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All signs point to Israel's weak democracy

The assassination of Zuhair al-Qaissi, which sparked the escalation in the south, points to Israel’s weak Supreme Court, a lack of transparency and accountability, and the state’s flip attitude towards its judicial branch–as do some street signs in Tel Aviv

Even though the Supreme Court ordered Tel Aviv and three other municipalities to add Arabic to their street signs in 2002, this sign appears only in English and Hebrew. Ironically, it marks the road to historically Arab Yafo (Jaffa) (photo: Mya Guarnieri)

The recent escalation between Israel and Gaza began after Israeli forces assassinated Zuhair al-Qaissi, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a militant group composed of members of various Palestinian parties. Haaretz noted that the PRC was “the organisation that captured Gilad Shalit”, the Israeli soldier who was freed in October 2011. The army says that al-Qaissi was behind the August 2011 attack that took place on the Israeli-Egyptian border – even though the PRC denied involvement and it was later revealed that the militants came from Sinai, not Gaza.

While army sources took care to point out al-Qaissi’s alleged involvement in the August 2011 incident, his assassination wasn’t just an act of punishment. No, Israel killed him on the basis of secret evidence – evidence that is not subject to legal or judicial review – that supposedly proves that al-Qaissi was planning a terror attack. Never mind that the Israeli supreme court’s December 2006 ruling placed numerous restrictions on such assassinations.

Fatmeh el-Ajou, an attorney with Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, explains that while the judgment did not place a blanket prohibition on targeted killings, it stated that the decision to carry out an assassination must be made on a case-by-case basis, “depending on the evidence that [security forces] have.” But, without seeing the security forces’ secret evidence, it’s impossible to know if al-Qaissi was indeed planning an attack, and if the army was in line with the 2006 ruling. There’s no transparency in this so-called democracy and, without transparency, there is no accountability to the state’s highest court. “From the perspective of human rights law,” el-Ajou adds, “assassinations are not legitimate … They should only be carried out if there is a ‘ticking bomb.’ [Suspects] should be brought to trial.”

To some extent, the 2006 ruling dovetails with this, stating that, whenever possible, the person in question must be arrested and tried – which is exactly what didn’t happen in 2007, when the army violated the Supreme Court’s restrictions on targeted killings and assassinated two men they had the power to detain instead. And then there’s the laundry list of less dramatic examples, instances when state bodies quietly ignore the court, revealing Israel to be the weak democracy it is. Such cases have spurred former Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp to send not one but two letters of complaint to the current Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. Here’s a partial sampling of rulings that Israel can’t be bothered to fully implement:

• In 2002, the Supreme Court ordered the municipalities of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Lod, Ramle and Nazareth Illit to “add Arabic to all municipal signs”, Adalah writes. Last April, the Supreme Court chastised the municipality of Nazareth Illit (upper Nazareth, a predominately Jewish area) for its lack of compliance with the nine-year-old ruling.

• In 2006, the Supreme Court struck down the binding arrangement, a policy that binds migrant workers to one employer, essentially making his or her visa contingent on his employer’s whim. Last year, the Knesset circumvented this ruling, passing legislation so severe that human rights groups referred to it as the “slavery law”.

• In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the separation barrier in the West Bank Palestinian village of Bilin served no security purpose in its location and ordered the state to move the fence. While Israel did move it in 2011, more than four years after the court’s decision, villagers are still separated from some of their land.

• During the December 2008 to January 2009 Israeli military operation known as Cast Lead, Israel barred media from the Gaza Strip. Even though the Supreme Court ruled against the ban, the press was not admitted to Gaza.

• In April 2011, the Supreme Court overturned the policy that stripped migrant workers who had children in Israel of their legal status, calling it a violation of the state’s own labour laws. Almost a year later, Israel is still deporting some of these women and their children, despite the fact that the very mechanism that made them “illegal” has been nullified.

In his 2006 ruling on targeted killings, former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak quoted an earlier judgment in which he’d stated: “At times democracy fights with one hand behind her back.” But in its war on Palestinians – and anyone that Israel deems an “other” – not only does the state use both hands, it fights with the proverbial gloves off.

