Sadly, Israel is no longer democratic
by Shulamit Aloni
www.haaretz.com/, May 1, 2009
Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and philosopher
Asa Kasher, two respected men around here, published an article
entitled: "A just war of a democratic state," (Haaretz,
April 24, Hebrew).
A remark about the first part: There are
wars that are necessary for self-defense or to fight injustice
and evil. But the expression "just" is problematic when
speaking of war itself - which involves killing and destruction
and leaves women, children and old people homeless, and sometimes
even kills them.
Our sages have said: "Don't be overly
righteous." And there is absolutely no question that dropping
cluster bombs in an area populated by civilians, as we did in
the Second Lebanon War, does not testify to great righteousness.
The same thing can be said of using phosphorus bombs against a
Apparently, according to the Yadlin and
Kasher definition of justice, in order to eliminate terrorists
it is just to destroy, kill, expel and starve a civilian population
that has no connection to the acts of terror and no responsibility
for them. Perhaps had they adopted a more decent and less arrogant
approach they would have tried to explain the reasons for the
fury and intensity that brought about the shocking killing and
destruction, and even apologized for the fact that these exceeded
any reasonable necessity
But after all, we are always right; moreover,
these things were done by "the most moral army in the world,"
sent by the "democratic" Jewish state - and here is
the meeting point of the two concepts in the title of Yadlin and
As for the army's morality, it would have
been better had they remained silent and thereby been considered
wise. This is because the statistics on the destruction and harm
to civilians in the Gaza Strip are familiar to everyone, and not
divorced from the oh-so-moral behavior of our army in the occupied
territories. In the context of this behavior, for example, the
army operates with great efficiency against farmers who demonstrate
against the theft of their lands, even when the demonstrations
are not violent.
The long-term evidence of abuse by soldiers
against civilians at the checkpoints - including repeated instances
of expectant mothers who are forced to give birth in the middle
of the road, surrounded by armed soldiers who laugh wickedly -
is no secret either. Day after day, year after year, the most
moral army in the world helps to steal lands, uproot trees, steal
water, close roads - in the service of the righteous "Jewish
and democratic" state and with its support. It's heartbreaking,
but the State of Israel is no longer democratic. We are living
in an ethnocracy under "Jewish and democratic" rule.
In 1970 it was decided that in Israel
religion and nationality are one and the same (that is why we
are not listed in the Population Registry as Israelis, but as
Jews). In 1992 it was determined in the Basic Law on Human Dignity
and Liberty that Israel is a "Jewish state." There is
no mention in this law of the promise that appears in the state's
formative document, the Declaration of Independence, to the effect
that "The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of
social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective
of religion, race or sex." The Knesset ratified the law nonetheless.
And so there is a "Jewish state"
and no "equality of rights." Therefore some observers
emphasize that the Jewish state is not "a state of all its
citizens." Is there really a democracy that is not a state
of all its citizens? After all, Jews living today in democratic
countries enjoy the full rights of citizenship.
Democracy exists in the State of Israel
today only in the formal sense: There are parties and elections
and a good judicial system. But there is also an omnipotent army
that ignores legal decisions that restrict the theft of land owned
and held by people who have been living under occupation for the
past 42 years. And since 1992, as we mentioned, we also have the
definition "Jewish state," which means an ethnocracy
- the rule of an ethnic religious community that strictly determines
the ethnic origin of its citizens according to maternal lineage.
And as far as other religions are concerned, disrespect for them
is already a tradition, since we have learned: "Only you
are considered human beings, whereas the gentiles are like donkeys."
From here it is clear that we and our
moral army are exempt from concerns for the Palestinians living
in Israel, and this is even more true of those living under occupation.
On the other hand, it is perfectly all right to steal their land
because these are "state lands" that belong to the State
of Israel and its Jews.
That is the case even though we have not
annexed the West Bank and have not granted citizenship to its
inhabitants, who under Jordanian rule were Jordanian citizens.
The State of Israel has penned them in, which makes it easy to
confiscate their land for the benefit of its settlers.
And important and respected rabbis, who
are educating an entire generation, have ruled that the whole
country is ours and the Palestinians should share the fate of
Amalek, the ancient tribe the Israelites were commanded to eradicate.
At a time when a "just war" is taking place, racism
is rife and robbery is called "return of property."
We are currently celebrating the 61st
anniversary of the State of Israel. We fought in the War of Independence
out of a great hope that we would build a "model society"
here, that we would make peace with our neighbors, work the land
and develop the Jewish genius for the benefit of science, culture
and the value of man - every man. But when a major general and
a philosopher justify - out of a sense of moral superiority -
our acts of injustice toward the other in such a way, they cast
a very heavy shadow on all those hopes.