web analytics
October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

Burkini Bans and Jewish Democracy

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

The ban on wearing burkinis at the beach, which was recently enacted by some 30 French municipalities and even won support from French Prime Minister Manual Valls, was rightly deemed an unconstitutional infringement on several fundamental liberties by France’s highest court this weekend. Yet the French controversy highlights something about Israel that is too often overlooked: the degree to which being a Jewish state, far from undermining Israel’s democracy, actually reinforces it.

The burkini ban was enacted in explicit reaction to Islamist terror attacks in France and the concerns they have raised about the integration of the country’s Muslim minority. As Christian Estrosi, the deputy mayor of Nice, told the New York Times, these full-body swimsuits, worn mainly by religious Muslims, constitute “unacceptable provocations in the very particular context that our city is familiar with,” referring to a July 14 terror attack that killed 86 people.

Yet Israel has suffered far worse Islamist terror and over a far longer period of time. Terror attacks in France have killed 234 people over the last 18 months, according to one British newspaper’s tally. That is just over half the 452 Israelis killed by terror during the single worst year of the second intifada (2002). And since France’s population is 7.6 times the size of Israel’s, that means that as a proportion of the population, Israel’s losses during that one year–without even mentioning all its losses to terrorism in other years–were almost 15 times as large as France’s have been over the past 18 months.

Moreover, as a proportion of the total population, Israel’s Muslim community is much larger than that of France. Muslims comprise an estimated 7.5 percent of France’s population, but almost 20 percent of Israel’s population–and that’s counting only Israeli citizens and legal residents, i.e. the Muslims who would still be there even if Israel quit the West Bank tomorrow.

Finally, though Israel’s Muslim population has largely shunned terror, its leadership is actually far more radical than France’s Muslim leadership seems to be. Israeli Arab Knesset members openly back anti-Israel terror organizations, actively incite to anti-Israel terror, and tirelessly libel Israel overseas. The head of one of the country’s largest nongovernmental Muslim groups–Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, which has tens of thousands of supporters–routinely spews anti-Semitic blood libels such as accusing Jews of baking matzo with Christian blood. And all that is without even mentioning the Palestinian leadership in the territories, where both the main political parties, Fatah and Hamas, routinely deem killing Israelis to be their main accomplishment.

In other words, if any country were going to lash out in response to Islamist terror by restricting Muslims’ freedom to observe their religion in public, one would expect it to be Israel, not France. But in Israel, no one has ever even suggested banning burkinis. Nor has anyone ever suggested forbidding civil students or schoolgirls to wear headscarves, as stipulated by other French laws that the courts have upheld. Nor has anyone ever suggested barring mosques from building minarets–a law approved by popular referendum in Switzerland, even though that country has so far no had no Islamic terror problem at all.

Clearly, Israel’s religious tolerance can’t be attributed solely to its democratic norms. After all, France and Switzerland have impeccable democratic credentials, but that hasn’t stopped either from passing anti-Muslim laws. Nor is it because Israeli Arabs are a powerful enough minority to prevent such legislation: Arab Knesset members’ anti-Israel positions make them unacceptable as coalition partners in any government, and they would actually have no power to block anything the coalition majority wanted to pass. And it certainly isn’t because Israelis are saints who remain serenely forgiving of Arab terror and anti-Israel incitement; there’s plenty of anti-Arab sentiment in Israel.

Rather, the main reason why Israel never has and never would consider legislation like France’s bans on burkinis and headscarves is precisely because it is a Jewish state. In other words, it was created to take Jewish interests into account, and those interests include the freedom to observe traditional Jewish praxis. But the moment a democratic country starts making allowances for one religion’s traditions, those allowances inevitably spill over to other religions as well.

For instance, Israel could never ban headscarves in the civil service, because religious Jewish women also wear head coverings. It could never ban modest swimwear because religious Jews also insist on modest clothing. It could never ban minarets because the analogy to banning synagogues would be all too apparent. In contrast, France and Switzerland can do all those things, because they have no interest in accommodating any religion in the public square.

In short, Israel’s identity as both a Jewish and a democratic state is the main reason why Islamist terror has never prompted the kind of anti-Muslim legislation that it has in secular democratic France. So the next time someone tells you Israel’s Jewish identity is inherently at odds with its democratic identity, remember the burkini. And remember that sometimes, Israel’s Jewish identity is precisely what protects its democratic one.

Evelyn Gordon

The Real Threat to Israeli Democracy

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

After a year of talking about it, the Knesset has finally passed a watered-down version of its controversial NGO law. The vote has unleashed a torrent of criticism from left-wing critics of the Netanyahu government, defenders of the NGO’s who are targeted by the bill, and the European governments whose funding of these groups is at the heart of the controversy. For its supporters, the bill is a long overdue attempt to expose an ill-intentioned effort to undermine Israeli self-defense and back Palestinian attacks on the Jewish state. Opponents consider it a blow to Israeli democracy and an attempt to suppress dissent. But for all of the hot air and ink expended on this topic, the truth is that it is really neither.