This article first appeared in The Guardian Comment is Free on Wednesday March 14, 2012.

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    COMMENTS

    1. aristeides

      I’m not sure democracy is the issue here. It’s the rule of law. There’s nothing democratic per se about the rulings of the court, even in cases where the judges are subject to election and recall. The point here is that the IDF and the ministries do whatever they please, regardless of the courts. And that Netanyahu in particular does whatever he pleases in pursuit of his political agenda. And the court in Israel is apparently powerless.

      Reply to Comment
    2. mya guarnieri

      aristeides, thanks for your comment. i should have pointed out that a democracy isn’t just about elections… it’s also about separation of powers and systems of checks and balances. in israel, there is the facade of these systems but, as i argue above, the separation of powers and checks and balances don’t work properly because state bodies ignore them whenever they feel like it. that the idf and ministries and netanyahu do whatever they please, as you point out, suggests that the systems vital to a democracy are not functioning in israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      I’ve seen a number of comments from the Israeli right wing claiming that the democracy is working just fine, that the voters elected Netanyahu and he’s doing just what they elected him to do.

      .
      Democracy can be overrated. Aristotle, you may recall, warned that democracy tends to evolve into demogoguery, and John Stuart Mill warned that democracies need safeguards against the tyranny of the majority. They were both right. What examples like Israel’s prove is the need, not for more democracy, but for a constitution that clearly spells out the limits of governmental power.

      Reply to Comment
    4. AIG

      Israel’s democracy is the strongest in the world. I would like to see what happens in a European country if they have to go through something similar to the second intifada. You would have had a fascist ruler in about 2 minutes.

      Having said that, there is always room for improvement. But in all fairness, if you criticize Israel’s democracy, take a look at all its sides.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Palestinian

      @ AIG , which European country is occpuying 4 million of the indigenous population?

      Reply to Comment
    6. mya guarnieri

      aristeides: we’re saying the same thing in different words. a constitution is the backbone of democracy. and, yes, israel needs one. the basic laws that function as a working constitution clearly aren’t enough.

      Reply to Comment
    7. AIG

      Mya,

      Hillary Clinton has a right to her opinions. But clearly the Israeli democracy is much stronger than the American one.

      First, we have the proportional voting system that allows even small minorities representation in the parliament. In the US, tens of millions of people are disenfranchised because of voting districts and the two party system.

      Second, because taxes for education are collected 80% locally (the arnona in the US goes mostly for education) the US is defacto a segregated country based on class. Your kid gets an education based on how much taxes you pay your municipality or township. You have less taxes, your education suffers. I like to give the example of Princeton and Trenton, two municipalities that are a few miles apart but he difference in education quality is astronomical.

      And I can go on. You can nitpick at Israeli democracy all you like, but it is the strongest in the world. I am not saying it is perfect and does not need to be improved, I am just saying you are not looking at the big picture.

      Reply to Comment
    8. mya guarnieri

      aig: is this a joke? you wanna talk big picture? okay, here’s the big picture: until 1966, palestinian citizens of the state lived under martial law. not very democratic, is it? israel rules the lives of millions of palestinians in the west bank and gaza yet doesn’t give them the right to vote. in the west bank, palestinians and jewish israelis are subject to different laws and different court systems. in east jerusalem, palestinians pay taxes and receive a sliver of the services jewish jerusalemites get. what about any of this sounds democratic to you?

      Reply to Comment
    9. AIG

      Palestinian,

      The fact is that European democracy is so fragile that Germans are still afraid inflation will bring back fascism. Israel went through hyper inflation economic depression without a problem for its democracy.

      In France, Le Pen and her party have the support of about 25-30% of the population. Not to mention that the democratic French killed one million Arabs in Algeria and where the reason for the awful war in Vietnam.

      Ben-Gurion and his generation put in place ultra strong democratic institutions that have held against anything thrown at them: war, economic hardship, terrorism, you name it. No other country can boast of such a record. You can choose to ignore this, but it is part of the full picture.

