Israel’s democracy for Jews

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.

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2 thoughts on “Israel’s democracy for Jews

  1. Renfro

    Frankly Yakobson must be your typical zionist…he writes of democracy only for Jews.
    These people are so deep into their exceptional tribalism it’s a disease…’s like they are covered with the most disgusting boils and oozing sores and don’t even notice their condition.

  2. Colm O' Toole

    In 2004, a State Department report found that Palestinians now outnumber Israelis in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. In short, in the entire “holy land” region there was in 2004 5.3 million Palestinians and 5.2 million Jewish people.

    US State Department Report:

    Story on it (Electronic Intifada):

    However these numbers are slightly contested. The University of Haifa predicts that Palestinians will equal the Jewish population by middle to end of 2014. In a report published last year, with both populations numbering 6.1 Million.

    Of course these numbers are blown apart when you add the “right to return” factor. The UN estimates that there are now 4 Million Palestinians (both first generation and their decendents) that are classed as refugees. At Camp David, Israel offered to allow 100,000 to return and offer comepensation to the remaining refugees. However the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which deals with the International Law of refugee issues says all refugees in conflicts are entitled to return to their land once peace is established or at the nearest possible date.

    So based on the numbers Palestinians either outnumbered Israelis in 2004 (US government) or will in 2014 (Haifa University) excluding the 4 Million Palestinians with refugee status.

    Naturally then the choice becomes either a two state solution, or a one state for all peoples, or Israel becoming an apartheid where a Jewish minority rules an Arab majority.

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