Israeli Democracy or Hypocrisy
by Stephen Lendman
Centre for Research on Globalization,
January 14, 2010
An October 2007 Haaretz editorial titled
"Democracy or hypocrisy" contrasted the "occupying
Land of Israel to the democratic Israel" in calling for a
"debate about Israel's control over the lives of Palestinians
deprived of civil rights," saying its democracy is flawed
and not addressing it is hypocrisy.
Throughout history, regimes rhetorically
embraced democracy as cover for more despotic policies, no different
today throughout the world in countries like India, Pakistan,
America and Israel practicing what Michael Parenti calls "democracy
for the few," (the) "shadier sides of US political life
(in which) proponents of the existing social order have tried
to transform practically every deficiency into a strength."
He asked, "Who gets what, when, how
and why?" Why do so few benefit at the expense of the many?
Why are peace, social justice, and real democracy illusions in
a nation embracing the opposite of what they represent? Why instead
do poverty, racism, sexism, exploitation, rapacious capitalism,
and imperialism, in fact, define how America and Israel are governed?
Indian writer Arundhati Roy says her country's
model is "designed to uphold the consensus of the elite for
market growth (and has) metastasized into something dangerous"
in her book titled, "Field Notes on Democracy: Listening
to Grasshoppers." She admits to being "hysterical"
about where India is heading, sabotaged by religious nationalism
and political expediency, "genocide" in the bloody 2002
Gujarat riots, "ecocide" for greater profits, and corruption
at the highest levels. She compares Hindu right wing persecution
of Muslims to Hitler's persecution of Jews and asks:
"What kind of India do they want?
A limbless, headless, soulless torso left bleeding under the butcher's
clever with a flag driven deep into her mutilated heart?"
Is it less true for America or in how
Israel treats Muslims, many its own citizens yet denied virtually
all rights afforded Jews, and in Palestine none under military
On December 27 in the Electronic Intifida,
Ali Abunimah said "Israel resembles a failed state"
in citing one year after Operation Cast Lead, "but for the
people there time might as well have stood still," given
how viciously they were attacked, the false premise for doing
it, the many hundreds murdered in cold blood, many thousands left
with horrific wounds, virtually everyone emotionally traumatized,
the vast amount of devastation left, and the wasteland that's
now Gaza under siege, out of sight, out of mind, and out of the
consciousness of world leaders doing nothing to help.
On the same date, Haaretz writer Gideon
Levy asked: "Was Israel's Gaza offensive worth it,"
saying "the (past) year was a year of shame for Israel, greater
shame than any other time. It is shameful to be Israeli today"
given a conflict that wasn't "a war but (so unjustifiable
an) assault (that) Israel's international status was dealt a severe
blow, in addition to Israeli indifference and public blindness
to what happened in Gaza."
An Israeli "Goliath" mercilessly
attacked a "Palestinian David," then "wrap(ed)
itself in sick apathy despite what was happen(ed and) refuses
to open Gaza's gates to let in supplies....leaving Gaza to its
fate, to its ruins."
Is this democracy? Is it better in India,
America, or many other nations masking reality behind a friendly
face, then running roughshod over millions at home and abroad.
Israel even does it to Jews. About 15,000
Messianic ones complain of threats, harassment and police indifference.
They follow the Torah and Talmudic teachings but believe in Jesus
as the Jewish Messiah. According to author Paul Liberman:
A Messianic Jew is "a person who
was born Jewish or converted to Judaism, who is a 'genuine believer
in Yeshua (Jesus), and who acknowledges his (or her) Jewishness."
They practice bi-spiritually, outside of customary Judaism and
Christianity, yet they believe they're authentic Jews, "complete"
ones to the ire of secular and Orthodox Israelis, some radicalized
to target them the way Israel persecutes Muslims.
In a disturbing March 2008 incident, fire
damaged their Jerusalem church, and in December 2008, ultra-Orthodox
Jews burned Christian holy books. These and other incidents portray
a nation much different from its image, one so eroded that Shalamit
Aloni's May 9, 2009 Haaretz article headlined, "Sadly, Israel
is no longer democratic," saying:
there's a "Jewish state and no equality
of rights....Democracy exists....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 and owned by people who have been living under
occupation for the past 42 years. And since 1992, (a Jewish state)
means an ethnocracy (in which) gentiles are (considered) donkeys."
