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Israeli Democracy Is Threatened
New Info from Mitchell Bard

 

MYTH:   

  

"Israeli democracy is threatened and Americans need to speak out to save it. 


FACT:    

   

Public figures in the Jewish world from Peter Beinart and Thomas Friedman to Jeffrey Goldberg and Roger Cohen have expressed concern that Israeli democracy is increasingly doomed. "[Among] the greatest danger[s] by far to Israel is that it will squander the opportunities of power," Cohen wrote in The New York Times.1  Enemies of Israel are wringing their hands with glee as Jews help them try to chip away at one of the critical pillars of the U.S.-Israel relationship, our shared values.

 

In truth, Israeli democracy is secure and thriving. The contrast with its neighbors is even more glaring today than ever before as Arab states such as Yemen and Syriadescend into tribal, religious and civil wars, autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain brutally crackdown on dissenters and supposedly democratic revolutions in places such as Egypt fizzle and bring to power radical Islamists for whom freedom and democracy are anathemas.

 

Israel's Basic Law for Human Dignity and Liberty, one of a handful of laws that collectively serves as the de facto Israeli constitution, declares that "fundamental human rights in Israel are founded upon recognition of the value of the human being, the sanctity of human life, and the principle that all persons are free." 2  

 

Israeli government officials are elected by popular voteand Israel protects its citizens' freedoms of expression,pressassembly and religion, as well as the rights of women, Arabs and minorities.3  

 

In a region where homosexuality can be considered a capital crime, Israel has one of the most progressive records in the world related to the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Israel's annual Gay Pride Parade dates back to 1998 and, since 2002, there have been Pride Parades in Jerusalem. The Tel Aviv Pride Parade is the largest on the Asian continent with 100,000 participants from around the world.4  

 

Many organizations, including some internationally funded nongovernmental organizations, operate in Israel and pursue agendas that are highly critical of Israeli policies. Some of these perform useful watchdog functions while others appear more interested in undermining the state than improving it. Anger toward some of these groups prompted legislators to propose a variety of measures that some viewed as constraints onfreedom of speech or otherwise anti-democratic. Israelis, however, used their democratic rights to oppose these measures and none have been adopted to date. 5

  

When troubling issues arise, the democracy works the way it should. For example, when a woman was mistreated on a public bus by an Orthodox Jew, the free press reported the story, Israelis mobilized to fight against this type of behavior and the political leadership spoke out and said they would not tolerate it. This does not mean that such discrimination will disappear overnight, but the democratic forces inside Israel reacted as they should. 6

 

The political left and right routinely complain about each other's policies, but this is the nature of a healthy democracy. The political middle helps place checks on the extremists at both poles. Israel also has an independent judiciary that helps ensure Israel'sdemocratic principles and its laws are upheld.

 

Israel's democracy, like other democracies, is not perfect. It still has a distance to go before all people are treated equally in practice as well as in law. The