Zionism and Democracy

Gideon Levy, the hateful Ha’aretz writer who reaches new depths of loathing for the state that protects and nurtures him with every column he writes, has gotten something right this week. But he is wrong about the implications of his discovery.

Last week, I wrote about the State of Israel’s reason for being: the Zionist principle that “a sovereign state in the Land of Israel is a necessity to protect and preserve the Jewish people – and that their preservation is an objective worth attaining.” Such a state, of, by, and for the Jewish people, is what the founders meant by a Jewish state.

This Wednesday there will be a vote to extend (or not) a law that prevents Arabs from the territories or enemy countries from obtaining Israeli residence by marrying an Israeli Arab citizen. The official justification for this law is the large number of children from such families that committed terrorist acts. But that’s only a small part of it: the truth is that without a Jewish majority, we can’t have a Jewish state. Control of non-Jewish immigration is essential to maintain it. And don’t think the Arabs don’t understand that.

The founders also wanted the state to be democratic, and for all its citizens to have equal rights. What Gideon Levy has correctly noted is that sometimes these objectives conflict with one another:

There is no such thing as Jewish and democratic, because on Wednesday the Knesset will have to decide between the two. Those who prefer a Jewish state will vote to extend the discriminatory and infuriating amendment that marks a clear gap between the rights of a Jewish citizen and the rights of an Arab citizen, with outright Jewish supremacy in the legal code. Those who prefer a democratic state will of course vote against the law.

But our real state, unlike the one in Levy’s imagination, is neither fully Jewish nor fully democratic. That’s because some 21% of our population is not Jewish. In this particular case, the Jewish ones can invite their relatives to join them, and the non-Jews can’t. That’s not fair, but it’s necessary. And it is not self-contradictory, as Levy suggests.

Levy demands perfect democracy (more precisely, perfect equality of rights), and insists that any deviation is “intolerable nationalism.” That is nonsense. There is no state in the world that is a perfect democracy, and most are far less democratic than Israel. He should consider that the other side can also demand perfection, that is, a state that has no non-Jewish citizens. That is also an alternative.

Last month Israel was attacked by Hamas in Gaza, on the pretext that Israeli police violated the sanctity of a mosque on the Temple Mount (where Arabs were stockpiling fireworks and rocks to throw down on Jews at the Kotel and at police) and because some Arabs were being evicted from homes in Jerusalem for non-payment of rent. In response, Hamas launched 4,350 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. At the same time, incited primarily by Hamas, some Arab citizens of Israel began an insurrection in cities with mixed populations, which not only included fighting with the authorities, but also the beating and murder of random Jews, and the burning of Jewish homes, vehicles, and businesses.

In other words, some of Israel’s Arab citizens became a fifth column, fighting on the side of the enemy on the home front.

The solution to this problem doesn’t involve more “democracy” in the form of rights for Arab citizens to bring in more Arabs. Indeed, it’s easy to argue that the best solution to the problem, even the only one, is the opposite – for as much of the Arab population as possible to emigrate to other Arab countries or the West.

It is unlikely that our government will choose that alternative. What it will do, and probably what the majority of Israelis would prefer, is to continue trying to walk a compromise path that makes it possible for the state to keep its Jewish character and majority, while impinging as little as possible on the rights of minorities. Even many Israeli Arabs will accept this, albeit without applause.

Why isn’t this real-world solution obvious to Gideon Levy?

He claims that he rejects Zionism because it conflicts with democracy. That is not true, because he supports a far less democratic “one-state solution,” an unstable fantasy that would become a totalitarian Muslim state. As is obvious from his countless columns vilifying the state and especially its defenders, his real reason for opposing Zionism is that he does not believe that the Jewish people, as a people, are worth preserving. The explanation for this lies in the realm of aberrant psychology, not logic.

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1 Response to Zionism and Democracy

  1. shalom-hillel says:

    As a people, we do have more than our fair share of rigid, judgmental ideologues, demanding the ideal and ready to condemn Israel. You’d think they would have paused, considering the still-recent Shoah and the clear need for a Jewish sanctuary and land of freedom. Instead, they choose to strengthen the enemy and make his arguments for him. The very difficult diaspora caused a lot of damage to the Jewish psyche, but did we always have these tendencies, even in ancient times?

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