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Page 3 of 61 (363 total stories) [ << | < | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | > | >> ]   

The idea of a Jewish state is itself democratic Score: More about Printer Friendly Send to a Friend Save as PDF Read More...

 An interview with Tal Becker

Hurry Up Harry

Dr. Tal Becker served as senior policy advisor to Israel’s minister of foreign affairs from 2006 to 2009 and was a lead negotiator during Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that took place under the auspices of the Annapolis peace process. He is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, an International Associate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a former senior visiting fellow at BICOM.

Part 1: Israel as a Jewish and democratic state

Toby Greene: Is Israel really a democracy as it claims or is it, as some critics say, an ethnocracy, which privileges the interests of its Jewish over its Arab citizens?

Tal Becker: Every democracy struggles with the challenge of living up to its principles and ideals. Israel is not unique in that sense. It has much to be proud of, and much it struggles with. In many democratic societies, the tension between majority and minority communities raises difficult issues. In Israel, this is more complicated because of the regional context and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I think the charge that Israel is fundamentally not democratic because of its flaws does not stand up to scrutiny, certainly not in any comparative sense. This is not an excuse for Israel to avoid correcting where it falls short, or for Israel’s democracy not to be subject to criticism. But the labels and demagoguery that one sometimes hears are misleading and unhelpful for a serious discussion.

Greene: But how do you explain Israel’s claim to be both a Jewish state and a democracy?

Becker: Let’s start with some basics. From the outset, Israel committed itself to be both Jewish and democratic. What does that mean in practice? When we say Israel is a Jewish state, we mean that it is the national home of the Jewish people, where the Jewish people realise their right to self-determination. The Jewish people realising their right to self-determination is not a principle that is contrary to democracy. It is a universal legal principle. Many states around the world are both national homelands for a majority ethnic or racial group and democracies. In fact, I think most democracies are nation states in this way.  These states realise and express the rights of the ethnic majority to self-determination, but they are still democracies because of their systems of government and because the rights of the minority are protected in terms of equality before the law and so on.

Something that is often not recognised is that the right of the majority to have its identity reflected in the public square, in the public culture of the state, is as much an expression of democratic principles as the need to preserve minority rights. This is true in Israel no less than any other state that has ethnic minorities, be it Britain, Germany, Italy, France or any other country.

In our case, people are often under a misapprehension, in that they think a ‘Jewish state’ means a theocracy based on the Jewish religion in the way that Iran is a Muslim state. When we talk about a ‘Jewish state’, we do not mean a theocracy and the laws in Israel make that clear. This is a misunderstanding of the peculiar character of the term ‘Jewish’ as referring both to a religion and to a people. But anyone visiting Israel will appreciate immediately that most Israelis relate to the Jewish identity primarily in national and cultural terms. Israel is Jewish in the sense that it is the place where the Jewish people, as a people, express their right to self-determination. That is itself a democratic idea, but it also must be balanced by a duty to respect minority rights both individual and collective.

Greene: How do you respond to those who suggest that the Jews are not a people?

Becker: That is a position based on ignorance. I think it is not just contrary to the historical record but, even more importantly, to the way Jews perceive themselves. We recently heard Newt Gingrich saying similar things about the Palestinians. In the past, some Israelis have unfortunately also said this. To me, the claim that either the Jews or the Palestinians are not a nation is not just offensive to those people, but it is unhelpful in finding a way forward that advances coexistence. A people is a group who sees itself as a people and who believe that their identity is expressed as part of a collective. You are not going to convince a people that conceives of itself as such that they are not in fact a collective. Once that is the case, they have a right to self–determination.  It is not an absolute right.  It is a right balanced against the rights of others. But it is both morally and practically problematic to deny the legitimacy of the right itself.

Greene: But is there something distinct in Israel’s case? Critics of Israel argue that the Jewish majority is only maintained by laws which give preference to Jews that who don’t live in Israel to immigrate under the ‘Law of Return’.

Becker: A country that has a majority of a certain ethnicity has the right to regulate its immigration policy in a way that protects that majority. That is done by many states. If you take seriously the idea that people have a right to self-determination, then a state has the right to preserve its collective identity, including through immigration policy, to ensure that there is one place on the planet where that identity is preserved. In the Israeli case, the law of return also reflects Israel’s raison d’être as a national home for the Jewish people, which ends the historical problem of Jewish persecution and statelessness.

Of course, there are limits to what you can do to preserve the demographic balance. You cannot compromise the basic rights of the minority in order to preserve that balance. I would put it this way: we get to be as Jewish as a democracy allows, not as democratic as being Jewish allows. It’s the same principle which applies to any nation state that claims to be democratic – it gets to express and preserve its national identity and culture to the extent that democracy allows. Regulating immigration is not in principle a violation of that idea, but other measures might be.

Posted by Southern on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 @ 01:30:22 EDT (974 reads)

The Israeli Heart Score: More about Printer Friendly Send to a Friend Save as PDF

h/t papamike

Posted by Southern on Saturday, April 21, 2012 @ 00:15:15 EDT (704 reads)

Chinese Jews from Kaifeng arrive in Israel 2009 Score: More about Printer Friendly Send to a Friend Save as PDF

 - a moving documentary

Posted by Southern on Friday, April 20, 2012 @ 23:50:07 EDT (969 reads)

More and More French Jews Emigrating to Israel Score: More about Printer Friendly Send to a Friend Save as PDF Read More...