What exactly does the bill that finally passed the Knesset do? The short answer to that is not much. The sum total of its impact on affected groups is to marginally increase requirements about transparency. Non-profit groups that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments must now include a disclaimer of the sources of their support in all communications much like the warnings on cigarette packs. That’s it. In the end, a much-criticized provision of one of its original drafts that would have required representatives of such groups to wear an ID badge noting their status (something that is required on Capitol Hill and most state legislatures in the U.S.) was dropped. They aren’t prevented from receiving such funds and their activities are not in any way restricted.

All of which is to say that the effort expended on debating the bill seems like a tremendous waste of time for both sides. But it would be wrong to merely dismiss the topic as much ado about nothing. The issue isn’t a meaningless bill but how one feels about foreign-funded left-wing groups that work to oppose Israel’s presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as to buttress Palestinian claims of ill treatment at the hand of the Jewish state. The issue here is democracy but not the right-wing conspiracy to suppress dissent alleged by the left. Rather, it is an understandable backlash from the center-right majority about the efforts of the Israeli left to leverage foreign backing in order to make up for the fact that it has been marginalized at home.

Of the 27 groups that would be affected by it, 25 are left-wing advocacy groups. But many more groups supported by the political right are not touched by it because they get their foreign funding from private donors or foundations. The modern Jewish state was built in large measure on foreign donations largely raised by Diaspora Jews for philanthropies like the Jewish National Fund. As J.J. Goldberg also notes in the Forward, there is also nothing unusual foreign governments funding NGOs. The U.S. and other Western governments have been supporting NGOs around the world that promote cultural exchanges and democracy ever since World War II. So what’s the real issue here?

The problem with the NGOs in question is that, unlike the sorts of groups that get U.S. funding in Eastern Europe or Asia, the Israeli left is not really interested in promoting democracy. Their basic goal is to delegitimize the Jewish presence in parts of the country and to undermine the efforts of the government and the army to keep tabs on and to suppress Palestinian terrorism. The funding they get from the European Union and other largely hostile foreign governments is not about making Israel more democratic. It’s about building support for pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, to undermine its claims to disputed territory and to handicap its counter-terrorism work, as the support for the anti-Israel Defense Forces group called Breaking the Silence attests.

Israelis are free to support those positions and some do. But their problem is that while the majority of Israelis may not be happy with the current stalemate with the Palestinians, they also view Western pressure to force their country into more suicidal territorial retreats as unreasonable and unfair given the intransigent nature of the Palestinian Authority and its Hamas rivals. Moreover, they view groups like Breaking the Silence and others like them as crossing the line between loyal opposition into sympathy for their country’s avowed enemies. They also keep electing Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners and have relegated left-wing parties that sympathize with the NGOs to marginal status. So the left must rely on foreign governments rather than Israelis or even Diaspora Jewish donors to keep their groups going. If most Israelis, including the majority that elected the current government as well as some opposition parties that are equally hostile to groups like Breaking the Silence, resent such efforts, who can blame them?

So while the NGO bill does nothing, the arguments about foreign funding are about something important: respecting democracy. Right-wingers who obsess about foreign involvement in Israel’s affairs are a bit hypocritical since their side also benefits from money raised elsewhere. But the Israeli left needs to stop looking abroad for support they can’t find at home. They should concentrate their efforts on persuading Israelis, not the EU, to back their positions. Until they do, they will remain a permanent and increasingly unpopular minority. And that is something that no legislation can save them from.

Jonathan S. Tobin

New US-Funded PA Reality Show Teaches Candidates How to Buy Votes to Win Elections

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

And ……. we’re back! Cast your ballot for the candidate of YOUR choice for only 80 cents, voters! Who will become the NEXT.President.of.PALESTINE!’

Sound a little weird?

Well yeah, maybe, but this wildly popular reality television show, ‘The President’ has been going on for two seasons now here in the Middle East, and it’s the closest thing to real elections that Arabs in the Palestinian Authority have had in more than a decade.

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has made sure of that, after having been “elected” 11 years ago. His presumed five year term hasn’t ended yet.

This show, is being broadcast on the Ma’an satellite network, funded primarily by a U.S. State Department grant to the NGO ‘Search for Common Ground.’ It was originally aired in 2013, and supported by a two-year grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The show reaches viewers in PA-controlled areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza as well as elsewhere in the Arab world. And it has an impact, quietly teaching the concepts of how a democratic election really operates.

