The original post was posted on Jan. 30, 2009. Translation by Alizah Benchetrit.
The state of Israel is not both Jewish and Democratic. It is Jewish, but employs a degree of political freedom, in order to gain legitimacy. I will attempt to prove this through several paradoxes which the phrase ‘Jewish & democratic’ produces.
Paradox: What will happen if within a few years many Jews will emmigrate, and the Arab citizens will become the majority in Israel? Will Israel still be ‘Jewish and democratic’?
Solution: The state will remain Jewish. Today, when Arab Israeli citizens run for parliament they must accept the fact that Israel is a Jewish state, meaning, it is not their state. Israel is the state of Jews in Moscow and London and not their state (as per Amendment 7 to Basic Law: the Knesset). Only if Arab Israeli citizens accept these principles, can they compete “democratically”. This law can only be changed with a majority vote in the Knesset, but because it is not possible to run on a platform to change this law, it will never be changed (“catch 22”). Although the tendency is to describe the “Jewish” and “democratic” as equal, yet they are not equal in the current arrangement. The value of Judaism overpowers the value of democracy. While it is possible to demand from every person to equally adhere to an inclusive democratic principle, the requirement to recognize the exclusive Jewish principle, hurts only non-Jewish citizens.
In countries around the world, all citizens form the nation, while in Israel the Jews are the nation, and the others are, well… something else. Israel adamantly refuses to accept the notion of an “Israeli nation.” Obviously, as it would not be possible to conceive of a state to be by definition, both Catholic and democratic….
It is important to note that the possibility for the above scenario is hypothetical, as it is reasonable to assume that prior to the emergence of a non-Jewish majority, a mechanism to revoke the citizenship of the Arabs will come about. The “game” in Israel has always been about granting a right to vote, because of this citizenship was revoked from Palestinians refugees (some expeled, as in Ashkelon 1951). A similar example, is the control for over 41 years in the territories beyond the 1967 borders- the Green Line. Basic democratic principles dictate: either everyone has the right to vote in this territory, or it is an occupied territory, in which case, none have the right to vote. in Israel, anyone who lives beyond the Green Line is permitted to vote in elections for the Israeli Parliament, only if they are Jewish. The supremacy of Jews is clear; its goal is to to ensure the control of the Jews in the system (out of fear?).
Paradox: A democratic state is supposed to promote a debate on the values and policies that the citizens desire. The state of Israel has already decided
Solution: Creating an artificial Jewish majority that will transform the the interest of the state, on the one hand, and the interest of Jews, on the other, to be synonymous and widely accepted. A Jewish majority limits the democratic debate with the question “what is the interest of the Jews”? instead of “what is the interest of the citizens of the state”?
‘What is so artificial about a Jewish majority?’ – Well, in terms of free democratic elections, the guaranteed victory of one (ethnic) group through the control of resources, is not democratic. Egyptian and Syrian presidents are re-elected every few years, and yet this does not make Egypt or Syria democracies. Would we accept as a democracy a situation in which the Jews can have a double vote and the the Arabs a single one? Well, this too gives an unequal advantage to us, Jews.
Promoting Jewish immigration (benefits to Olim, and returning citizens, Yordim), while on the other hand encouraging emigration among Palestinians (by means of confiscating their property, or preventing their return, or because of their religion) as well as the manipulations of birth rates, health policies, and resources (especially of land and home ownership rights)- these are undemocratic interventions in the right to vote, in different groups through the right to citizenship, and operate according to religious belonging. These are governmental mechanisms that create an artificial majority, which is not the natural majority of the people who inhabit the country. Add to that, those who are legally recognized as “residents“ (mostly Palestinians in the West Bank), a practice that inhibits their right to vote. Even though the “residents” live under Israeli rule, alongside Israeli-Jews who have the right to vote, they have no civil rights.
The supremacy of Jews also has secondary importance in matters of land control, in both the 1967 territories and Israeli state proper territories. The territories overtaken were not transferred to the benefit of all citizens, or even in the interest of an Israeli nation (because one does not exist) but rather to the benefit of the entire “Jewish nation” worldwide. Every Jew in the world can purchase national land with a nice discount, but not every Israeli citizen.
