Israel has been a democracy since its modern re-founding in 1948. It remained a democracy after the Six Day War in 1967, when it took control of disputed territories which had been illegally occupied by Jordan. And, it continues to be so today. You don’t have to take our word for it. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), not exactly known as an international hub of Zionist propaganda, ranked Israel 29th out of 165 countries in their most recent annual democracy index – ahead of the United States, which is ranked 30th.
Freedom House – the democracy, political freedom and human rights advocacy organisation – agrees, ranking it (year after year) as a fully “free” state. This doesn’t mean that Israel’s democracy is without flaws and potentially serious challenges. It only means that, by any objective criteria, it’s been, by vitue of its twenty-five consecutive free elections, an electoral democracy for 75 years, and, based on its overall human rights record, a liberal democracy. As Freedom House puts it: “Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population”.
Joshua Leifer disagrees. In a Guardian op-ed (“Israel hasn’t been a democracy for a long time. Now, Israelis need to face this fact”, March 30), the Jewish Currents editor comments on “protests against the Netanyahu government’s plan to strip the judiciary of its power”, and concludes thusly:
That the protesters are chanting “democracy” reflects both their blindness and the shred of opening that they represent: blindness, because they misrecognize Israel as democracy when it is, in fact, a liberal ethnocracy that has maintained a military dictatorship in the West Bank for more than half a century.
First, his charge that Israel has maintained a “military dictatorship” in the West Bank is factually inaccurate and ahistorical. The PA has, for nearly three decades, been in full military and civilian control of the major Palestinian population centers in the West bank (known as Area A). Also, by framing the political situation in Judea and Samaria as one which exclusively relates to Israeli control and Israeli actions, Leifer erases Palestinain decisions which perpetuated Israel’s presence in the territories.
Thus, erased from the pages of history is the fact that PA leaders have, on three occasions, rejected Israeli peace offers that would have created a sovereign Palestinian state in over 90% of the West Bank, 100% of Gaza and a capital in east Jerusalem. Also erased is the toxic culture of incitement, terrorism and antisemitism nutured by Palestinains leaders – values inculcated into Palestinian society which are intrinsically at odds with peace and co-existence.
The anti-Zionist commentators who are continually promoted by the Guardian will hever accept the fundamental truism that Palestinians – like all people – possess moral agency, and that their leaders’ bad decisions will invariably lead to bad outcomes.
Moroever, it should be stressed that – based on his previous articles at Jewish Currents – Leifer opposes the legitmacy of a Jewish state within any borders. The “logic of a Jewish demographic majority”, he wrote in 2020, is instrinsically “racist”. So, it seems that the only way for the state to cease being a racist “liberal ethnocracy” would be to forfieit its Jewish character and to cease to be a safehaven for the world’s Jews. In other words: he supports a ‘one state solution’, where Jews would invariably become a minority ruled by a Palestinian majority.
One Jewish state in the world, for Leifer, is one Jewish state too many.