Jewish and democratic.
It’s a phrase I hear week after week, day after day while attending Israeli high school. I see this characterization of a state as a sort of armor that teachers try to pass on to students, which makes us, Israelis, immune to any criticism from the “outside”. The notion that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state is repeated time and time, as if it is a legitimate concept, as if a country based on a specific religion could also be, at the same time, democratic.
When Jewish Israelis are given a preference in Israeli society, is anyone surprised? You would think that my classmates, when faced with obvious inequality, would, because of the above-mentioned education, highlighting the crucial importance of democracy, would realize that the very real preference of Jews over Arabs in Israel is morally wrong.
But no, of course not. When faced with inequality in their favor, my classmates say, yes, of course, we’re preferred, this is, after all, a Jewish state.
So if someone’s wondering, yes, one of the two famous adjectives that describe Israel’s ‘identity’ is indeed more powerful than the other. So, if we do prefer the country to be first and foremost Jewish, then, democracy is given second place, in other words, religion is more important than democracy. But while Israelis don’t understand what would mean the true democratization of their country, when they are facing a coup, and it is said to their faces, mostly by the media, that what is happening currently is anti-democratic, they do react, and they do son in a big way.
I find it amusing, browsing between the issues threatening “Israeli democracy” and choosing to protest the only one that could potentially hurt you, as a Jewish Israeli.
Because that’s what Israelis are doing right now – just last Saturday, half a million protesters across Israeli cities, towns, and kibbutzim – protesting for the most privileged of Israel.
I find it similar to how Northerners of the United States were speaking out against slavery because its existence allowed slaveowners to take potential jobs white people could do and make enslaved people do it instead of them. White Northerners were protesting against slavery not because of its immorality, but because it hurt their chances of finding a job.
I think what we’re seeing in Israel in these months is quite similar. Instead of choosing to protest Israel’s biggest problem, its biggest failure, the occupation, and its Palestinian victims, Israeli Jews are demonstrating against the destruction of Jewish democracy, which, from the very start, was only working for them.
I’m going to be honest, at this point, this is probably the best we’re getting. It’s time to reflect and face the problem: We’re never going to see Jews speaking out for Palestinians.
It’s true, in small numbers, it does happen, but it does so very rarely, especially because Jews in Israel are truly privileged.
In a perfect world, we, the remaining Jews, after surviving the Holocaust, would speak out against injustice wherever we see it. But that does not happen, instead, we’re facing immense criticism because of war crimes the IDF commits – and a protest against Bibi running amock just isn’t going to cut it.