The Bigger Picture: The City in the Global Village


What's Wrong With Israeli Democracy?

The fundamental problem with Israeli democracy is that it is built on undemocratic foundations. The Israeli psyche lives with the guilt and knowledge that it made its home on land stolen from the Palestinians (even if it reasons that it has only "stolen back" its ancestral homeland), and that therefore only force can mediate relations with its Arab neighbours. Speaking at a funeral oration in 1956, Moshe Dayan, one of Israel's foremost past military leaders, said: "What cause have we to complain about their [the dispossessed Palestinians] hatred for us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived."

That was 50 years ago. How much more hatred must there be today when the Palestinians are dispossessed, not once but thrice over. Firstly, many lost their homes and land when they were pushed out at the point of a gun by Israelis at the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. Secondly, the remainder of Palestine that fell to the Palestinians (Gaza and the West Bank) was occupied by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967, and the Palestinians have lived under the jackboot of Israeli occupation ever since. And, thirdly, as Jewish fundamentalism got a grip on the body politic of Israel in the 1970s and 80s, so the so-called settlers moved into the Occupied Territories, financed by the Israeli state and protected by the Israeli Defence Force: what democratic justification can be given for such behaviour?