Neoliberalism's Impact on Israeli Jews
In 1985, the Knesset amended the Bank
of Israel Law, prohibiting it from printing money for government
loans, ones needed earlier for development to finance immigrant
absorption, industrialization, full employment, and budget deficits.
It was part of a neoliberal takeover,
entrenching a massive power transference from various government
agencies to the Finance Ministry and national Bank, much like
America's financialization de-industrialized the country, shifted
power to Wall Street, let criminal bankers commit massive fraud,
plunder the Treasury, steal the wealth of millions, and pull off
what Catherine Austin Fitts calls a financial coup d'etat.
So today they own the country, plan to
suck the last ounce of worth from it, turn America into Guatemala,
and leave millions without jobs, a safety net, homes, savings
Washington and Tel Aviv collusion produced
Israel's 1985 shift with two declared goals:
-- reducing budget deficits to near balance;
-- dampen inflationary pressures by cutting
wages, prices, credit, the currency's value, public benefits,
pensions, and in the process curb union power and establish a
secondary, exploitable, temporary worker market.
Also in 1985, the Arrangements Law passed
as an emergency Economic Stabilization Plan measure. It sidestepped
the normal legislative process, became a permanent budget adjunct,
and kept Knesset members from debating its fallout and corruption
of economic democracy for Israeli Jews.
The result has been a race to the bottom,
especially since the 1990s, by privatizing everything, curbing
welfare and social benefits, and shifting wealth to the top, like
in America under ideologically extreme technocrats making economic
policy in Washington, at the Fed, and in Wall Street board rooms
with the aim of destroying the middle class and turning workers
into serfs with no rights, no benefits, and barely enough to survive.
Jewish Poverty and Hunger in Israel
In March 2007, the Jewish Journal.com
headlined the deepening divide between haves and have-nots among
"Welcome to 21st century Israel in
microcosm. Once idealized as a socialist paradise, the Jewish
state is increasingly becoming a country of two classes - those
who have soared in the increasingly capitalist economy and those
who have stumbled in its wake."
In 2007, before the current economic crisis,
the decline had "grown to alarming proportions." It's
always that way for Israeli Arabs. Now, more than ever, it affects
Jews, especially the elderly, holocaust survivors, immigrants,
ultra-orthodox, single parents, families with four or more children,
and Israeli workers (the working poor) struggling to get by in
a nation less caring for their needs.
The result brings disturbing headlines
-- "Half a million children living
in poverty - report;"
-- "1 in 5 below poverty line, NII
reports" - Israel's National Insurance Institute; and
-- "Jerusalem top(s) list of cities
with poor families."
Now it's worse according to a February
2009 NII study showing:
-- one-third of Israeli children (774,400)
living in poverty-stricken families;
-- one-fourth of Israeli households with
-- another 39,000 single-parent poor families;
-- 44% of all families needy enough to
receive NII stipends;
-- over 400,000 families suffering from
"nutritional insecurity," a euphemism for hunger meaning
they skip meals, eat less, some days not at all, and have nutritionally
deficient diets high in carbohydrates and low in fruits, vegetables,
dairy products, and protein-rich foods.
Israeli streets highlight the problem
- 1,000 or more daily at soup kitchens for a hot meal; older men
and women picking through garbage in larger cities; and growing
numbers of Israeli Jews joining the ranks of the impoverished
as social benefits erode at a time of greater need. Like America,
Israel no longer cares.
According to Ben-Gurion University of
the Negev Sociology Professor Uri Ram, author of "The Globalization
of Israel: McWorld in Tel Aviv, Jihad in Jerusalem," even
the Labor Party renounced its founding values, and embraces the
"transforming (of) Israel from a welfare society into this
kind of free-market, corporate-dominated" one.
In 1997, YEDID (friend in Hebrew) was
founded to promote social justice by operating Citizen Rights
Centers in poor communities throughout Israel to help Jews and
Arabs alike. Its founder, Sari Revkin, says:
The needs of underprivileged Israelis
grow monthly, yet the government "seems to sink back into
silence. (As a result, we've) been put in the position of doing
what the government should be doing, knowing that if we turn people
away they will retrench into themselves. Three thousand new people
a month come (to us) for help."