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      Israel’s democracy may be the most dysfunctional in the world. It generates ad hoc single-issue parties that split the vote so that no party can reach a majority, thus requiring a coalition in which the various parties blackmail each other, paralyze the political process and sink into corruption.
      .
      An ideal democracy would fit somewhere between Israel’s and the establishmentarian 2-party system of the US.

      Reply to Comment
    11. AIG

      Mya,

      Until 1966 there Jim Crow laws in the US. So the US is not democratic? In WWII the Americans put the Japanese Americans in concentration camps. So the US is not democratic? Until 1962 the French ruled Algeria and killed 1 million Arabs. Is France not a democracy?

      The fact is that the status of Israel’s Arabs changed in 1966. Israel occupies the West Bank but Palestinians there do vote for the PA. I don’t see how this is relevant. The people of Puerto Rico do not vote for the federal government in the US either. It has nothing to do with democracy. As for the Arabs of East Jerusalem, they are allowed to vote. The reason for their problems is that they don’t, and therefore don’t pull their political clout. They could be 1/3 of the Jerusalem city council if they voted! Nobody could ignore them then.

      Reply to Comment
    12. directrob

      It is not about how strong a democracy is it is about the quality and the inclusion.

      Reply to Comment
    13. AIG

      DIRECTROB,

      Inclusion: Israel’s proportional votes allows inclusion of many parties. The US system does not. In the US tons of votes are wasted. In Israel very few.

      Quality: Let’s see a member of the US Congress stand up and say what the Arab MKs say in Israel. Let’s see a US Congress person visiting Saddam Hussein or the Taliban and supporting them to win against the US. And survive after that.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Palestinian

      @ AIG that wasnt my question , I asked you which European country is occpuying 4 million of the indigenous population?

      Reply to Comment
    15. AIG

      Palestinian,

      I fail to see how your question is relevant to the discussion. When the US occupied Japan and Germany was it not a democracy? When it occupied Hawaii or the Philippines? When “the sun never set on the British empire”, the UK was not a democracy? When the French were in Algeria, France was not a democracy? There is just no connection between the two issues.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Dhalgren

      I am not sure why there is the need to argue AIG on this. I can’t remember a comment of his that wasn’t fallacious. It is, after all, possible for Israel to be the strongest democracy in the world and still not be very democratic. The argument here is about deficiencies in Israeli democracy and whether there is a need to improve Israeli democracy. International comparisons may be informative, but they are no substitute for proof that improvements cannot or need not be made. AIG’s comment represents a frequent red herring one sees in these kinds of debates.

      Reply to Comment
    17. zvi

      @AIG – it is true that Israeli governance has proven quite resilient and effective in the face of extraordinary challenges. Nonetheless, Israel’s democracy has proven highly dysfunctional in many areas, and this is becoming more and more of a problem.

      As @Aristeides and Mya pointed out, the issue is not really about “democracy”, but rather about the institutional context in which decisions are made and the lack of accountability. In fact, one of the rather problematic elements of Israel’s political system is the lack of individual accountability: we vote for a party, not a person! So who is responsible for decisions the government makes? And who is responsible when the government ignores other national institutions?

      Note that this lack of government accountability is not unique to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    18. AIG

      Dhalgren,

      You keep saying I write fallacies but have not bothered to give an example. It seems to me you are afraid to argue specific facts. So, please quote a statement of mine and explain why it is a fallacy.

      What is the title of this post? It is arguing that Israel’s democracy is weak. I have shown that Israel’s democracy is not weak. Where did I state that Israel’s democracy has no deficiencies or does not need to improve? I clearly say there is room to improve. But to argue that it is weak? That is just wrong. You keep debating against some fictional straw man that you have invented.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Piotr Berman

      Democracy is not simply “rule by majority”. Just to provide context, Putin got 64% of the vote and will become President, and yet there are critiques that he is not democratic.

