The Israeli historian, Alexander Yakobson, writes in Haaretz:
Many people believe that Israeli democracy relies on a shaky public and ideological foundation, liable to collapse at any moment. It’s true that this is a society created, for the most part, by people from non-democratic countries and shaped during a bitter national conflict; the worldview of many of its people include things that do not easily accord with liberal democracy – if they do at all.
The secret to the strength of Israeli democracy may actually lie in another feature of this society that cannot easily be reconciled with a well-run democracy: the quasi-tribal sense of Jewish solidarity, the general sense that we are a kind of extended family. The vast majority of Jews from all backgrounds who came here have had no desire to kill or imprison other Jews because of politics, for reasons that are better defined as tribal rather than democratic. But in a society where this is the prevailing feeling, it is impossible to maintain any type of dictatorship. A society like this can be governed only democratically, and even then with difficulty.
So where in this democracy built on Jewish solidarity does this leave the 20% of Israel’s population who are not Jewish? Jews have no great desire to kill non-Jews, Yakobson says reassuringly. So if Israel’s democracy is ethnically based, the consolation for the democratically-deprived minority is that they are not dead.
To what extent Yakobson’s perspective has been represented on the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend remains unclear.
The veteran anti-occupation activist and conscientious objector, Haggai Matar, writes in Hebrew (translation from Dimi Reider):
Odeh Bisharat, the first Arab to address the mass rallies, greeted the enormous audience before him and reminded them that the struggle for social justice has always been the struggle of the Arab community, which has suffered from inequality, discrimination, state-level racism and house demolitions in Ramle, Lod, Jaffa and Al-Araqib. Not only was this met with ovation from a huge crowd of well over a hundred thousand people, but the masses actually chanted: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” And later, in a short clip of interviews from protest camps across the country, Jews and Arabs spoke, and a number of them, including even one religious Jew, repeatedly said that “it’s time for this state to be a state for all its citizens.” A state for all its citizens. As a broad, popular demand. Who would have believed it.
Yet how could anyone in a state that already calls itself a democracy say it’s time for this state to be a state for all its citizens?
Stated in plain English that means: it’s time for Israel to become a democracy.