Monday, October 25, 2010

Israel Is Both A Jewish And Democratic State--Just Look Around You

Douglas J. Feith addresses the issue of Israel as both a Jewish and Democratic state. While the US--along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand--are liberal democracies that ignore ethnic, religious or regional identities, the fact remains that most countries do not:
The democracies of Europe and East Asia and those in the former republics of the Soviet Union, meanwhile, tend to cluster on the ethnic side of the spectrum. Numerous laws and institutions in those nations favor a country's principal ethnic group but are nevertheless accepted as compatible with democratic principles. Christian crosses adorn the flags of Switzerland, Sweden, Greece and Finland, among other model democracies, and the United Kingdom's flag boasts two kinds of crosses.

Several of these democracies have monarchs—and in the U.K., Norway and Denmark, the monarchs head national churches. France famously protects the integrity of the French language and the interests of French speakers, as do pro-French forces in Canada.

Ireland has a law that allows applicants of "Irish descent or Irish associations" to be exempted from ordinary naturalization rules. Poland, Croatia and Japan have similar laws of return favoring members of their own respective ethnic majorities. Many other examples exist.
Following WWI, the Allied forces believed the Jews, recognized as a nationality and not just a religion, should be able to restore their homeland in then-Palestine--in exactly the same way that the Arabs (whose leaders insisted they were a single people) would get Syria, Lebanon, Mesopotamia and Arabia--among other countries.

And they were not alone:
After World War I, numerous ethnic groups achieved statehood. It was not considered antidemocratic that the Hungarians or Poles, for example, should establish nations to embody and sustain their particular cultures.

All democratic countries have minority populations. Such countries do not believe that they have to shed their national ethnic identities in order to respect the civil, property and other basic human rights of their minority citizens. The distinction between majority collective rights to a national home and the individual rights of all citizens remains important in Israel and in all ethnically-based democracies.
These are points that Jeff Jacoby has made as well:
Many of the world's democracies have official state religions. Think of Britain, whose monarch is the supreme governor of the Church of England; or of Greece, whose constitution singles out the Eastern Orthodox Church as the country's "prevailing religion." The linking of national character with religion is a commonplace. Israel stands out only because its religion is Judaism, not Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism.
Nor is democracy incompatible with ethnic or national distinctiveness. Ireland waives its usual citizenship requirements for applicants of Irish descent. Bulgaria's constitution grants the right to "acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure" to any "person of Bulgarian origin." It is not oxymoronic to describe Ireland as "Irish and democratic" or Bulgaria as "Bulgarian and democratic." Israel's flourishing little Jewish democracy is no oxymoron either.
Critics who claim that Israel cannot be both a Jewish state and a democratic one operate from a predisposed conviction that inclines them to made absurd demands on a single state that are neither required nor demanded of any other.

This is nothing new.

Neither is the claim by Arabs that say Israel cannot even be a Jewish state, let alone a democratic one. Soccer Dad addresses a piece by Isabel Kershner of The New York Times that Some Question Insistence on Israel as Jewish State.

Soccer Dad responds:
No doubt there are those who disagree with Netanyahu as to whether Israel should be called a Jewish state. However, since one of the premises of Palestinian nationalism is the denial of the historical connection between Israel and the Jews, the demand is of utmost importance. If the Palestinians cannot accept Israel as a Jewish state, they are not serious about peace.
Every state has right to define itself, a right so basic that to even attempt to deny it is absurd.

But Israel will always be different.

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