Holon-Bat Yam charity manager, Moshe Traube,
agrees saying: "Here the rich get richer and poor get poorer.
Everyone has to struggle for him or herself alone." Israel's
eroded healthcare highlights the problem.
Healthcare in Israel
Israel's 1994 National Health Insurance
Law was supposed to guarantee quality care for all Israelis when
enacted. That was then. This is now after succeeding governments
assured unequal access through inadequate funding, privatized
services, and the steady erosion in the extent and quality of
services. It's caused the poor and middle class to be increasingly
crowded out due to an inability to pay for what use to be free
or low cost.
Two healthcare systems are now the norm,
as in America, differing markedly in quality - one for the privileged
and another for most others. Hospitals are also affected by budget
cuts, public ones the most. It shows up in underfunding, overcrowding,
early patient releases, less treatment, more illnesses, and fewer
staff to handle greater needs. Those who can pay, get everything.
For those who can't, it's a disturbing story of unmet needs and
an increasingly deplorable situation.
It also affects employment with weakened
unions and labor protections, subcontracted part-time jobs replacing
higher-payer full-time ones, fewer benefits, illegal overtime,
firings without severance, unpaid leave, illegal deductions and
fines, and other assaults on working Israelis, Jewish ones. Israeli
Arabs have no rights afforded Jews and are treated like nonpersons,
even though they're citizens, have passports and IDs, and can
vote in elections.
Education As Well
It's no different in education under a
segregated system based ethnicity, religion and class, and since
the 1970s, increasingly impacted by market forces, the result
of budget cuts creating fewer public choices and more private
ones based on the ability to pay. Those who can't lose out, especially
for higher education with rising tuition fees and expenses, putting
it out of the reach of growing numbers.
Israeli Values - Zionism or Exclusion
In November, the Mitzpeh Aviv community,
under the jurisdiction of the Galilee Misgav Regional Council,
passed an amendment to its internal bylaws, stipulating that land
allocation be conditional on residents' placing the "highest
priorities (on) Zionist values and the values of the state as
a Jewish and democratic state."
Then on December 10, a new Knesset bill
passed its preliminary reading by a large majority after the Ministerial
Committee on Legislation adopted it. It aims to "preserv(e)
the ability to realize the Zionist vision in practice" throughout
Israel by imposing a "loyalty" condition on persons
seeking residency applications in Jewish communities.
The bill affects Jews primarily as almost
no Arabs live in Jewish areas. However, it entrenches racism and
discrimination against non-Jews by letting communities choose
their own residents. Mitzpeh Aviv isn't the first town to do it,
as earlier, Manof and Yuvalim (also under the Misfav Regional
Council's jurisdiction) enacted similar amendments. Others throughout
the country will follow, and they cover more than housing.
For example, the Ministry of Education
wants Arab candidates for senior positions to demonstrate a "positive
attitude" toward Israeli values. The chilling conclusion
is a nation increasingly following Avigdor Lieberman's vision
- the foreign minister and deputy prime minister who demands loyalty
as a condition for citizenship at the expense of democratic freedom,
and for Arabs he wants none.
Yet in November 2008, the Israeli Supreme
Court (in the Qa'adan case) ruled that an Arab family be allowed
to rent a home from the Jewish Moshav Nevatim family despite his
racist objections. It held that Jews and Arab citizens be treated
equally in all matters pertaining to the allocation of land and
housing. Nonetheless, Israeli politicians and IDF commanders have
a long history of ignoring unfavorable rulings and getting away
with it, so it's doubtful this one will stick.
Declaring loyalty, however, is troublesome.
How to do it is the issue - by renouncing Islam; converting to
Judaism; accepting second class citizen status; racist insults
and assaults; or perhaps staying silent or going along with denying
Arabs the same rights as Jews?
Civilized societies accept all their citizens
as equals, or are supposed to. Israel increasingly rejects that
standard, even for most Jews.
Overall, the conclusion is clear. Arabs
never had rights in Israel, but increasingly, social benefits,
human rights, and essential ones are denied Jews in a society
no longer caring. The result is a nation looking more like America
that looks more like a banana republic under a president, congress,
and corporate community eroding its few remaining freedoms on
the way to ending them all.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate
of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org