Democracy at any cost: Israel’s fishbowl

With the elections over, and Bibi in the process of forming his new government, I can’t help but wonder what really goes on in the privacy of his office, or the midnight visits to possible coalition MKs. Politics aside, I am amused by the process. Let us not forget that this behavior is as old as the 67 years of Israel as a state, and possibly older than that.

Remember the old story of whenever you have two Jews in the room, there will be three arguments.

This is the part that amuses me the most because it is true. We all know the multitude of parties involved in running Israel’s day to day business, and the complex structure of the Knesset. And we all know that an MK of one party might break off and form another new party tomorrow. The end result resembles a convoluted structure of many dimensions. A nightmare of political quantum physics that would make string theory look like child’s play. Impossible to identify a cohesive platform or agenda, it is rather like finding Waldo, wrapped in a needle, inside a haystack.

In spite of the mixed metaphors, it has actually managed to serve quite well, and has positioned Israel to defend itself, create a world class economy, and care for nearly 9 million citizens with distinction.

Now, about those 9 million citizens. 6.2 million are Jews. The remaining 2.8 million people are Arabs, mostly Muslim, some Christian, some Druse and Samaritan.  Without a lot of discussion about demographics, it is obvious to any outside observer that Israel is a healthy functioning democracy. Problems? To be sure. Inequality? Housing discrimination? Of course. Name me one country on this planet that has solved these issues without a magic wand, (or even a quantum physicist). The human race is, by its nature, UNEQUAL! And will always be.

This is particularly acute with Israel, because it is the only nation on Earth under a magnifying glass. Israelis live in a fishbowl and they know it. The world knows it.

Still, Israel is a democracy! And there-in lies the problem. One, in which, depends on the viewpoint of outside observers. Israel is the unfortunate recipient of the old adage credited to Winston Churchill (though not the original) that ‘Democracy is a very bad form of government, but it’s better than all the rest”. So where are the prying eyes coming from, and what do they want? The US and the EU want to see Israel as a western style democracy. Not sure what that really means, because the USA is drastically different than, say, Portugal. But they quote that loudly and often. Other countries call themselves a democracy also. The Democratic Peoples Republic of whatever….you get the point. I guess all one needs is a ballot box.

Something very sinister is hidden in all this attention being paid to Israel, and for a very different reason.

Solving the Israel-Palestinian dilemma will not get Israel out of the fishbowl. Only a few die-hards pay attention to the dribble from Jimmy Carter or Desmond Tutu, but there is a dangerous philosophy behind their rantings. Israel’s vibrant democracy does not pass their test, nor has it ever. If peace suddenly happened tomorrow morning, the magnifying glass would only get bigger. I guess haters are going to hate…not much anyone can do about that, but the danger is that more and more so-called democracies are quietly harboring the same convoluted philosophies.

Israel is not just a democracy but a JEWISH democracy!

To the world at large, this seems anathema. Jewishness is a culture, and, even though it represents people from many parts of the globe, it is still a special way of life. By the world’s standards of ‘democracy’, as varied as they are, there is one common agreement. You can’t be ‘special’ and be democratic at the same time!

What they are saying is that anything else is Apartheid! Such an ugly word indeed. Conjures up disgusting images of repression and hatred. What they are saying is that even with peace, Israel can’t be a Jewish state. This has been evident since 1948 and even before. It is not necessary to remind the reader that no country on earth recognizes Jerusalem as a capital city. No country on earth allows Israel to call itself a Jewish State (at least not without an argument). Even the International Red Cross, the harbingers of good, will not accept Mogen David Adom as a member. The fishbowl is being pushed closer and closer to the edge of the table, and many are waiting for it fall off the edge and shatter.

Remember, this was never about oil, never about sympathy for Palestinians. It was, and will always be about anti-Semitism! The two choices of democracy by ‘world standards’ or apartheid leaves little room for cultural identity. Israel’s new government, and any that follow, need to address this before the fishbowl cracks.

About the Author
Mitch is currently retired and an adjunct instructor at Western Iowa Technical Community College Sioux City Iowa USA.