Israeli Democracy?

Muslim Matters

Israeli Democracy?

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO


A Palestinian man points to graffiti sprayed on the wall of a mosque in the West Bank village of Deir Istiya, near the Jewish settlement of Ariel January 11, 2012. The graffiti reads in Hebrew, “Gal Aryeh Yosef”, referring to an unauthorised settler outpost torn down by Israeli authorities the previous night, and “Price Tag”, the defiant slogan of Israeli settlers waging a vigilante campaign.            

REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

San Francisco–It is a common misnomer in the United States that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.  This is an assumption that your author has constantly questioned.

(Former) U.S. President Jimmy (James Earl) Carter stated in a speech your reporter covered that the last election in Gaza was the freest and fairest his observer teams had ever evaluated.  Besides, today the Arab “Spring” has changed the image of governance from North Africa and throughout West Asia.

I was invited to a presentation of a progressive (but Orthodox in his personal religious practices) Israeli thinker on the breakdown of Israeli democracy and whether it can be righted.

So, I entered a temple here, and put on my yarmulke (a prayer cap) to listen to Gershom Greenburg from (West) Jerusalem who has recently published a new tome on this subject.

Your narrator is recording his comments because it is important to understand what is unfolding within the land of the Jewish Settler Colonialism so that we can better respond to regain our rights over Palestine.  There is a significant population within the Israeli State and the diaspora who are seeking peace with justice with Palestine, and they are our natural allies.

He begins by stating the ancient veracity that the democratic has to respect the right of the minority (within the boundaries of Israel the population is 20% non-Jewish).  For Greenburg, this respect is enjoined by his religion in and of itself. 

He describes (the tragic re-) foundation of modern Israel to have been a long process that evolved from a nascent nationalistic yearning (but was propelled by the calamity of the Second World War in Europe which had nothing to do with the primordial tillers of the Middle East’s Holy Land.  These are the minorities which have to be respected.) 

Tel Aviv is one of the few Westminster (Parliamentary-style) democracies that evolved out of World War Two.  There was a moribund emerging fascism at the State’s birth, but the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) suppressed it soon after the First Arab-Israeli War. 

In a democracy there has to be a constant negotiation between shareholders.  After the aforementioned First War, the borders were determined, and he states that is the State!  Early in the Judah’s history before 1967, there were calls just to take the West Bank then, but that was rejected by civil society there at that time because the Palestinians would demand the their rightful rights of citizenship; and, therefore, their part of Jerusalem and environs would cease to be a Jewish State.  (This is pretty much the Israeli Left’s argument still:  In order to preserve their Jewish State, a two State Solution is enjoined.  Otherwise, a multi-sectarian one-State resolution would arise in which the Jews would be a minority again.)  Well, the Occupied Territories are largely in the West Bank now through the 1967 War, and under law they should have rights of residency if they are annexed formally to Tel Aviv which, essentially, the Hebrew is de facto attempting to do.

Curiously, it was America who forced a democratic system and the principle of minority rights upon the Zionists for President Truman’s support of Partition.

The right-wing of the Zionist Movement (and, therefore of Israel itself) are the modernist ultra-Orthodox (Jews).  Within the group he claims that there are three levels of education.  Most of those educated are, further, qualified as teachers.  Most are married, and their average family has eight children!  (One of the criticism and fears of the Israeli Jews is the Arab birth rate, but it seems this demographic has even a higher birthrate than the Palestinians.)  Curiously, though, their women are not only mothers, but work as teachers to allow their men time to spend in the Yeshiva (the Jewish equivalent of the Islamic Madrassa.  Peculiarly, unfairly, the latter has come under attack in the West when the former has not.  Yet, they fulfill similar functions within their respective religions and societies.).  This pattern has caused a great deal of economic distress upon the community and that small country as a whole.

Gershom Greenburg perceives the Orthodox to be the commanding element of the nation there.  Interestedly, he observes Orthodoxy driving the young away from Judaism itself in Canaan.  He believes that “The intelligent are getting their facts right, but their analysis is wrong.”  (He is an Orthodox who does not support the brutal policies of the government.)

As long as the captured “Territories” remain “Occupied,” the Israeli borders established by the First Arab-Israeli War have been erased, and, therefore, the West Bank, etc. have become symbolically a part of Tel Aviv national expanse.  Yet, on the contrary, the Settlements are destroying the State of Israel itself, for the Palestinian residents who occupy the same space as the Settlers have the right to demand citizenship which would lead to a situation where the Jews alone would not dominate in a One State Solution.

(Again, this is a point where we differ with Judah on the Two State Solution.  Although there are differences, they are small and negotiable.  If a Two State Solution cannot be deliberated within the Obama period of Administration, your correspondent does not consider that a Jewish State has any future in the Middle East.)  Succinctly, Greenburg, sagaciously, avers that that the settlers are destroying Zion from “within.”

The Settlements flaunt the Fourth Geneva Convention (i.e. International law.)  Conversely, the Zionists claim the Settlements are God’s (Sic!) way of establishing the foundation for the Messiah (close to the Islamic concept of Mahdi).

Greenburg claims that 30% of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces’) officer corps is now Orthodox.  That opens the possibility of insubordination to the “democratically” elected civilian government’s orders. 
Gershom deems that democracy can operate again in Israel only if Tel Aviv renounces the “Occupied Territories!”   For him this this is the only hope for the survival of his country!  He called upon the (influential Jewish) Diaspora to help push this scheme forward.

It is important to note that there are points of convergence between our and their agendas. 

To achieve a free and equitable Palestinian entity, these conjunctions must be cultivated by civil society of each neighbor, and it is not completely outside the realm of success.


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