      In Israel, there is no Constitution, courts are obeyed only when convenient, ministers under investigation grace the most key positions in the cabinet, military and security forces can gag the press. Parliament simultaneously works on issues of two groups that erected dwellings illegally: Arabs in the Negev and Jews in the West Bank, with the goal to eradicate Arab villages and perpetuate Jewish ones. There is not even a pretense of “equal treatment”.

      Legally minded defenders of the claim that Israel is “vibrant democracy” should also find example of another democratic country where citizens were stripped of their property in a similar manner as Beduins of Negev.

      Reply to Comment
    20. AIG

      Zvi,

      Every system has its flaws. There are always trade offs. The very reasons that give rise to less accountability also give rise to more resiliency. Yes, when you vote directly for someone in your voting district you can hold him accountable. But on the other hand, you can gerrymander districts so that minorities get much less representation than their true weight in the population. Therefore, the system is seen as less fair and thus more likely not to be resilient.

      You know how each time we tried tweaking the system, there were always unforeseen results. There is no magic bullet. I think in Israel we should strive for a system that is as fair as possible even if the leads to weak coalitions in which few are pleased. When everybody compromises, even the strongest party, there is more unity.

      Reply to Comment
    21. AIG

      Piotr,

      Have you heard of the Indian Removal Act?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Removal_Act

      And when was the land in Australia returned to the Aborigines?

      There are many countries that have trouble dealing with nomadic populations. Israel’s treatment of its Bedouins is far from perfect but it just no possible to have a small group of people own half the country or in modern times live by raising camels and goats in the desert. There had to be a process in which they were moved into permanent dwellings. Could the process have been managed better? No doubt.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Palestinian

      @ AIG , you said “I would like to see what happens in a European country if they have to go through something similar to the second intifada” ,why would any European country today go through any intifada ? my point is that you always compare between Israel and Western countries, but Israel is incomparable to those countries.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Dhalgren

      @AIG
      Well, as I said, your comments here are examples of red herrings. They do not address the premise of this article that there is a need to improve Israeli democratic institutions.

      In comments on the post “Quick, what’s the score?” you said:
      “Look how wikipedia describes most modern wars. Take for example the 6 day war:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War
      Look at the right, they display casualties in a prominent box in a very similar manner.
      I think it is important to know that context in which the numbers were displayed. Was the announcer gloating? Was he reporting in a matter of fact way? It is not fair in my opinion to jump to conclusions just based on the picture.”

      This is another red herring, as it does not address the argument of the impropriety of the news broadcast (for instance both the news broadcast and the Wikipedia could be improper). It is also a false analogy as the “context” for a Wikipedia article on a war is actually very different than the context for a TV news program.

      In comments to the article “Attack on Iran?” you said:
      “Let’s be serious, governments do not buy stuff with cash. The Iranians paid for their military programs with revenue from selling oil, not printing dollar bills.
      As for main the reason Israel’s central bank is buying dollars, it is to weaken the Shekel and make Israeli exports more profitable.”
      This represents any of a number of fallacies. Mainly I would call it a hasty generalization followed by begging the question. You provide no evidence for your claim that Iranians paid for military programs with oil revenue then you make a claim that is based on the assumption that your premise is correct (that that is indeed the reason for Israel’s central bank buying dollars).

      Do you wish me to continue?

      Reply to Comment
    24. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      In today’s discourse, “democracy” means “the kind of government that I like.” That’s about all the content there is to it. I mean, how often do you hear a politician say that he’s *against* democracy? When’s the last time you heard someone talk about the contradictions between democracy and liberalism? Calling something undemocratic is just saying that it’s bad.

      Reply to Comment
    25. zvi

      @AIG – you are quite correct that it is not so obvious how to “strengthen” Israel’s democracy, and that there certainly have been unintended negative side effects to recent efforts. Coalitions do seem like the natural form of governance, but as Aristeides noted (via Aristotle and John Stuart Mill), they tend to favor demagoguery and there is always the risk of ‘tyranny of the masses’….

