When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Beyond Bibi: Israel's Crisis Is Part Of The Wider Siege On Democracy

The Israeli government's aggressive bid to curb judicial powers fits into a bigger picture of the degradation of liberal democracy worldwide.

Photograph of protesters during an anti-judicial overhaul demonstration outside Jerusalem's Knesset.​

Anti-government protests in Jerusalem on July 24

Eyal Warshavsky/ZUMA
Marcelo Cantelmi


The institutional storm that has all but paralyzed Israel for months is an extreme illustration of a wider distortion of the relative places of power, institutions, the law and minorities in public life. A typical component of this democratic deformation is the recurring bid to curtail the judiciary and its mediating powers.

Extremist legislators in Israel, while a minority in terms of seats, have taken hold of the public agenda and are insisting on a less-than-novel idea that unelected judges must not be allowed to intervene in political decisions or the business of legislation.

In other words, state institutions cannot question or check elected officials. It is a grotesque idea loved by populists of the Left and the Right, notably in our own region. As a strategy, it has been implemented in states such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, though the Israelis will not want to be compared with such murky regimes.

Its roots go beyond Israel and back to the 18th-century French revolutionaries who wanted a single source for the law and power. Wittingly or not, they were showing the same absolutist view of governance as the monarchy they opposed for ruling its subjects by divine right. Today, "the people" has become the source of an unquestionable right to govern people without objections, rather like a monarch!

The thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau was one of those in France who cited the "general will," not institutions, as the source of power. He saw the will of the people as far above any concerns for personal liberty, and the populists of our time would agree with him.

Checks and balances

Beyond Israel, arguments in favor of curbing the judiciary have become dangerously common and should certainly spark our concern as citizens. Here in Argentina, politicians have come to question the concept of the separation of powers.

That too is the legacy of an 18th-century thinker, the more conservative Charles-Louis de Montesquieu, who wanted to see powers controlling powers. Hannah Arendt, a student of dictatorships, noted that the Founding Fathers of the United States deftly avoided the "revolutionary" idea of sourcing all power in the so-called will of the people.

The mass protests in Israel are extremely healthy in this context.

Their position was that while power is rooted in the popular will, the law has higher sources, which in political terms meant independent institutions wielding oversight powers over each other.

Photograph of an Israeli anti reform protester holding a poster showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the demonstration.

Poster of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an anti-governement demonstration.

Eyal Warshavsky/ZUMA

Can Israel sideline extremism?

Israel's zealots precisely want to ditch oversight powers over parliament, provoking the ire of citizens who sense and know this is a first step toward more autocratic forms of government. Numerous Israeli officials and diplomats, not to mention the president, are with the public.

Curtailing, or colonizing the judiciary and specifically the supreme court is a familiar part of the process of unhinging institutional governance. The last U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, Brazil's Bolsonaro, Hungary's Viktor Orbàn and Turkey's Erdogan have all tried or done this. In our region, leaders with a taste for the "people" recipe include the Kirchner presidents in Argentina (Néstor and Cristina), Mexico's López Obrador, and even the radicals in Chile, who proposed eliminating the judiciary entirely in a new constitution. Voters rejected this massively last September.

Healthy protests

The mass protests in Israel are extremely healthy in this context, illustrating street-level mobilization to defend institutional systems that serve the citizen body. The word institution comes from the Latin concept of a limit: there is no order without limits, nor any "normality" without the norms that express those limits. Together they form a barrier against the totalitarian abyss.

Yet populism is not inevitable.

Events in Israel are partly due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resolve to form a government without a parliamentary majority, and his dismal choice of coalition partners. Together they are pushing an agenda that includes expanding settlements, antagonizing Palestinians and perhaps even remolding Israel as an apartheid state.

Yet populism is not inevitable. Crazies come and go in politics. Spain's recent elections deflated radicalism and appeared to reinforce the two-party hegemony of previous years. In Spain as in Israel, the big parties could work together to end a dysfunctional legislature and sideline extremists.

Germany tried it a while back, though it requires a shared vision of what is best for the country. Will anyone in Israel contemplate this?

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest