Apocalyptic words about Israel democracy
12/28/2010 - 16:28
James Besser

Atlantic blogger Jeff Goldberg's anguished assessment that Israel could be well on its way toward abandoning the democracy that was a cherished value of its creators could be the most important blog of the year for Jewish leaders.

Writing from Israel, he says that Israel's “addiction to West bank settlements” means that it will someday have to choose between being a Jewish state and a democratic one.

In the past, he assumed that when actually faced with such a choice, Israelis would certainly choose democracy and “somehow extract themselves from the management of the lives of West Bank Palestinians.”

But now he's not so sure.

“I've had a couple of conversations this week with people, in Jerusalem and out of Jerusalem, that suggest to me that democracy is something less than a religious value for wide swaths of Israeli Jewish society,” he writes.

What I wonder: what does this mean for the pro-Israel movement in this country?

Will the major American pro-Israel groups speak up about what Goldberg sees as the steady erosion of democratic commitment in Israel, and if so, when?

I'm sure some leaders are already torn between their desire to maintain a unified front in support of a Jewish state that is fending off an ever-growing army of attackers – and their fear that the direction Israel is headed could undermine traditional American Jewish support for Israel.

Given how hard they work to marginalize organizations like the New Israel Fund that emphasize civil and human rights in the Jewish state, I'm not optimistic that they will do much more than simply try to redefine criticism of trends in Israel as “delegitimization.” And settlements remain a toxic topic for most mainstream leaders here.

If Jewish liberals become increasingly turned off by a possible Israel lurch away from democracy, what will become of a pro-Israel movement increasingly dominated by Jews who take the hardest line on peace process issues, and a Christian Zionist movement steeped in apocalyptic visions of the region?

What will happen to support for the Jewish state among the American population at large?

The pro-Israel lobby has always used Israel's status as the only democracy in the Middle East as a major selling point in pitching it to the American people; at what point will they see Israel's drift in another direction as harmful to their cause?

And is Goldberg right that if Israel does move away from democracy, most Jews here “would be so disgusted by Israel's abandonment of democratic principles that I think the majority would simply write off Israel as a tragic, failed experiment?”

Tough talk from Goldberg – hardly a flaming dove or an Israel basher. I don't have answers to the questions he poses, but I do know Jewish leaders ignore them at their own – and the community's – peril.

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The majority populations in the European nations where most of the world's Jews once lived only decades ago had, at best, little concern for democracy or the human rights of the Jews trying to live peacefully among them. With few exceptions, the majority populations enthusiastically collaborated in the ethnic cleansing (in the most bestially btutal ways) of their Jewish "fellow citizens" while the world's "democracies" concentrated on their war efforts. The rescue of the remnants of European Jewry was not a goal of the world's democracies but only a byproduct of those successful war efforts. Even in Israel, where the perpetual hostility of both its indigenous and "neighboring" Palestinian minorities provides a serious defensive case for their exclusion from some kinds of enfranchisement, the Palestinians have more democratic and human rights than in their own ethnically-similar but hardly democratic Arab countries. Yet Goldberg and the chorus of anti-Israel pundits persist in lamenting the POTENTIAL loss of "democracy" in Israel simply because Jews want to exercise their right to settle on land outside the 1967 cease-fire lines (as if those lines were ever "sanctified" as borders except by the Palestinians in retrospect). Five years ago, for the sake of peace, Israel conceded to the requests for "Judenrein" democracy and dismantled Jewish settlements in Gaza and withdrew. The sole result was not a new Gazan democracy, but only more difficulty in policing against attacks originating from that "democracy." While Palestinians can't even concede the idea of Jewish rights in Israel within the 1967 green line, talk of "democracy" is disgustingly naive, at best, if not repulsively malevolent and should be recognized as such.
Of course it is more important to have Jewish values. Israel is the homeland of the JEWS, not the homeland of DEMOCRACIES. If not a Jewish state then whey call it Israel? This is the same old self-hating jewish liberal rhetoric. Trying to fit in still? I am not even religious but at least i have my eyes open. Jews that say this or even gives credibility to it are more focused on assimilation and fitting in then being Jewish. You have "Happy Holiday" cards instead of Happy Channukah. You dread wearing a Kipa, even during holidays. I know you . I live among you. New York Jews. Coastal Jews. Wake up.
Boring, boring, boring. These are the same old arguments being made about Israel for say.....30 years! C'mon Jeff.....let's hear something original for a change.