      Perhaps the problem is not so much with the Knesset, but with the lack of checks and balances in the system. Maybe we need another branch (or system) of government to balance the elected one….

      Reply to Comment
    26. AIG

      DHALGREN,

      Your examples are completely bogus. Take the first one. I am clearly arguing that without context it is hard to say if the newscast is appropriate or not and that is why I give Wikipedia as an example in order to exactly ask what the context is.

      And your second example is even more ridiculous. You really have reading comprehension problems. My first statement is just an obvious one. The Iranians used tens of billions of dollars to fund their military effort. Do you really think that much counterfeit currency could be floating around without anybody noticing it?

      And the second sentence is just a fact unrelated to the first one. That is what Fischer gives as a reason for buying dollars. I am addressing two different points in one post.

      So yes, you need to provide more examples because no example is worth anything yet.

      Reply to Comment
    27. AIG

      Zvi,

      Since the Knesset is the only elected branch you need to be very careful if you don’t want to get into issues of “tyranny of the courts”. The law of the land has to reflect the will of the majority while protecting the rights of minorities. It is a very delicate balance and there are no perfect answers.

      Reply to Comment
    28. aristeides

      See, this is why I object to the term “democracy”. It’s become meaningless, as Aaron points out. Everyone in this discussion is using it in a different sense to advance their own preconceptions and prejudices. No one is talking about the same thing.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Dhalgren

      @AIG
      I will try to keep this short. Your response addresses none of the actual logical fallacies. You do not explain how Wikipedia is a useful example for explaining the context of a TV news program or its propriety; you provide no evidence as proof Iranian counterfeit currency was never used to fund military programs, and clarifying intent and context does not address the fallacy of begging the question. Your response also includes several fallacies, most noticeably the usage of the ad hominem attack (i.e. reading comprehension).

      @Zvi/AIG/Mya Guarnieri
      Are there currently any popular movements which might be able to put pressure on the Knesset to codify a constitution delineating the powers of the judicial branch?

      Reply to Comment
    30. AIG

      DHALGREN,
      Let me explain this slowly. The wikipedia is a benign example of score keeping. Why is it benign? Because of the context. So I was asking what is the context in the newscast? If it is similar to the one in wikipedia then it is benign. The point is that Ami forgot to give us any context.

      Do you have proof that you are not a robot? If there were tens of billions of counterfeit in circulation dollars we would know about. That is evidence that I am right, not proof.

      An ad-hominem attack is not a fallacy by the way. I think you just don’t understand what fallacies are and are just labeling arguments you don’t agree with as fallacies.

      Reply to Comment
    31. zvi

      @DHalgren – Israel has been struggling since it’s founding to create a codified national constitution – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_Laws_of_Israel

      @AIG, as you are well aware, there are many different forms of democracy. Having two different houses of government, each one with it’s own electoral system (one representative and one direct) could create some balance….

      Reply to Comment
    32. aristeides

      Israel is too disunified to ever agree on any matter of national importance, other than making wars, which is left in the hands of dictators.

      Reply to Comment
    33. AIG

      ZVI,

      I am against the two house system. Just a waste of money. More useless politicians and more deadlock. Just look at the US.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Dhalgren

      @Zvi
      I am aware of this. I was asking about the presence of something new that could shake things up, an “Occupy the Constitution” movement (only without the word “occupy” in the name, I should think) or something along those lines. I realize at this point it’s probably become so abstract that it would be hard to get people energized about it.

      Also, it seems like both Aristeides and AIG have a point on how party systems can be both too complex or too simple. I am with AIG when he says “just look at the US.” However, hasn’t the complexity of Israel’s party system fed into the aforementioned deadlock over the adoption of a formal constitution? I guess this is why I was wondering about forces for change on this issue that exist outside of the government entirely.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Dhalgren

      @AIG
      When you “explain this slowly” your argument is significantly more coherent, and it allows one to argue more clearly in response. I will hop over to that comments section to continue.

      As to your critique of the bicameral legislature, I don’t know that that’s the problem in the US as much as it is the two party system. There hasn’t always been this kind of deadlock, after all.

