activity as a substitute for political action and electoral impact. For more than 15 years, the collapse of the Israeli political left-wing has been accompanied by the exponential growth of political advocacy NGOs. The frustration of repeated failures in elections and inability to counter Prime Minister Netanyahu have led to vast amounts of energy and resources being poured into NGOs that advance left-wing agendas, albeit outside the political establishment. Many young activists have channeled their enthusiasm toward existing NGO campaigns and creating new organizations, as opposed to the ineffective and weak political parties of the Left.
What is needed is genuine soul-searching, not finger-pointing, to correct the mistakes of the past and become more attractive to larger swathes of the American electorate. Ultimately, as the Israeli Left has shown, civil society can complement and augment governmental politics but cannot replace it.