Saturday, December 21

Israel's Democracy is being Compromised

There are signs that Israel's democracy is not as healthy as it seems. The lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is an indication that nothing will be achieved despite the pressure of the US and the EU. On the Israeli side remains a hard-core right-wing illegal settlement group who have more influence on Israeli Government policy than befits their numbers.

The Bayit Hayehudi Party under right winger Naftali Bennet has replaced the ultra-Orthodox religious parties in the coalition. He is a warmonger with right-wing, religious Zionist overtones that is hawkish and against giving up occupied territory for peace. Israel and the Palestinians have much to gain if the peace process moves forward. The EU have pledged a large amount of aid if both parties to the conflict get their act together and move towards peace. At present nothing is being achieved. Israel is not prepared to freeze illegal settlements in the occupied territories which is one of the conditions for making progress. Why? Netanyahu is afraid to upset the vitriolic settler apple-cart as his Likud Party moves more from right to extreme right.

This is illustrated in a number of ways. The illegal settlers, who are a vociferous minority, have more influence on government policy than they deserve. They have never had it so good since Netanyahu's coalition has great sympathy for them. They get taxpayer's money allotted to the illegal settlement enterprise at the expense of other projects that are more urgent. Housing in the territories are cheaper beyond the green-line, while within the green-line, young couples are unable to get inexpensive housing. The settler movement is having their hey-day under the present government.

Who are the illegal settlers? Most of them are religious, right-wing Zionists, who claim that their right to "Judea and Samaria" is not debatable. "Judea and Samaria" is their name for the occupied West Bank and this adds to its legitimacy for settlement in their eyes. The Tanach is their eternal contract or claim to these lands.

Those, who disagree and do not accept their claims, are considered self-hating Jews or even anti-Semites. They are ostracized by an ever increasing religious, extremist right-wing Orthodox Jewish population. These people relish their sanctimoniousness as they tolerate close to zero opposition. It is obvious that this vociferous group of religious fanatics and their offspring - the violent Hilltop Youth and Price Tag have been nurtured by previous right wing Government Coalitions. The vandalism that these extremist movements have caused against mosques, churches and private property in places like Abu Ghosh have gone unpunished. Nobody has been arrested and now it is business as usual.

Israel is peace posturing, but there is no substance. Israel knows that settlements will not be frozen so that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian will just not occur. The minority settler movements are laying the grounds for further violence against the Palestinians as well as enhancing Israel's poor image as an occupier even further. By their actions, they are also eroding Israel's democracy turning it into an exclusive democracy for Jewish citizens only. We may not have reached that stage yet, but we are are going down that road at a more rapid pace than meets the eye.

The second part of this article, while not connected with the first part, also illustrates some evidence of Israel's democratic erosion. I have a gut feeling that many readers will be asking "What is the writer doing in Israel? Why does he not pack up and leave?". My answer is simple. If I did not care and become indifferent to what is happening in Israel this means that I would not be true to myself. Our Jewish history should make us more sensitive to the suffering of others as our people had been refugees from the Nazi Holocaust and we despised the countries who were insensitive to the plight of Jews who sought refuge. There were countries that forbade Jews from seeking a new home there.

As a Jew, we must never forget our historical suffering. If we do forget and treat refugees and call them "infiltrators", which has negative connotations, we lose our humanity. Is this the reason why I should leave Israel because I disagree with the way it treats foreign workers as well as refugees? Perhaps this is what the right-wing Zionists want. They want more homogenuous thinking when it comes to the stranger who is viewed as a danger to Israel's Jewish identity ( quote the Biblical passage we were strangers in a strange land). The reason why I remain is because I care for Israel. I do not care for those who have lost their Jewish soul and have become racists and intolerant to those who are different. If this is the new Israel that is obssesive about Judaism and its preservation by having stringent laws enforced by the Migration Police then we have lost our soul.

We should welcome the stranger in our midst even if he does not belong to the "Chosen People" Israel is NOT like other countries and the Jewish experience over generations should allow more sensitivity towards the stranger irrespective of race, color or creed.

In a previous article, I wrote about the problems of caregivers, who care for our aged with devotion. If a caregiver falls pregnant she has to make a choice either to remain a caregiver in which case her baby is deported to the country of origin of the mother and cannot be with its mother, or the mother and child are both deported. Is this the mercy shown to the stranger according to Shas Party Jewish morality and mercy.

Democracy is alive and kicking for Jews, but less so for non-Jews. Eventually democracy for all Israel's citizens will be compromised for all Israel's citizens whether they are Jews or not.

We witnessed the treatment of African refugees - those who fled their countries of origin where their lives are endangered and are incarcerated in deportation camps awaiting their deportation to a certain death in the Sudan.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: