Friday, February 18, 2005

Israel: the choice between democracy and Jewishness

A must-read article in Harper's. The article baits you by presenting these two interpretations of dilemma of trying to be a democracy that defines one people as of more inherent worth than any other people in that nation...

The occupation has presented Israel with a "demographic" threat. Maintain the occupation, the argument goes, lose the "Jewish majority" between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and Israel must become either an apartheid state or a binational state—a "Jewish state" or a "democratic state"—not both.

Less commonly asserted... is an argument about Israel irrespective of its occupation. A Jewish state cannot be democratic, this argument goes, because a state in which the world's Jewish people and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges is inherently discriminatory against non-Jewish citizens. Some kind of binationalism, if not inevitable, is more or less preferable.

...and then hooks you with this stunning observation:
A quarter of Israel's schoolchildren are Arabs. Were the West Bank and Gaza to disappear, and Israel did nothing to reform itself, it would face another intifada in a generation, this time from within. Israeli Jews know this in their guts, if not from their debate. Listen only to them, and the "situation" seems hopeless. Israel’s deficiencies as a "democratic state" were always most transparent to Arab Israelis.
No two state solution resolves the issue of how Israel, in the long term, will treat its 1.3 million Arab citizens; only getting rid of laws and customs that favor Jews over Arabs can resolve this ethical cancer within Israel's democracy.

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