Monday, July 8, 2002
One argument against re-unification of Palestine and Israel is that it would "destroy the character of the Jewish state" - which is also teh basis of teh argument against the right of return. But Israel is not a democracy and its Jewishness is part of the problem - Israel is torn between its democratic charter and its Jewish identity. Consider that the religious parties have such dominance that they force El Al to observe the Sabbath - even when that means that bereaved families of the victims of the July 4th shooting are forced to wait an extra day to be flown home! El Al is a small, state-subsidized airline, so it needn't ecessarily operate at a profit, but cost estimates of the ban of Sabbath operations are in the tens of millions of dollars.
Worse, the Knesset is on the verge of adopting laws making it illegal for Arab Israeilis to own property. The parallels with South Africa and pre-Holocaust Germany are frightening and this has provoked enormous outcry within Israel. This is not the only instance of apartheid-style policy however - the Arab population has faced discrimination in many areas including basic infrastructure, health services, even child care. These are documented daily in teh excellent pages of Ha'aretz, a paper that is required reading if you care to comment on Israeli society.
The problem is that Israel is not a democracy, despite the broad and explicit language in the 1948 charter affirming democratic equality without consideration of race or religion. This has great economic and social cost, to both Jewish and Arab Israeilis (not to mention secondary effects upon the Palestinians).
That is the reason that a broad, inclusive, American-style democracy and an explicit Bill of Rights is needed. Such a legal framework, modeled exactly after our American government, would allow equal rights to flourish and would also put the brakes on Jewsish Fundamentalism, whose power has risen unchecked in the Israeili givernment and which has eroded and inflicted great damage upon Israeili society.