This week, the Israeli intellectual Yuval Noah Harari turned down an invitation to appear at an event sponsored by Israel’s consulate in Los Angeles. Harari, the author of the ubiquitous evolutionary history Sapiens, rejected the consulate’s statement that the Foreign Ministry was an apolitical body and said he did not want to appear for the government that just enacted the Nation State Law. He also objected to the exclusion of LGBT couples from the recently passed Surrogacy Law, a provocative omission that sparked massive protests in Tel Aviv last week.

In spurning the consulate, Harari joins the celebrated Zionist and writer Amos Oz, along with many others, in publicly refusing to appear at even apolitical programs under the aegis of the Likud-led government.

In April, shortly after a clash between Israel and Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza border, the actress and director Natalie Portman said she wouldn’t attend a ceremony for the Genesis Prize. Portman effectively chose to forfeit the honor rather than appear on stage with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While some luminaries, including 2017 Man Booker Prize winner David Grossman, continue to volunteer their presence at government-sponsored events, Israeli intellectuals, artists, and academics have become increasingly stern in their denunciations of what they see as the corrosion of Israel’s democracy. In a recent letter signed by hundreds of such figures, the government is accused of “eroding the foundations of our state,” which have “have dealt a severe blow to Israeli society.”

The common thread that runs through these events is a brand name Israeli publicly distancing themselves from the government. The phenomenon is hardly new, of course; one should read Amos Oz’s denunciations of the First Lebanon War, David Grossman’s scathing descriptions of Ariel Sharon in the early aughts, and the poetry of Yitzhak Laor for vivid examples of Israeli dissent over the decades. Gideon Levy’s recent description of Israel as a latter-day Sparta couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reaction to the Nation State Law, from both prominent Israelis and diaspora Jews, should greatly worry the government. While the threat of the delegitimization movement is inflated, Israel’s soft power has in fact diminished substantially in the West. Perhaps more worrying, the volume at which anti-Israel rhetoric is deemed acceptable in the mainstream, especially on the left, is considerably higher than in the past.

However, the coalition, perhaps the most right-wing in Israel’s history, is not at all concerned about the erosion of liberal support. Israelis who speak out against nationalist provocations and oppose the government, far from being protected by the aura of their citizenship, or even their Zionist bona fides, come under particularly venomous attack. For example, Culture Minister Miri Regev falsely accused Portman of sympathizing with the BDS movement; the far-right group Im Tirtzu labeled dissenting writers and artists as “moles inside culture,” and has sought to publicly shame and intimidate those associated with human rights NGOs. Netanyahu himself has continued his decades-long effort to cast the left as lesser Jews and inauthentic Zionists for their opposition to his government.

Earlier this month, Science Minister Ofir Akunis, a member of Likud,  rejected the appointment of Yael Amitai, a professor of neurology at Ben-Gurion University, to a board position at the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. Was it because Amitai lacked the qualifications? Perhaps she was a supporter of the BDS movement that calls for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions? No. She simply signed a petition supporting the cases of soldiers who did not want to serve in the territories.

And just this week, the Israeli novelist Moriel Rothman-Zecher, arguably the country’s most prominent millennial writer, was reportedly questioned by the Shin Bet at the airport because of his involvement with Breaking the Silence and other nonviolent protest groups.

The recent heavy-handedness has also touched opponents of allies of the government, as we saw with the unprecedented early morning detention of a conservative rabbi for the crime of performing weddings. The detention of Rabbi Dov Hayiun was not necessarily connected to the intolerance of left-wing dissent, but it showed a similar disregard for Israel’s image in favor of the continued polarization of Israeli society, which benefits the right.

Israel, through its own actions, is single handedly battering what’s left of its reputation as a liberal democracy. Yes, Ha’aretz still exists, Avner Gvaryahu of Breaking the Silence is a free man, and Professor Amitai’s tenure has not been revoked by state edict; Israel indeed remains superior to Turkey in measurements of democracy. But liberal democratic governments traditionally don’t probe the private views of peaceful and law-abiding citizens. When they do, this form of intimidation should be recognized as a troubling deviation from liberal democratic norms.

This has dire implications for Israel’s ability to project soft power in the form of academic and cultural influence. Practitioners in these fields rarely subscribe to the benighted parochialism promoted by hardline nationalists. They love their country and will not hide their nationality, but they won’t tolerate their names being used as deodorant by a government whose values they abhor. As a result, Israel may soon find itself in the awkward position of either promoting individuals who they know will subsequently distance themselves from the government or dropping them all together.

Sadly, if current trends continue, the government will opt for a third option: actively demonizing them.

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