debating the future of Israeli democracy...
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To me it's always been self-evident that Israel is not a democracy (both because its discrimination against non-Jews within its internationally recognized borders and its military occupation and rule over the Palestinian Occupied Territories) but many Israelis are themselves shocked at the formalization of discrimination against Israeli citizens who are not Jewish. Here's how Jerry Haber aka "The Magnes Zionist" puts it (last link below): Yesterday, the State of Israel became the first western state whose High Court ruled that some citizens have fewer fundamental rights than other citizens based on their ethnicity. Actually, it had done so before, but yesterday it rejected the most sustained challenge to the “Citizenship Law,” which bars the non-Israeli spouses of Israeli Palestinians from becoming citizens.
Will the anti-democratic legislation underway in Israel soon make progressive advocacy redundant? Is it an exaggeration to say Israel is on the high road to fascism? And what can the Left do to reverse the process? An interview with Israel’s pre-eminent human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard.
Ben White writes in a guest editorial for Informed Comment : It has just come out that the Israeli military has earmarked ten percent of the land in the Occupied West bank for Israeli settlements. In addition, the Israeli government is moving forward with an outrageous plan that will mean the expulsion of tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens in the Negev desert. The context is the warning issued by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a 2010 government meeting that a Negev “without a Jewish majority” would pose “a palpable threat”.
Avigdor Lieberman of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party. March 12, 2012 | Like this article? Join our email list:
Dimi Reider Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images Sudanese immigrant Mohammed Yussef works at the construction site of a border fence along Israel's border with Egypt near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, February 15, 2012 This is the seventh in an NYRblog series about the fate of democracy in different parts of the world.
In the past few years, ACRI has been increasingly concerned by intensifying infringements on democratic freedoms in Israel. Of particular concern is the fact that two of the central arenas from which these threats arise are the very ones charged with safeguarding democracy: The Knesset (Israeli parliament) and government leadership. Senior officials have voiced harsh and unprecedented statements against human rights organizations, political groups, and minorities, and have made various attempts to curtail their operations.
If that sounds bizarre — a committee of Israel’s Knesset presuming to instruct an American Jewish organization on how it should characterize itself — well, that’s because it is. At the risk of telling the committee how it should characterize itself , it might consider changing its name to the Knesset Un-Jewish Activities Committee. This outbreak of Middle East McCarthyism came in response to a position that the organization in question, J Street, took on a U.N. Security Council resolution to condemn Israel’s settlement policy — a resolution based in part on statements that administration officials had made in opposition to the settlements.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is set to pass (after some convoluted last minute wrangling ) today one of the most anti-democratic measures in the country’s history, the so-called “Anti-Boycott Law.” A link to the full text’s translation can be found here . Simply put, the law seeks to penalize those who call for boycotting Israel, the settlements, or anyone related to the occupation. If a person, for example, calls for a boycott of academic institutions that participate in the occupation, he could be sued in civil court, and ordered to pay compensation.
By Don Futterman Protest against the boycott Law, Tel Aviv, June 12 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv/activestills) As an Israeli citizen, here is what I am allowed to say about boycotting products produced in the Occupied West Bank without incurring risk of fine, penalty or law suits for damages (no evidence required), thanks to the new Boycott Prohibition Law: Can you hear it?
« Back to the Blog J Street condemns the Knesset’s passage yesterday of a law making the call for boycotts of Israel or the West Bank settlements illegal, as a clear and unabashed violation of the fundamental democratic precept of freedom of speech. This bill is part of a disturbing anti-democratic trend that undermines its purported purpose by giving fodder to Israel’s critics and alienating many of its friends. In direct contradiction to claims that it would somehow protect Israel from efforts to delegitimize it, the boycott bill actually gives ammunition to those who question Israel’s democratic standing. While J Street opposes the BDS movement, we are concerned that opening the way for civil sanctions against supporters of boycotts will only be used as further justification for increasing anti-Israel boycotts. We note and share the Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon’s damning assessment that this law “damages the core tenet of freedom of expression in Israel.”
This post has been updated, 21 July, 2011 When we look back on this period in Israeli history, I don’t want to wonder: “why didn’t Israelis fight for their democracy? Why did they stand by and let themselves be taken over by sham leaders representing repressions that belonged to the dark days of the last century?
Al Jazeera English , February 6, 2011 As Egyptians take to the streets to demand their freedom, I ask a Muslim in Yafo if we’ll see the same in Israel. “I don’t think so,” he answers. “Even with all the mess here, we have democracy.” Do we?
At 64, Israel is older than more than half of the democracies in the world. The Jewish state, moreover, belongs to a tiny group of countries -- the United States, Britain, and Canada among them -- never to have suffered intervals of non-democratic governance. Since its inception, Israel has been threatened ceaselessly with destruction. Yet it never once succumbed to the wartime pressures that often crush democracies.
In a piece recently published, Israel’s Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren rejected claims regarding anti-democratic trends in his country, and compared the legal status of Palestinians in the West Bank to that of American citizens in Washington DC and the U.S. territories. A response. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Visits Annapolis. Oren enjoys high credibility among Jewish elites and the Washington establishment (photo: Jay Baker / CC BY 2.0) When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Professor Michael Oren – a historian and researcher at the conservative Shalem institute, author of a popular book on the 1967 war – as his ambassador to Washington, he was probably hoping to capitalize on the latter’s name-recognition and credibility, especially with the political establishment and the Jewish elites. And indeed, as criticism of the occupation and of various Knesset legislative initiatives intensified, Prof.