Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Party Banning Redux

Matthew Yglesias talks about the decision to ban Arab parties:
"Israel is one of a number of democracies that combines religious tolerance with an established state religion (pretty much all of Protestant Europe, e.g.) and also one of a number of democracies that relies heavily on ethnic origin as a criteria for immigration (Germany, Finland, etc.) both of which are important parts of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. If you ask me, that’s fine. But by the same token, it’s hardly beyond the pale for a political party to think that those kind of policies should be changed and if that means calling into question Israel’s existence as a specifically 'Jewish state,' as opposed to a state where lots of Jews live, I don’t really see why that should be illegal.

"More broadly, though, I agree with Kirchick that the pragmatics of this are hard to understand. Israeli Arab public opinion isn’t a small, violent conspiracy that you can ban and extinguish. It’s a real issue that Israel needs to grapple with."

Although I dissent from commenters who see the ban as itself a sign of democracy, Israel's Supreme Court will almost certainly overturn it. The real problem here is the divide between Israel's Jewish majority and its many non-Zionist Arab citizens, one which is seen most clearly in the Arab riots during the al-Aqsa Intifada and the rise of Yisrael Beiteinu. A year or two ago, Ehud Olmert threatened to have internal security services work to undermine parties and groups which opposed the state's Jewish nature. There's clearly an establishment committed to preserving a nationalist ideology at any cost, one which can score points by attacking the legal legitimacy of its main ideological adversaries, however unlikely they are to acquire any sort of power democratically. This behavior is well on the way to the Turkish and Iranian enforcement of ideological litmus tests on who can compete in the democratic arena.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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