Shulamit Aloni / Sadly, Israel is no longer democratic
By Shulamit Aloni
Ha’aretz May 1, 2009
Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin and philosopher Asa Kasher, two respected men around here, published an article entitled: "A just war of a democratic state," (Haaretz, April 24, Hebrew).
A remark about the first part: There are wars that are necessary for self-defense or to fight injustice and evil. But the expression "just" is problematic when speaking of war itself - which involves killing and destruction and leaves women, children and old people homeless, and sometimes even kills them.
Our sages have said: "Don't be overly righteous." And there is absolutely no question that dropping cluster bombs in an area populated by civilians, as we did in the Second Lebanon War, does not testify to great righteousness. The same thing can be said of using phosphorus bombs against a civilian population.
Apparently, according to the Yadlin and Kasher definition of justice, in order to eliminate terrorists it is just to destroy, kill, expel and starve a civilian population that has no connection to the acts of terror and no responsibility for them. Perhaps had they adopted a more decent and less arrogant approach they would have tried to explain the reasons for the fury and intensity that brought about the shocking killing and destruction, and even apologized for the fact that these exceeded any reasonable necessity.
But after all, we are always right; moreover, these things were done by "the most moral army in the world," sent by the "democratic" Jewish state - and here is the meeting point of the two concepts in the title of Yadlin and Kasher's article.
As for the army's morality, it would have been better had they remained silent and thereby been considered wise. This is because the statistics on the destruction and harm to civilians in the Gaza Strip are familiar to everyone, and not divorced from the oh-so-moral behavior of our army in the occupied territories. In the context of this behavior, for example, the army operates with great efficiency against farmers who demonstrate against the theft of their lands, even when the demonstrations are not violent.
The long-term evidence of abuse by soldiers against civilians at the checkpoints - including repeated instances of expectant mothers who are forced to give birth in the middle of the road, surrounded by armed soldiers who laugh wickedly - is no secret either. Day after day, year after year, the most moral army in the world helps to steal lands, uproot trees, steal water, close roads - in the service of the righteous "Jewish and democratic" state and with its support. It's heartbreaking, but the State of Israel is no longer democratic. We are living in an ethnocracy under "Jewish and democratic" rule.
In 1970 it was decided that in Israel religion and nationality are one and the same (that is why we are not listed in the Population Registry as Israelis, but as Jews). In 1992 it was determined in the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty that Israel is a "Jewish state." There is no mention in this law of the promise that appears in the state's formative document, the Declaration of Independence, to the effect that "The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex." The Knesset ratified the law nonetheless.
And so there is a "Jewish state" and no "equality of rights." Therefore some observers emphasize that the Jewish state is not "a state of all its citizens." Is there really a democracy that is not a state of all its citizens? After all, Jews living today in democratic countries enjoy the full rights of citizenship.
Democracy exists in the State of Israel today only in the formal sense: There are parties and elections and a good judicial system. But there is also an omnipotent army that ignores legal decisions that restrict the theft of land owned and held by people who have been living under occupation for the past 42 years. And since 1992, as we mentioned, we also have the definition "Jewish state," which means an ethnocracy - the rule of an ethnic religious community that strictly determines the ethnic origin of its citizens according to maternal lineage. And as far as other religions are concerned, disrespect for them is already a tradition, since we have learned: "Only you are considered human beings, whereas the gentiles are like donkeys."
From here it is clear that we and our moral army are exempt from concerns for the Palestinians living in Israel, and this is even more true of those living under occupation. On the other hand, it is perfectly all right to steal their land because these are "state lands" that belong to the State of Israel and its Jews.
That is the case even though we have not annexed the West Bank and have not granted citizenship to its inhabitants, who under Jordanian rule were Jordanian citizens. The State of Israel has penned them in, which makes it easy to confiscate their land for the benefit of its settlers.
And important and respected rabbis, who are educating an entire generation, have ruled that the whole country is ours and the Palestinians should share the fate of Amalek, the ancient tribe the Israelites were commanded to eradicate. At a time when a "just war" is taking place, racism is rife and robbery is called "return of property."
We are currently celebrating the 61st anniversary of the State of Israel. We fought in the War of Independence out of a great hope that we would build a "model society" here, that we would make peace with our neighbors, work the land and develop the Jewish genius for the benefit of science, culture and the value of man - every man. But when a major general and a philosopher justify - out of a sense of moral superiority - our acts of injustice toward the other in such a way, they cast a very heavy shadow on all those hopes.