So You Think Israel is a Democratic State?

There are two tests for any state aspiring to be a democracy -- the laws on its books and the impartial and consistent enforcement of those laws. Vis-?-vis the first test even the former Soviet Union looked good. It only lacked enforcement.

Harry W. Weber,

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The following article is written painfully, reluctantly, yet with a firm determination to recount the truth about the state of democracy in my homeland, Israel -- the so-called ?sole democracy in the Middle East?.

In order to examine the degree to which Israel is a Western democracy, a yardstick is needed. I propose to adopt the American Bill of Rights as that yardstick, and to examine whether or not Israel?s democracy complies with the Bill of Rights --not in theory -- but in practice.

The first amendment guarantees to all residents of the U.S. freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. Israel has no constitution per se, but has recently developed several ?basic laws? guaranteeing individual rights. In addition, it has a tradition of case law and legislation that is supposed to defend these same basic human rights. That?s the theory. Now for the practice.

Israel is the only so-called ?Western democracy? that forbids all Jews from praying at their holiest site on the face of the earth! Believe it or not! Until about a year ago, Jews weren?t even allowed to enter the Temple Mount, the place where the First and Second Temples stood. After a lot of wrangling with the Waqf -- the Moslem religious body in effective control of the Temple Mount area -- the Arabs ?graciously? relented and permitted Jews, on a selective basic, for about four hours a day, to quickly enter and leave the Temple Mount area. They are accompanied by policemen, ever on watch, lest someone, G-d forbid, utter a prayer. No Jew is permitted to pray on the Temple Mount on risk of immediate arrest. Believe it or not!

There is a distinguished rabbi in Israel, Yitzchak Ginsburg, who in his public speeches and writings calls for the transfer of Arabs out of the land of Israel, claiming -- as do over forty percent of the country?s Jewish residents -- that the Arab presence in Israel constitutes a clear and present danger to the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. Naturally, the rabbi?s positions are all based on Jewish religious law. Yet Israel?s Chief Prosecutor has charged the rabbi with incitement to racism. Believe it or not!

Simultaneous to this clear breach of the basic tenets of free speech, Arab members of the Knesset openly call for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state, in clear violation of the country?s Declaration of Independence, which established Israel as both Jewish and democratic. Recently Azmi Bashara, an Arab MK, who brazenly called for the continuation of Hizbollah?s terrorist attacks on Israel, was exonerated by the High Court, which declared that such statements are within his legislative prerogative. Believe it or not!

For the ?enemies? of the State, freedom of the press is likewise only a theoretical right. For example, David Haivri publishes a bi-weekly four page flyer called ?Darka Shel Torah?. This mini-publication, because it espouses linking the Torah portion of the week to today?s burning problems, and dares to suggest Torah-based solutions to those problems, has been the object of police raids in a clear and blatant effort to cease its publication. That not once has this publication called for the use of arms against Arab civilians by Israeli civilians or any other unlawful use of force, is totally irrelevant to the Minister of Internal Security. ?Darka Shel Torah? -- The Way of Torah -- must be silenced! That is police policy in the Holy Land. Believe it or not!

The second amendment grants the people the right to keep and bear arms, without any infringement. In Israel the police keeps a black list of people, who despite not having had any charges brought against them for any acts deemed inconsistent with their bearing of arms, nevertheless, have had their personal weapons -- guns or rifles -- taken away from them. Who are these uncharged criminals? They are not residents of crime-filled Tel Aviv. No, they are all Jews living and working in Judea and Samaria -- people, who for self protection, while on the way to work -- must carry a gun for defense against Arab attacks. But who cares about the lives of these ?extremists?? There are first class Jews and third class Jews in the land of Israel. Believe it or not!

The fourth amendment guarantees every person the right to be secure in his house against unreasonable searches and seizures. Well, that right has not reached Hill 26 on the outskirts of Hebron. About two years ago a Jew, Natan Ozeri, built a wooden house for himself, his wife and his children on that hill. The army decided that he built the house without a permit. Meanwhile, while legal wranglings were going on, an Arab terrorist decided to eliminate Natan. So on one Friday evening he came to Natan?s house and killed him. Soon afterward without a court order, the Army and Secret Police came, at 2:00 in the morning, woke up Natan?s widow and her little children, threw them into a van on the way to headquarters, while bulldozers, that same night, turned their house and all its contents to rubble. All without a warrant and without a written court order. Believe it or not!

The fifth amendment declares, among other things, that no person should be ?deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law?. The sixth amendment guarantees every U.S. resident the right to a speedy and public trial. Israel, probably alone among the states that profess to be democratic, practices administrative arrest. The law in Israel allows the government to hold a person in jail without a trial, without even informing him of his alleged crimes, for a total of six months at a time. Tzuriel Amior was incarcerated in that status for thirteen months, while Yosef Ben Baruch was released after twenty months of such ?democratic? treatment. Noam Federman, a chronic victim of Israel?s notorious administrative arrest syndrome was locked up for nearly nine months. Charges? None! Trial? Not here! Believe it or not!

The eighth amendment prohibits the government from imposing ?cruel and unusual punishments? on the people. In Israel this, too, has not reached the halls of justice -- whenever it applies to Jews. Nobody can imagine the government ever entertaining the idea of forcibly evicting the tens of thousands of Arabs from their illegally built homes. The Supreme Court would lambast any such notion in the harshest terms. Yet, the government in Israel just six months ago forcibly evicted, in the most brutal fashion, nine thousand Jews from their homes in twenty-five towns in Gaza and Samaria. All those citizens built their homes with official government approval. Suddenly, it changed its mind -- and after 38 years -- destroyed the homes of those nine thousand Jews. Believe it or not!

Who is at fault for this abominable state of affairs? Obviously the government is the perpetrator of these atrocities. But it has an accomplice. The leftist media, in its glee to see Jews uprooted, has abandoned its role of watchdog of government human rights abuses. Not one story about the abuse of power of the Secret Police, the trampling of Jews? rights to freedom of speech, the press, to own property, etc. has been written about or seen on television -- ever! Believe it or not!

The government, in order to continue to benefit from the media?s blind eye to these atrocities has never prosecuted radical-leftist-anarchists who almost daily engage in violent demonstrations along the security fence being built by the Israeli Army. They damage the fence, hold up its construction, give aid and comfort to the enemy, and dare to stone the soldiers along with their Arab ?brethren?. Not one of them was arrested, let alone brought to trial. Conspiracy of the media and the government at its ?best?. This is the state of the State of Israel?s democracy in 2006. Believe it or not!

There are two tests for any state aspiring to be a democracy -- the laws on its books and the impartial and consistent enforcement of those laws. Vis-?-vis the first test even the former Soviet Union looked good. It only lacked enforcement. Israel, on the other hand, can?t even claim to having good laws, as long as the mark of shame -- the law of administrative arrest -- is part of its legal system.

As to enforcement -- the government?s hate machine has run amok. It is harassing, persecuting and witch-hunting a whole segment of its citizenry. Who? The bravest, most patriotic and ardent lovers of Zion. As long as not one righteous leftist journalist -- an Emile Zola -- will show up and shout at the government -- ?I accuse!? -- Israel?s shame will continue, and so will the farce that it is a democratic state. On the Bill of Rights standard that I set up to judge its democratic standing, it gets an F.