RES: Said on American Zionism

Nathan Newman nathan at
Tue Oct 17 11:39:33 PDT 2000

In message <a0431010bb6113a2510b3@[]>, Brad De Long <delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU> writes
>>Sorry, but Israel cannot be defined as a democracy
>More of one than Syria...

-Being a bit undemocratic is like being a bit pregnant. It is true that -Israeli citizens have a democracy amongst themselves, but since that is -premised on the denial of the rights of the expelled Palestinians as -well as those under occupation, it is no democracy at all. The recent -poll to the effect that Israeli Jews overwhelmingly considered Israeli -Arabs to be traitors is indicative of just how superficial the facade of -Israeli democracy is. - James Heartfield

To say democracy is an either/or situation like pregnancy is ridiculous. Of course there are levels and extents of democracy. Syria's cult of personality and consent by mass murder (ie. Hama) is at the worst end of the spectrum. Kuwait's oligarchy which is based on a tiny percentage of the population is only slightly better. Egypt's repressive manipulation of the ballot box and civic organizations with a moderately free press and moderately independent judiciary is somewhat more democratic. Jordan's relatively democratic elections restrained by the power of the king is slightly better. Israel's combines a freewheeling internal democracy with elected Arab politicians combined with dramatic repression of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. That Israelis consider Arabs traitors, yet their elected leaders remain in government is exactly the point of what makes Israel more democratic within the pre-1967 borders.

On the other hand, that Israel is democratic internally does not justify its oppression of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. In fact, as I have argued, it makes its people more responsible for the actions of its government. A negotiated settlement is no doubt the best way for a long-term peace, but if Israel refuses to negotiate a withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, the minimal action progressives should promote is the withdrawal of US aid to Israel. I doubt much more would be needed to force such a withdrawal.

-- Nathan Newman

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