Another example: The Absentee’s Property Law (1950) articulates that anyone present on foreign enemy territory on September 1, 1948 has lost the land to the Public Trustee. At the time when the Palestinians were physically present on certain lands (that were not in Israeli control yet), have lost their lands. In contrast, Iraqi Jews who purchased land as an investment and were in “enemy territory” during the “War of Independence” or the “Jews of Gush Etzion” who fell under Jordanian captivity did not lose their land, simply because they were not declared as Absentees. Thus, in fact, in Israel the Jews are the real citizens, rather than the citizens who reside in the state.
Anyone ever heard of a country that by definition is both Catholic and Democratic?! A state that is both White and Democratic?
Paradox: What if one day- the majority of citizens – and even a majority among the Jews – will decide that the principle of a ‘Jewish majority’ is not an ideal recipe to the state?
Solution: Even if 60% of Israeli citizens supported a state for all its citizens, Jews or not, they would not be able to organize as a list to the Knesset, due to the Basic Law mentioned above. To further illustrate this, even if they promoted the American Constitution as a platform (that all men are born with equal rights as an uncompromised truth and within this include immigration rights, property and collective identity) they would not acquire approval from the the Elections Committee (if not already dismissed by the party registry). Both require that political parties recognize Israel as the state of Jews world wide. Here too the supremacy of the Jewish principle over the democratic principle is expressed.
[Translator’s note: Here is another example to privileging of the “Jewish” principle: A Christian soldier in theIDF was killed a few years ago in combat and buried without religious ceremony because there are no Kadies, Priests or any other religious leaders in the military, the army of the “Middle Eastern democracy”. For other reasons, the Jewish state accepts a few who are not religiously Jewish for statistical purposes, about half a million in number, whom cannot marry in Israel. Even if they marry abroad they will be considered “Jews in question”, but externally will be counted as “Jews”. Israeli Jews living abroad are also similarly counted (650,000 in 2003; 700,000 in the U.S alone in 2007).-A.B.]
Paradox: What will happen if one day- the majority of citizens will decide to give up the democratic system?
Solution: This is a paradox that exists in every democracy, but unlike the previous paradox it could be accomplished through none-democratic means as ostensibly the citizens no longer believe in democracy (Is it possible to force a democracy?). Second, the state to begin with is not “democratic,” because of the unequal advantage to Jews. While it is correct to say that the state compromises its democracy in the interest of maintaining its unique Jewish character, and even if the democracy is an instrument to legitimize Jewish superiority, it can not be argued that Judaism in anyway bolsters democracy. In fact, Judaism as religion serves as another instrument for the supremacy of Jews, even though there is not a majority of religious Jews in the country (The paradox of “there is no God but he promised us the land”).
As such, the difference between these two last paradoxes, illustrates the superiority of the Jewish principle over the democratic principle.
Paradox: What if one day- many citizens who are Palestinians will marry Jews? Maybe their children will erase their anger, just like it happen a bit between Ashkenazi’s and Mizrahim (Sephardi Jews)?
Solution: Prevent this. The idea of intermarriage is inappropriate almost racially, and this is why the state permits marriage only according to religions. The Law of Citizenship emphasizes this and articulates that citizenship will not be granted to the partner and their children, if the the partner of the citizen is not Jewish.
The principle of separation we got from the anti-Semites: That Jews need to be concentrated in one place and marked. Past call, “All Jews to Palestine” was of the anti-Semitism while most Jews rejected Zionism for religious and secular reasons (the Three Oaths, and emancipations). Even in academic circles dealing with inequality it is popular to argue that segregation (for example in neighbourhoods and education system) is a tool for augmenting and reinforcing inequality. This is why the American Supreme Court decried that there is no such thing as “separate but equal.”
We should also mention that it is not possible to speak for the interest of Jews, unless Jewish separatism is maintained. Only in the interest of the race it is possible to impose State of Emergency Laws, which until the end of the British Mandate the Zionist leaders claimed, was worse than the Nazi laws. The only difference is the the transformation from the inferior Jew to the Jew as superior and chosen, with a head for patents and high-tech (a widespread phenomenon in many nations).
The foundational principle of the state of Israel dictates a Jewish majority. Without a majority it cannot persists as a Jewish and democratic and it therefore becomes necessary to choose. Either a democratic state that is not ruled by Jews, or a Jewish state of minority Jewish rule. Democracy is not just about “elections” and “majority rules” ; it is first of all civil equality and freedom of opinion. As such the combination where on the one hand we are busy in enshrining the superiority of one religious group with an artificial majority, and on the other seek to preserve the democratic system, produces paradoxes and solves them similarly. With the superiority of Jews.