      Reply to Comment
    36. directrob

      AIG,
      When the executive can ignore laws and even the judiciary, and the judiciary ignores human rights and international law, a land is is not a strong democracy.
      .
      When a democracy ignores the rights of minorities (bedouin in the Negev villages, Palestinians deprived of their properties (internal absentees, quality of education) it is a very poor excuse for a democracy. It is dictatorship of the majority.
      .
      When a land deprives a large percentage of their population of their homes and property, and denies them a nationality (Palestinian refugees) it does not deserve the name democracy.
      .
      When a land ignores international law (settlers, torture, robbing resources from the west bank, apartheid) it is a rogue state.

      Reply to Comment
    37. sh

      “I would like to see what happens in a European country if they have to go through something similar to the second intifada. You would have had a fascist ruler in about 2 minutes.”
      AIG, Britain went through attacks of all sorts by the IRA for years and then had the London bombings a few summers ago on top. It didn’t become fascist in two minutes and compare it to today’s Hungary which has, so far as I know, suffered 0 attacks since the fall of Communism, to see how ridiculous your statement is.
      .
      “I was asking about the presence of something new that could shake things up, an “Occupy the Constitution” movement (only without the word “occupy” in the name, I should think) or something along those lines. ”
      Dhalgren, not so far, but let’s do it.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Piotr Berman

      Piotr,

      Have you heard of the Indian Removal Act?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Removal_Act

      And when was the land in Australia returned to the Aborigines?

      There are many countries that have trouble dealing with nomadic populations.

      AIG: this is exactly the problem with Zionism. Running the state using principles that were “common sense” around year 1900 is not really up to the standards of 21st century. Clearing the land from the “less evolved people” and removing bogs and marches were hallmarks of progress 100 years ago. Now, not so much.

      Note also that everything is diametrically different when Jewish Israeli discuss Jews and non-Jews. The state cannot afford to have a population that is not connected to modern economy if they are Beduin, but it can if they are Haredim. Illegally formed settlements cannot be tolerated if they are Beduin but must be tolerated if Jews made them. One MK voiced an opinion that no civilized state would destroys peoples homes — strangely enough, she was not from Balad but from a far right party that also demands to ruthlessly enforce the law against Arabs.

      Leon Trotsky was of an opinion that you cannot have socialism (“dictatorship of proletariat”) in one country only. One may also ask if you can have Zionism in one country only.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Cortez

      I would also add that:
      .
      1) When a state’s demographic balance and claim to democracy are the results of ongoing calculated and heartless efforts to keep an indigenous population from returning to the ancestral home, then there’s a inherent democracy deficit.
      .
      2) All of this points to Israel being an ethnocracy more than anything. A robust democracy for mostly one ethno-religious group.
      .
      3) Comparisons to the U.S. are apt to fail for variety of reasons.
      a) All Puerto Ricans are naturalized citizens

      Reply to Comment
    40. Cortez

      I would also add that:
      .
      1) When a state’s demographic balance and claim to democracy are the results of ongoing calculated and heartless efforts to keep an indigenous population from returning to the ancestral home, then there’s a inherent democracy deficit.
      .
      2) All of the points mentioned, point to Israel being an ethnocracy more than anything. A robust democracy for mostly one ethno-religious group.
      .
      3) Comparisons to the U.S. are apt to fail for variety of reasons…
      a) All Puerto Ricans born after 1941 are natural-born citizens of the U.S. The U.S. also treats its territories well. In addition, these citizens can also vote in Presidential Primaries while having their own governors and constitutions.
      b) We have a Constitution. That speaks for itself. An important tool for in theory and in practice for maintaining our robust and obviously flawed democracy.
      c) Our constitution protects rights for our indigenous populations (Native Americans), minorities and residents of our territories…but generally everyone. In practice, it many times succeeds as a tool for defending rights.
      d) Finally, the U.S. democracy doesn’t thrive on excluding indigenous populations from citizenship and/or participation in civic life. Maybe in the 1800s, but now not so much. I know the annexation of Texas is cited but surprisingly that didn’t involve massive expulsions of Tejanos (it did involve a massive amount of discrimination though).

