If we contrast Israel with its Arab neighbors, it would be a gross exaggeration to regard Israel as a totalitarian state, to say nothing of former president Jimmy Carter’s malicious and mendacious reference to Israel as an apartheid state.
Not only does Israel have universal suffrage along and with periodic multi-party elections, but its Knesset or parliament has three Arab parties. What is more, the leaders of these parties advocate Israel’s demise and have even urged Israel’s Arab citizens to emulate Hezbollah.
Arab MKs such as Azmi Bishara and Talib a-Sana can even incite Arab citizens to murder Jews with impunity. This they can do because of the permissive rulings—or policy of permissive insurrection—of Israel’s Supreme Court. These rulings have been influenced by European jurisprudence, which has subordinated Europe’s cultural heritage to Arab rights or multiculturalism. This has been the modus operandi of recently retired court president Aharon Barak, of whom it has been said: “He’s prepared to see 30 or 50 people [i.e., Jews] blown up, as long as human rights are preserved.”
I am alluding to a statement of former deputy court president Mishael Cheshin, who apologized for his apparent exaggeration. Speaking of human rights, however, it was no less than Judge Barak who, despite Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, legalized the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and Northern Samaria. Although they were not herded in cattle cars destined for crematoria, most of these Jews suffered, and many continue to suffer, physical and psychological maladies as well as financial ruin resulting from the destruction of their flourishing and well-knit communities: their schools and synagogues, their farms and factories.
It has also been well-documented that the Government, with the blessings of the Barak court, systematically violated the civil rights of thousands of religious and other Jews who protested that expulsion.
Nevertheless, it would still be a gross exaggeration to call Israel a totalitarian state, even though it is far from having the freedom of expression enjoyed by Americans. Strange as it may seem, Israel’s Arab citizens actually enjoy more freedom of speech than Jews. Arab students at Israeli universities have openly supported al-Qaeda without being suspended or deprived of their government stipends.
Meanwhile, a patriotic Jew like Nadia Matar was indicted for insulting a public official who had accepted an appointment to oversee the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. Still, compared to Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, it would not be a gross exaggeration to call Israel a liberal society.
Most Israelis know, however, Israel’s liberal reputation is contradicted by the palpable fact that its print and electronic media have ever been dominated by the Left and have a pronounced anti-Jewish bias. Although it may be an exaggeration to say that the reliability of Israel’s major Hebrew-language newspapers is comparable to that of Pravda, one thing is obvious: the Government is not about to license a Jewish equivalent to a Fox News!
Lacking in Israel’s major media is the diversity of opinions associated with liberal democracy. Admittedly, this can also be said today of England and much of Europe—whose media are also dominated by the Left and fearful of publishing unflattering remarks about Muslim Arab behavior.
On the other hand, if our emphasis is shifted from liberalism to democracy, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Israel’s structure of government is far less democratic than that of England or of almost any European country. But now we must exercise caution and distinguish between a country’s de facto and de jure distribution of power.
When I read that Israel has the Westminster model of government, I have to laugh. After all, the members of England’s parliament are individually elected by the voters in regional or multi-district elections, something utterly lacking in Israel. But a closer look at England’s parliament reveals an oligarchic system of government comparable to Israel’s.
Any informed observer knows that, de facto, Israel’s parliament is virtually powerless vis-à-vis the Government. This is why no Labor- or Likud-led Government has ever been toppled by a Knesset vote of no-confidence. But much the same may be said of England.
Despite its multi-district and “first-past-the-post” elections, such is the power of England’s two major parties (Labor and Conservative) that the electorate seldom has a chance to vote for anyone except the nominees of the machines. England’s party system (far more than America’s) has circumvented the territorial basis of politics. No such basis is possible in Israel, whose parliament is constituted by a single, nationwide electoral district where a profusion of parties win Knesset seats on the basis of proportional representation.
Thus, despite profound differences in their respective electoral systems, the voters in England, as well as those in Israel, are aware of having no control over their MPs or MKs. Moreover, in both countries, members of parliament are conscious that it is not they who are formulating public policies, but rather the Government.
This is not an argument against multi-district or regional elections, since a nation can have multi-member districts and preferential voting, as in Australia, to mention one of several alternatives systems that can enlarge the power of the electorate,
And so, while it would be a gross exaggeration to regard Israel as a totalitarian state, it is also a gross exaggeration to regard Israel as a democracy.