MJ Rosenberg: Israel Has Given Up on Democracy

I mentioned this law pending in the Knesset yesterday and I meant to add this to the post but never got around to it. Sorry.

MJ Rosenberg does a great job as usual of honing in on how much of Israel’s current circumstance is a result of the political/social choices it makes. We often hear how Israel is Jewish and Democratic but honest observers know that military occupation is by definition inconsistent with democracy. Thus, by choosing to continue to expand settlements as part of a vision of Greater Israel, security will continue to be elusive, as will a two state solution, but perhaps that’s the whole point. And what of “the only democracy in the Middle East?” Apparently the government, and not just the right wing elements, think it’s more important to maintain the “Jewish character” of the state at all costs, even if that means doing things that trample rough-shod over democracy:

…the Knesset is now considering a bill (supported by 40 legislators from Kadima, Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu) that would, according to Ha’aretz, “make democratic rule subservient to the state’s definition as ‘the national home for the Jewish people.'”

The lead sponsor of the bill says that it is intended to give the courts legislation that supports “the state as the Jewish nation state in ruling in situations in which the Jewish character of the state clashes with its democratic character.”

The bill is likely to pass (20 of the 28 members of the “moderate” Kadima party have joined Likud in pushing it), which would mean that Israel will be making that long-predicted choice between being democratic or Jewish. (A choice that would be unnecessary if Israel gave up the ’67 territories). It suggests that Israel is prepared to lay aside democracy, giving it the freedom to hold on to all the territories while continuing not to give democratic rights to the millions of disenfranchised Palestinians of the occupied territories.

This change, should it occur, would represent the most significant change in Israel’s history. Israel would be embracing the idea of theocracy over democracy, rather than insisting that Israel was no different than the United States or any modern country where church and state are separated.

It is, of course, no coincidence that this change would follow Israel’s recent demand that Palestinians recognize Israel “as a Jewish state.” For decades, Israel only sought recognition as Israel. The insistence that Israel be recognized “as a Jewish state” is primarily an attempt to keep upping the demands on the Palestinians and part and parcel of the settler’s dream of making Israel as Jewish as the Vatican is Catholic.

[emphasis added]

This is very significant and if our government had a clue they would be worried about this because with each passing year, the idea that Israel and the United States are like two peas in a pod, with the exact same [democratic] system of government and the same fundamental values, is a harder and harder sell.

The irony of course is that Israel is moving more towards theocracy/ethnocracy, obsessed with the racial/ethnic make-up of its citizens to the point where democracy is to be subservient to maintaining the “Jewishness” of Israel. That’s a very legalese sounding way of saying the courts won’t be able to strike down laws deemed discriminatory/racist/unfair etc.

Is this what the diaspora community thinks of when they think of the promise that is/was Israel? How much of this do they think can be rationalized by security interests or benign claims of wanting a Jewish state? Discrimination is discrimination irrespective of who is doing the discriminating. Were we talking about any other group of people the ethics of this wouldn’t even be up for debate. We associate these sorts of laws with Islamic republics and autocracies.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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One Comment on “MJ Rosenberg: Israel Has Given Up on Democracy”

  1. thainjacobs Says:

    MJ Rosenberg is the bomb. He tells it like it is.

    On another note, WHERE THE HELL IS CAROLYN? She doesn’t comment, call or write- what the heck? If you are lurking Carolyn come out of hiding!


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