      Reply to Comment
    41. Ayoosha

      With regards to the PRican comment from AIG, PRicans can vote in the actual elections if they live in the mainland, so yes, they do have a right to vote. If they live in the island, they can only vote in primary elections.
      You can’t use that comparison…

      Reply to Comment
    42. Dhalgren

      @SH
      “Dhalgren, not so far, but let’s do it.”

      How about a larger movement called Buberism? At least, it seems like it’s time to revisit Buber’s bi-nationalist version of Zionism. We have Bosnia to look at now for what to do and what not to do (probably more of this) with a multi-national state. There was an article I was reading on this the other day that I can’t seem to find now. It seems like Israel could begin with these solutions where Bosnia is no doubt going to have a very hard time achieving them. Anyway, the current situation of Bosnia does reveal the limitations of constitutional solutions to ethnic conflicts. You also need to have economic equality (people tend not to hate each other when they have good jobs). You need to have some kind of formal declaration of reconciliation, including an apology for past abuses of Palestinians (yeah, that’s one-sided, but that’s how it would have to be in the beginning). You would also need to ensure a strong education system for everyone, especially one that presents a shared history for Palestinians and Israelis.

      You would also have to accept that there would still be outbreaks of violence that would steadily diminish over time. A joint Israeli-Palestinian security force would ensure this is taken on as a shared burden so as not to play into us vs. them mentalities. There’s always the option of a UN peacekeeping force as part of this too. That would also keep attacks from feeding into ethnic conflict.

      As far as right of return and concerns over demographics, two points come to mind: 1) economic prosperity is associated with lower birth rates, so bringing Palestinian economic prosperity into balance with Israeli economic prosperity would act to level the demographic playing field; and 2) peace between Israel and Palestine would make the region much more attractive in terms of aliyah. So it is not like the Palestinian right of return would be unbalanced.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Steve

      Mya Guarnieri is an anti-Israel agenda writer. Every single article she’s written on every single website I’ve seen is excessively critical of Israel.

      Furthermore, she promotes Jewish Israel ceasing to exist and wants the “one-state solution.”
      .
      Because of this, I NEVER, EVER trust any information she provides or her analysis of anything unless I see it confirmed elsewhere, in context.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Steve

      MYA GUARNIERI in the comment section wrote: “israel rules the lives of millions of palestinians in the west bank and gaza yet doesn’t give them the right to vote.”
      .
      Reality Check: Palestinains have the right to vote, outside of Israel. And they voted. ANd they decided that the jihad terrorist organization Hamas best represent their views.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Michael H

      @AIG “I would like to see what happens in a European country if they have to go through something similar to the second intifada. You would have had a fascist ruler in about 2 minutes.” Is European history not your strong point because most of them did — the British had the IRA, the Spanish had ETA, many European countries had communist terrorists like the Baader-Meinhof Group, Red Brigades, Action Directe etc. Britain and Spain both experienced terror attacks in the previous decade with a higher single incident death toll than anything Israel has faced. There was no fascist dictator as a result.

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    46. sh

      @Dhalgren – “How about a larger movement called Buberism? At least, it seems like it’s time to revisit Buber’s bi-nationalist version of Zionism.”
      .
      My feeling is that disinterring Buber, whom I remember my parents discussing passionately between them and with their friends when I was an infant, is unlikely to energize the masses at this stage.
      .
      Believe it or not, these discussions took place within the Bachad/Mizrahi movement, (modern orthodox founders of Bnei Akiva youth movement and, after 67, the Gush Emunim that gave birth to the settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza) where Buber had many supporters, in its struggles over whether – and if so, how – religious Zionists can join forces with their secular counterparts without sacrificing morals and principles. Among those morals and principles was complete equality for Israel’s Arab population. It does, though, go to show how rapidly a beautiful garden can run to seed.
      .
      As for the rest of your post, there is not one issue on which we disagree. The question is how to provoke a re-evaluation in a way that energizes rather than anaesthetizes both Israel and diaspora Jewry worldwide; and how to engage in action instead of restricting ourselves, as we do now, to reaction.

