Israelis have an un-American view of democracy

Imagine reading this report in an American newspaper:

More than half of white Americans think human rights organizations that expose immoral behavior by the United States should not be allowed to operate freely, and think there is too much freedom of expression here, a recent survey found.

The pollsters surveyed 500 white Americans who can be considered a representative sample of the adult white population.

They found that 57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by the United States should not be allowed to operate freely.

Slightly more than half agreed that “there is too much freedom of expression” in the US.

The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the US military.

Another 82 percent of respondents said they back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the military.

In reality, the views related in the fictitious article above are not those of white Americans but come from Jewish Israelis and pertain to their own state, military, and press. The results of the poll commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, are reported by Haaretz.

During his recent visit to Israel, Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the “unbreakable bond borne of common values” shared by America and the Jewish state.

What the Israeli poll makes clear is that Jewish Israelis and Americans, far from having an unbreakable bond of common values, actually have significantly different views about how democracy works. As Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at Tel Aviv university said: “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”

Of course, even my attempt to contrive some kind of ethnic symmetry by juxtaposing the dominant ethnic group in the United States with that in Israel, is itself a tenuous parallel. We now have a non-white president but for as long as Israel remains a Jewish state it will surely never have a non-Jewish prime minister.

Most Americans understand that the separation of Church and State protects both democracy and religious freedom. In this era, we know that if any single ethnic or religious group were to assert a “right” to control this country, the United States would cease to be a democracy. The principle of equal rights does not come in different ethnic flavors.

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5 thoughts on “Israelis have an un-American view of democracy

  1. John Robertson

    Well said, Paul. That the US and Israel are allies because of “shared values” (i.e., democracy and human rights) has achieved almost mantra status. What they share is the hubris to declare their valuing of same, while at the same time honoring that valuing only when it suits “national interests.” The people of Egypt and Kyrgyzstan would know all about that.

  2. eddie stinson

    Israel and the U.S. are bonded together in hypocrisy and chutzpah. I’m in awe of those who can say otherwise with a straight face.

  3. Joseph Elias

    I cannot agree that some how the American public and the Israeli public are different when it comes to democracy. During the 1960’s, college students opposed to the Vietnam War circulated a statement to see if people agreed with it. It raised the specter of Communist subversion and threats, and the call for draconian measures to suppress them. An overwhelming majority of Americans signed the statement. They were then told that it came from a speech from Adolf Hitler. The so-called Tea Party revolution also reveals what a large number of Americans feel. Whereas they are opposed to government spending, especially on the poor and minority, they want more spending on the military. States like Virginia and Mississippi celebrate Confederacy month without nary a concern that it was slavery that was at the heart of the conflict–the right of state to enslave other people. Arizona and cities like Hazleton, PA, represent the worst anti-Hispanic type opinions. The mayor of Hazleton is running on his “victory” over immigrants as the Republican candidate for the 11th Congressional District. He has a lot of support from people who are two or three generations from having their ancestors come over. I believe that the strongest bonds Americans have with Israelis is there limited view of what democracy is, hatred of the “other,” joy in warfare, and the ability to rationalize any action they take with outlandish excuses.

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