Dany Bahar

The Strength of our Democracy

Israel is one of the most dynamic countries in the world, but also, in some ways, a very predictable one. Every three years, on average, we go to an election; every two years we have a war; and every election we try to ban MK Hanan Zoabi from running for office.

The popular argument for banning her is “she is a traitor”. Why is she a traitor? Because, as some people would claim, her views are extremist. For instance, she has claimed that the kidnappers of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali Z”L were not terrorists and she was onboard the Mavi Marmara.

MK Zoabi’s comments and actions are terrible, to say the least. They make any rational person very angry. But, here is the catch: those are her views, and she is entitled to them. Moreover, as a parliamentarian, her job is to voice them out and to act accordingly.

Of course, there is nothing to be liked about what she says and does. But this, though, is healthy. It is part of the democratic game we all signed up to in 1948. No one said that in a democracy all voices are meant to be moderate.

MK Zoabi’s opinions are not enough reason to ban her from addressing the Knesset or from running for office. The strength of a democracy is measured by the extent to which we protect the minorities, and not the majority.

Can we still use our favorite “Hasbara” line on the participation of Arabs in the Knesset after this incident? I believe Jabotinsky would be the first one protesting this.

From a more pragmatic way, let me provide an argument to those who are supporting the banning of MKs who are “traitors”. The attention we all give to MK Zoabi every time she makes an incendiary speech is only good for her and her political career. Banning her from the Knesset only works on her favor as she accuses Israel of being undemocratic. Then, why do we fall into this trap? Let’s not take from her the right to express herself and instead of witch hunting, let us work on the issues that are really important for our country.

Let us strengthen our democracy, and become a light upon the nations.

About the Author
Dany Bahar is a fellow in the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. He holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University.
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