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    47. sh

      To continue with Buber, reading a history of Brit Shalom, a movement founded in 1925 and joined by at least one figure iconic enough in today’s Israel to have a street named after her in most Israeli towns, Henrietta Szold is quoted from a collection of essays entitled “Towards Union in Palestine”, edited by, among others, Martin Buber:
      .
      “If we do not give every member of the public the opportunity of considering the Jewish-Arab question, we will be committing, I think, an unpardonable sin. Why do I think so? For two reasons.
      First: it was Judaism, which brought me to Zionism and I cannot but believe that Judaism, Religion as I understand it, is our moral code; and Judaism bids us to find a way in common with the Arabs living in this country.
      Secondly: I am almost certain that at the end of the war it will not be easier that it is now to shape the development of our life in the way we desire by bearing our influence on those who determine the course of affairs.
      The more I return to this matter, the more do I become convinced that politically as well as morally, the Jewish-Arab question is the decisive question. I insist that we must reach an understanding of this question, and we can succeed in this only if we are offered opportunities of meeting and discussing the matter…. .”

      Henrietta Szold – 1942
      http://www.britshalom.org/background.htm
      .
      Sounds

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    48. Dhalgren

      @SH
      I think that’s where the idea of a popular movement like Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring (i.e. the nonviolent elements) comes into play. Buber and Ihud still had a top-down mentality. It needs to come from ordinary people. Negotiations and meetings between political leaders and prominent thinkers obviously have failed. There is no reason to expect solutions to come from above. A new kind of Ihud party could be part of it, though, just not the beginning.

      Maybe it begins with the development of a shared narrative now, to begin with an answer and not Henrietta Szold’s question, a way to think of all that has happened from the Nakba to Israeli children dying in Palestinian suicide bombings not as “us vs. them” but as “us vs. us,” as acts that result from being outside this shared narrative, or as being opposed to it. Current grassroots activities that unite Israelis and Palestinians could incorporate this.

      The trouble is the educational experience is going to be so variable. The ideas would need to be capable of being expressed in basic terminology so someone with little or no educational experience can absorb them alongside the highly educated (think the “We are the 99%” slogan of Occupy Wall Street). Maybe some sort of “Isaac AND Ishmael” motif? Is there a word in Hebrew and Arabic that expresses the idea of union more strongly than the English word “and?”

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    49. sh

      DHalgren, The top-down mentality was the attitude of the day in the countries they came from although, having been nearer bottom of the pile there, it’s hard to comprehend why that came along in their baggage.
      .
      ” It needs to come from ordinary people”
      Yeah, I too eventually came to the conclusion that it has to come from ordinary people and that all the terminology that has become hollow and opaque, including all the isms we bat at each other, needs to be ditched. I don’t think that uneven education is that much of a problem since in my experience, there’s a kind of common level at which the minds of unpretentious thinking people, whether highly educated or not, can meet (I’m saying this as a less-educated person, incidentally).
      .
      Ditching the versus and becoming an us is difficult for both sides. I don’t quite follow what you mean by acts that result from being outside the shared narrative. Has our recent shared narrative not been the things you say are outside it?
      .
      “Maybe some sort of “Isaac AND Ishmael” motif?”
      Perhaps those who want the place they live in to house people of goodwill don’t really need any reference to their race or religion to bind them at this point. We all know we’re Abraham’s children and that hasn’t stopped our leaders from successfully selling us the idea that one half-brother has to triumph over the other for far too long.

      “Is there a word in Hebrew and Arabic that expresses the idea of union more strongly than the English word “and?””
      In both Arabic and Hebrew, “and” is not a word but a letter that attaches to the word that follows it. It’s the same letter in both languages, just pronounced and written slightly differently. You can see them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waw_(letter)

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