Monday, November 17, 2014

Is Israel a Democracy?

The meaning of democracy is equality before the law.
How can Israel say that everyone is equal before the law – that you’re equal before the law – when the law defines Judaism as the cultural, national and legislative basis for the state?

These are the words of Yair Lapid, Israeli Finance Minister, as reported in a recent issue of The Jerusalem Post.

Israel isn't going to be a democratic what?

These are the words of American Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson.

I believe they are both saying similar things, though the tenor of the two quotes differs dramatically.  Adelson is rather blunt.  Lapid is more diplomatic.

Can Israel truly be regarded as a democracy?

Israel may be a democracy, but perhaps a "democracy" with certain provisos.  David Kretzmer, a law scholar at Hebrew University has pointed out the peculiarly Israeli dichotomy between nationhood and citizenship.  In Israel these are not interchangeable terms.   You can be an Israeli citizen, but, if not Jewish, you are not a member of the "nation-state of the Jewish people," which, after all, is how Israel defines itself.

Can you imagine a non-Jewish Prime Minister or President?  Could such an official deal with the religious laws and religious officials of the state?

Yes, one man, one vote - but a clearly defined difference among its citizens - some included in the nation-state, some not.

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