Gil Yaron in Tel Aviv



More and more French Jews are buying homes in Israel amid fears of rising anti-Semitism in France. Many complain of being harrassed in public and feel the country is no longer a safe place to raise their children. In the wake of the Toulouse attacks, the wave of emigration is only likely to increase.

Many must have been reminded of the treatment of Jews under the Third Reich. Shortly after the attack on a Jewish school in the southern French city of Toulouse on Monday, school principals in the city walked into classrooms and asked the Jewish pupils to come forward. "We ask you to leave the class and join the other Jewish children, who are in a locked and safe location."

It was intended as a precaution in response to a request from the Jewish community. But it also highlights the degree to which many Jews in France feel that they are a threatened and increasingly excluded minority. Every year, these feelings prompt thousands to take a dramatic decision, namely, to pack their belongings and move to a crisis zone: Israel. They feel safer there.

Five years ago, Linda moved from Paris to Canada and then to the Israeli port city of Ashdod. Only a week ago, she, her husband and their two sons faced a hail of rockets from the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, Linda, who doesn't want to be identified by her last name, is delighted to be living in France no longer. "It's much safer here than in France," she says.

"Anti-Semitism has become unbearable there," she says. "Children are harassed on their way to school just because they're Jews." She adds that she was also the victim of such harassment in the middle of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. "I was wearing a necklace with a Star of David attached to it," she recalls. "Someone barged into me. I said to him: 'You ought to excuse yourself!' All he said was that he didn't apologize to Jews."


In the wake of the Toulouse attacks, the wave of emigration is only likely to increase. Here, flowers outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse where three children and one teacher were shot dead on Monday.

Posted by Southern on Friday, April 20, 2012 @ 01:53:46 EDT (976 reads)

OK, treat Israel as a democracy Score: More about Printer Friendly Send to a Friend Save as PDF Read More...

Douglas Murray

A winning point for any friend of Israel is to compare Israel with any of its neighbours. On any measure - democratic, legal, let alone anything to do with rights - Israel is clearly in a different league from its neighbours.

But a few weeks back I was on a panel with a critical left-wing friend of Israel who made an interesting point. "I'm fed up of hearing Israel compared with Syria and Saudi Arabia' she said. "Israel is a democracy and democracies get held to higher standards." Very true, I thought. Though people do need to realise Israel is rather better behaved than her autocratic neighbours, there is sense in this plea.

As it happens, I've been thinking about it rather a lot. My recent book on Bloody Sunday (the day in 1972 when British troops gunned down and killed 14 British citizens on the streets of a British city) has absorbed me on and off for 10 years. While working on it, I spent plenty of time immersed in what the UK did to fight its war against the Irish Republican Army.

Incidentally, I always find it cringe-making when Brits tell Israelis about Northern Ireland. As sure as the emergence of dietary matters in interfaith meetings, a point about how Israelis might learn from our experience in "the Troubles" is a cliché of British exchanges with Israelis.

The IRA did not want to drive us into the channel

This despite the fact that the differences are huge. The IRA, for all its brutality and callousness, never sought the destruction of the British state, or the annihilation of the British people. Its requests were impossible to grant and its tactics bloody, but moderate Republican parties existed throughout the Troubles and the IRA never wanted to drive us into the Channel.

Nevertheless, Northern Ireland always comes up. So, in the spirit of response to my friend's request that we judge Israel by the standards of other democratic states, and conforming to type, allow me one case comparison. I give it not just because so few friends of Israel know about this story, but because so few people outside the small number of us who care about the history of the Troubles know about it.

Posted by Southern on Thursday, April 12, 2012 @ 02:32:55 EDT (810 reads)

Republicans starting to reap kosher vote, says poll Score: More about Printer Friendly Send to a Friend Save as PDF Read More...

Matthew Brooks

The stereotype of the Jewish voter as a confirmed Democrat from cradle to grave is starting to crack.

A study this month by the respected Pew Research Centre, comparing polls from 2008 and 2011, shows a significant increase in Jewish support for Republicans over that period. Pew found that while Jews favoured Democrats by a 52-point margin in 2008, the Democrats now have a much smaller 36-point margin among Jewish voters. In fact, more Jews than ever are identifying as Republicans, not just "leaning Republican", according to the Pew report.

This news comes as no great surprise to Jewish Republicans, since it confirms a trend we have been watching for some time. It reinforces two data points from last year that indicated a strengthening of Jewish support for Republicans.

In September, there was a special election to fill the congressional seat in New York's ninth district, after a scandal forced the resignation of Rep Anthony Weiner. New York's ninth is overwhelmingly Democratic in voter registration and at least one-third Jewish. Despite this, Republican Bob Turner won, becoming the first Republican to represent NY-9 since 1920.

That race was considered a bellwether for 2012, offering Republicans a glimpse of the effects a sour economy and tensions between the Obama administration and Israel were having on Jewish voters.

Posted by Southern on Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 23:59:10 EST (924 reads)

Page 3 of 61 (363 total stories) [ << | < | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | > | >> ]   


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