Can Israel Be a True Democracy?
© Jordan White Enterprises
March 9, 2000
††††††††††† On Wednesday, March 8, 2000, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that no one may be barred from land ownership based on religion or ethnicity.† The upshot of this is that now Israeli
Arabs( Arab citizens of Israel) are on the road to being full participants in a land that has always referred to itself as a ďdemocracyĒ without actually acting like one.
††††††††††† Of course this is a good thing for the Israeli Arabs, who certainly are due the same rights as other citizens.† And itís a good thing for the democratic process, which surely cannot operate correctly when all citizens are denied equal rights under law.† And itís a good thing for the nation of Israel in the long run, since the conflict over land has been a long-running issue, and this is surely a step in the right direction for solving it.
††††††††††† So this is a win-win situation, right?† I mean, the Israeli Jews win because this ruling will definitely bring about more stability and, likely, prosperity, since more economic development will be the result?†† And the Israeli Arabs will win because they will be able to achieve more of a level of equality as citizens.
††††††††††† It would be a win-win situation, except for one thing.† And that is the fact that Israel is not a true democracy and has not been even acting like one for its over fifty years of existence.† That is because there is no shared vision of its citizens to that effect.† A large proportion of the Israeli population does not stand to benefit from a true democratic process.† That is because these people espouse Zionism, and, in fact, the state was founded on Zionistic principles, not democratic principles.† Add that to the fact that the state controls 93% of the land, and you have a problem.
††††††††††† A democracy needs a buy-in, a cooperative effort, if you will, from its citizens.† Thatís because democracy is a very pricey deal, in terms of giving up my rights, to some degree, to make someone elseís work equally well.†† For instance, the US has a part of its Constitution called the Bill of Rights.† The Bill of Rights has a thing called the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech.† Thatís a good thing when it allows me, especially since Iím a journalist, to say what I want about you, but by the same token, it allows you to criticize me, too.† Itís like a stoplight.† You get to go when itís green and you have to stop when itís red.† Everyone takes their turn at the red.† You canít have it green all the time, no matter who you are.† The trouble is, the Zionists are not used to having to deal with red lights.† Theyíre not accustomed to having to share their lands, their freedoms, with anyone else.† Democracy and equal rights are not something that they have bought into, as a mission statement, as a shared vision, at any time in Israelís history.
††††††††††† That is extremely bad news to those who hope to see Israel move forward with equal rights to all citizens.† It is especially bad news to those who, in the long run, want to see the Palestinians, who are non-citizen Arabs, and Israeli citizens forge a single state where everyoneís rights would be respected.† Israelis are so un-used to the democratic process that it is practically impossible for them to accept that all citizens should have equal rights, let alone people who are determined not to become citizens (the Palestinians)!
††††††††††† So, what does this mean for the future of Israel, especially concerning the Palestinian problem?† Surely this is the biggest illustration ever of why there needs to be a Palestinian state, an entirely separate, autonomous, sovereign state, where the Palestinian people can establish their own democracy (as they have said they are determined to do), with equal rights for all, regardless of religion or ethnicity.†
††††††††††† There is a chance, albeit a small one, that Israel will be able to work things out with the Israeli Arabs and achieve a truly democratic state.† This court ruling is a very big step in the right direction.† Although it seems difficult to believe that the Zionist powers-that-be will suddenly be able to give up their always-a-green-light-for-us status, I suppose, under the right circumstances, itís always possible.† In America, it took a long time for black citizens to gain equal footing with white citizens, but most agree that it is finally happening, thank God.† After all, the Israeli Arabs want to be a part of the nation of Israel, just as blacks wanted to participate as full citizens of the US.†† But the Palestinians do not want that.† If they are forced into a one-state solution, they will always be an obstacle in the process of making Israel a true democracy.† They do not want citizenship in a country whose goals they did not choose, whose leaders they do not trust, whose very existence undermines their futures, their hopes, their dreams.
††††††††††† Israel, give the Palestinians back their land.† Let them bring the refugees home.† If you truly wish to establish a democracy with your own citizens, allow the release of these people you have held hostage to your wishes for too long.† Give up East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in its entirety.† You will never have unity, you will never have democracy, and you will surely never have peace, until you do this.† Do it now.