Israel not `Only Democracy in the Middle East’

It is not a democracy at all.

According to the United States Department of State, “Israel is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy” that “enact[s] a series of ‘Basic Laws’ that enumerate certain rights and freedoms.” Oftentimes, this settler colonial ethnostate that is designated by the United Nations as apartheid and is convicted by the International Court of Justice of committing genocidal acts is called the only democracy in the Middle East. This is blatantly wrong. Without being Arab or any non-white race, and without hearing an Arab perspective, you would not be able to feel the effects of apartheid physically and mentally, as oppression is only exposed to the oppressed. However, learning about and acknowledging its existence only requires a look at the rules and laws Israel has imposed and how they separately treat Palestinians and Jews. This does not require looking at the Israeli constitution because they, a supposed democracy, do not have one, and may only require skimming through a 2022 report of the US Department of State titled “2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Israel, West Bank and Gaza” — the same report from which I pulled the initial quote in this article.

The introductory paragraph of the report states that Israel “asserted the right to national self-determination in Israel is ‘unique to the Jewish people’ despite the presence of many non-Jewish Israeli citizens.” This means that despite Palestinians being the indigenous and centuries-long inhabitants of the land of Palestine, referred to here as Israel, they do not have the right to self-determination or “the process by which a person controls their own life,” according to Google, simply because they are not Jewish. As such, according to Israeli law, Jewish people are legally awarded higher rights simply for the fact that they are Jewish. In Israel, race is what establishes a person’s rights. This is comparable to many apartheids throughout history, such as the South African apartheid in which white people in South Africa were awarded greater, more expansive rights than black indigenous South Africans, as well as the numerous racist and demeaning social hierarchical structures many nations have possessed.
The report continues, saying, “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings… detention… unlawful interference with privacy, family, and home…punishment of family members for alleged offenses by a relative…” and the list continues. What exactly about this screams democracy? What about this indicates equality or a lack of apartheid? Furthermore, when Israelis were charged with these crimes, the Israeli courts have “rarely found members of the security forces” guilty, indicating that the Israeli court systems favor Jewish people, who serve in these security forces, over Palestinian people because despite the credibility of Palestinian reports and their abundance of evidence, Jewish people who committed these crimes were found innocent. Even charging Israeli forces with crimes is nearly impossible to do as only 2% of complaints against Israeli soldiers are prosecuted and even less end in conviction. This is another example of the role race plays in Israel and is another indicator of apartheid.

Israel also has a law that prohibits Gazan and West Bank Palestinians from obtaining resident status in Israel, meaning that Palestinians who fled after the Nakba in 1948 and who have continuously been stripped of their homeland are prohibited from returning to the land their ancestors have cultivated for thousands upon thousands of years — the land to which they are indigenous. This also means that whenever Israel lays siege on Gaza, as it has been for the past five months, it is doing so knowing Palestinians are unable to go anywhere else and with the intention to wipe Gazan Palestinians off the map as it has willfully created the environment to do so. Furthermore, this law is hypocritical of Israel to enforce as it mandates closing Israel to Palestinians, yet the state has been trying to pressure Egypt to take in the Gazans displaced due to Israel’s onslaught against Gaza. So, Israel rejecting Palestinains is worse than Egypt doing so because they are the ones causing the conditions necessitating Gazans’ evacuation and this law is the official policy of Israel, which goes against international law as it makes the right of return illegal. If the fact that Israel refuses to comply with the recent verdict of the International Court of Justice and the fact that it is violating the Geneva Convention, the Genocide Convention and many other agreements establishing international law are not clear enough indicators, this should make it evident that Israel has no intention of following international law despite pledging to do so when it requested to be considered a state under the United Nations just 76 years ago.

The law also applies even if they are spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, which serves to actively discourage interracial marriage between Palestinians and Jews, who are automatically considered Israeli even if they are actually Palestinian Jews. Israeli marriage law, in its entirety, seeks to prohibit Jewish-Arab relations to preserve the idea that Israel is a state for Jews, an ethnostate, by keeping the Jewish population so-called pure and free of Arab blood. Although this law can be bypassed in some circumstances, “usually on humanitarian grounds” on the authority of the minister of the interior, “the law allows only 58 humanitarian cases per year,” meaning a maximum of just 58 Palestinians are allowed to set foot in their homeland, and that is only on the condition that they marry an Israeli, which is near impossible for a multitude of reasons.

How can it be said, then, that a state that seeks to eradicate an entire ethnicity from the land it occupies is a democracy?
Furthermore, according to Israeli law, “The Ministry of Defense has the authority to administratively detain a person for a period of up to six months – without an indictment, arrest warrant, judicial order, or finding of criminal culpability.” It may “extend this administrative detention order repeatedly,” meaning Israel grants the ability to detain anyone as long as it wishes without true reason. The only caveat is that the Ministry of Defense decides the person is “harming the security of the state,” but this is at its discretion, meaning if it says someone is doing so, it does not have to prove the truth of its words. Because the detention order can be renewed repeatedly, the detained person is not granted a free and fair trial as long as the Ministry of Defense feels like it. As such, in both theory and practice, Israel can, according to Israeli law but not international law, detain people for no reason. Israel has taken advantage of this law and currently there are thousands of Palestinians detained without reason.

If you lived in a state like this, specifically as a person who faces this legalized discrimination, would you consider it a democracy?
This is only a few passages taken from a report of the US Department of State, which likely did not note every instance indicating apartheid, yet this is enough to show that Israel is far from being a democracy, much less the only democracy in the Middle East as its supporters claim it is. Rather, it is a settler colony as termed by Britain and an apartheid as declared by the UN, and in violation of the Geneva Convention and many other international conventions and laws as declared by numerous human rights organizations, including that of the UN. This is made evident using proof from a report of the US Department of State, which, although it claims that Israel is a democracy, went on to prove the opposite by describing some Israeli laws and actions that simply cannot be considered democratic. Keep in mind that much of what Israel does to Palestinians goes unreported, especially in Gaza, and specifically when Israel attacks it. Furthermore, the US is the biggest supporter of Israel, so its framing of Israel’s apartheid attempts to make Israel valid. Still, Israel’s undemocratic nature can be seen in this report, indicating just how evident and pervasive the Israeli apartheid is, specifically against the Palestinians.

Post Author: Heba Saleh