Avi Nofech
"democracy and free trade are the only way to peace"

Bizarre countries of the past

In 1579, Holland was a part of Spain

Some may find this difficult to imagine. Like, was the sun in Holland brighter then than today? Did the Dutch people play flamenco guitar?

It sounds unusual today, but in 1579 Países Bajos Españoles were very real.

There was more. The Emperor of Russia was at the same time King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland. Italy was a part of Austria.

Some Jews say their great grandparents lived in Lemberg, Austria. Today this place is Lviv, Ukraine.

There was a time when the King of England barely spoke English. Richard Cœur de Lion was a French speaker.

Of course the ordinary people of these countries were of the same ethnic group as today. The Dutch spoke Dutch between themselves, not Spanish, and it was the same in other places.
But ordinary people were not important then, and rulers did not care which language they spoke as long as they obeyed.

The rise of nationalism: commoners have their say

It all changed with the right to vote. Suddenly the opinion of ordinary people became important. It was possible to force the Slovaks to be part of Czechoslovakia before the free elections, but not after. Once they could vote the Slovaks decided they live in Slovakia, not in Czechoslovakia.

When people pass by this sign, do they think they are in Jerusalem or do they think they are in al Quds?

This street sign in East Jerusalem is in three languages, but which of them is the real one?
This is a hard question. In 1579 the real language of Holland was Spanish, by law. Which begs the question, what is it that is it that makes a language real?

In the past, real was what the real ruler wanted, because the ruler could make the subjects do what the ruler told them, whether they wanted it or not.

But now for roughly half of the world’s population the situation changed. Now real is what they want, because they can vote.

If people of Israeli East Jerusalem could vote, who would they vote for?

This again is a hard question because the only way to find out who people vote for is to let them vote. But just as a guess, since most of them speak Arabic and consider themselves Palestinians, it is reasonable to suppose that they would vote either for Fatah or for Hamas.
Israelis voting for Hamas? Well, this is why they don’t vote. If they had free vote, there would be Hamas members in Jerusalem city council!

But for how long can one keep people without the right to vote?

What happens to democracy today?

There is a chart by Freedom House that shows the trend in the number of democracies:

What this chart shows is, the undemocratic regimes are doomed. The growth in the number of democracies is strong and fast. The dictators should take care of their Swiss bank accounts, because their time is running out.

What it means for East Jerusalem is, at some point in the future its people are going to vote. And they are going to vote in Arabic, because it is their language. Even though on Israeli street signs Arabic appears in tiniest letters, East Jerusalem people still speak Arabic as they always did.

So if they vote in Israel, the Knesset will become a very different place.

About the Author
I was a lecturer in mathematics in Israel and in Canada and now teach part time at Grant MacEwan University and work on a project in mathematical physics. As for hobbies, it is skiing. I can do the black diamond and my ambition is to do the double black diamond.