Is Israel a Democracy?

Not in my view.

Here’s some Jewish voices who don’t think Israel is a democracy either.

Tim Wise:

Of course not: and yet the term is repeatedly used to describe Israel — as in “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This, despite the fact that Israel has no constitution; despite the fact that Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, providing special rights and privileges to anyone in the world who is Jewish and seeks to live there, over and above longtime Arab residents. This, despite the fact that Israel bars any candidate from holding office who thinks the country should be a secular, democratic state with equal rights for all. This, despite the fact that non-Jews are restricted in terms of how much land they can own, and in which places they can own land at all, thanks to laws granting preferential treatment to Jewish residents. This, despite that fact that even the Israeli Supreme Court has acknowledged the use of torture against suspected “terrorists” and other “enemies” of the Jewish state.

For some, it is apparently sufficient that Israel has an electoral system, and that Arabs have the right to vote in those elections (though just how equally this right is protected is of course a different matter). The fact that one can’t vote for a candidate who questions the special Jewish nature of the state, because such candidates can’t run for or hold office, strikes most as irrelevant: hardly enough to call into question their democratic credentials.

The Soviet Union also had elections, of a sort. And in those elections, most people could vote, though candidates who espoused an end to the communist system were barred from participation. Voters got to choose between communists. In Israel, voters get to choose between Zionists. In the former case, we recognize such truncated freedom as authoritarianism. In the latter case, we call it democracy.

If giving names like “Operation Enduring Freedom” or “Operation Just Cause” to deadly military offensives is not sufficient to indicate that the English language is dead, this should pretty well prove the point. If what we see in Israel is indeed democracy, then what does fascism look like?

I’m sorry, but I am over it. As a Jew, I am over it. And if my language seems too harsh here, that’s tough. Because it’s nothing compared to the sickening things said by Israeli leaders throughout the years. Like Menachem Begin, former Prime Minister who told the Knesset in 1982 that the Palestinians were “beasts walking on two legs.” Or former P.M. Ehud Barak, who offered a more precise form of dehumanization when he referred to the Palestinians as “crocodiles.”

Neve Gordon:

De-facto, then, Israel is not a democracy. One-third of the demos does not enjoy a series of basic rights which make up the pillars of liberal democracies. The state of Israel has existed for 55 years and has controlled the Palestinian population in the occupied territories without giving them political rights for two-thirds of this period. Accordingly, the notion that the occupation is provisional or temporary should, by now, be considered an illusion concealing the reality on the ground.

IDI found that only 77 percent of the Jewish population supports the statement that “democracy is the best form of government,” the lowest percentage (alongside Poland) among the 32 countries for which there is available data. Over half the population (56%) is of the opinion that “strong leaders can be more useful to the state than all the deliberations and laws.” Fifty percent concur that if there is a conflict between security interests and the preservation of the rule of law, the former should take precedence. And only 57 percent agree with the statement that violence should never be used to attain political objectives.

More than half of the Jews in Israel (53%) state that they are against full equality for the Arabs; 77 percent say there should be a Jewish majority on crucial political decisions; less than a third (31%) support having Arab political parties in the government; and the majority (57%) think that the Arabs should be encouraged to emigrate. Not only is the majority of the Jewish population against the provision of equal rights for Arab citizens, half of the Jews are even unwilling to face up to the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against.

The courageous and tenacious Israeli, Tanya Reinhart, sums up Israel’s grave symptoms of political malaise:

Being against Israel is the best act of solidarity and compassion with the Jews that one can have. … The system of prisons that Israel is building is also a prison for Israelis. This small state is making itself the enemy of the entire Arab world and now the Muslim world. A state with this strategy does not have a future, so the solution for the Palestinians is also the solution for Israel.

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