In the first season, 1,200 candidates ages 25–35 from Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and Israel auditioned to compete in an elimination-style series of trials designed to test their political skills. They were called upon to act as a PA ambassador in a foreign country, managing a large corporation for a day, answering hard-hitting questions on live TV on various political, social, and economic issues affecting Palestinians, exhibiting sufficient self-discipline to be “on-call” and “on-message” 24/7 while on the campaign trail, and keeping their cool in an intense, televised political debate.

In this second season which just culminated this past Thursday (Congratulations to Wa’ad Qannam!), 24 contestant were winnowed out from 1,200 people who sat down to take a series of exams on politics in the Palestinian Authority, international law, development and gender equality.

It’s also an unparalleled learning opportunity for the contestants: at the end of each week the competitors must face a panel of judges to explain what they learned after having shadowed a PA minister or business leader for the entire week prior — and then also tell the judges how they would improve on their “mentor’s” performance.

Both male and female candidates run in the election for leadership and hold rallies while cameras are rolling.

(The top three political platforms this season: Boycott Israel, seize half of Jerusalem for the capital of ‘Palestine’ and reconcile the two estranged ‘halves’ of the PA — Hamas-controlled Gaza with Ramallah-controlled parts of Judea and Samaria.)

The audience is drawn from viewers who can vote via text message at 80 cents per text. Votes from judges and the audience determine who make it from one round to the next – but it’s only the audience who decides in the finale.

Because there are no caps on how many times a voter can send a text, money plays a big part in how far a candidate can get.

A NY Times article pointed out exactly how much money a number of the candidates paid to buy votes to better guarantee their democratic victory. One candidate’s family complained that 24,000 votes they bought and had receipts for had disappeared.

Just like in a real third world kleptocracy.

The point of the show is to groom young citizens in the Palestinian Authority to take on leadership roles in the future, NGO co-director Suheir Rasul told the Associated Press.

Ma’an general director Ra’ed Othman called the show “a message for the Palestinian leadership,” and said bluntly, “Elections are the solution. Democracy is the solution.”

However you get your votes.

Hana Levi Julian

Annals of Democracy: Lapid Cancels Primaries, Retains Total Control

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Yesh Atid Chaieman Yair Lapid decided to withdraw his decision to conduct free elections among party members for the role of party chairman and primaries to decide the list of candidates, Israel’s Channel 10 News revealed Thursday. Lapid initially promised, when he established Yesh Atid in 2012, that he would lead the party for two consecutive terms and then open it up for the voters to choose their leaders. Channel 10 reported Lapid had reached the decision on his own, without consulting with other party members.

Israeli political parties have three ways of picking their candidates: Likud, Labor, Bayit Yehudi, Meretz, and the United Arab List (at least two out of three of its factions) invite their members to vote for their favorite leaders, each party on a separate, nationwide primary day; the ultra-Orthodox party decides its candidate list through negotiations and Shas by a directive of the Council of Sages; and the rest are the private domain of the party bosses — Avigdor Liebrman, Moshe Kahlon, and Yair Lapid.

Lapid, like the other two bosses in the Knesset, also retained the right to pick the list of candidates for the next Knesset elections. Now, does this mean that he knows something the rest of us do not? Is Netanyahu planning yet another run, less than a year after the last one?

Yesh Atid dropped from 19 to 11 seats in the 20th Knesset, and has been sharing the center with Kahlon’s Kulanu, with its 10 members. Both Lapid and Kahlon have run the Finance Ministry during their stint in government, and both are competing for the same voters; they could cobble together the largest party in the Knesset, but they won’t. So the fight between them promises to be fierce. And so, whether the next elections come now or in three years from now, Lapid must recruit the best list of candidates he can against Kahlon, who will have the momentum of incumbency.

In other words, Democracy, shmedocracy, ya first gotta’ win it to be in it…

David Israel

Knesset Committee Extends Security Prisoners’ 96-Hour Remand by 1 Year

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

(JNi.media) The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday approved the extension by a year of a temporary order that allows interrogators to delay bringing a suspect in a security-related crime before a judge for 96 hours. The order further authorizes the court to extend a suspect’s remand in absentia.

The remand or detention of a suspect is the process of keeping a person who has been arrested in custody, prior to a trial, conviction or sentencing. The word “remand” is used generally in common law jurisdictions to describe pre-trial detention The pre-charge detention period is the period of time during which an individual can be held and questioned by police, prior to being charged with an offense.

The prohibition of prolonged detention without charge, habeas corpus, was first introduced in England about a century after Magna Carta.

Israel, which sadly does not have a Magna Carta, is currently debating the arrest without charges, remand in absentia and prevention of seeing an attorney in the case of at least three Jewish suspects in the Duma Village arson investigation. In that case the suspects’ incarceration is entering its fourth week in incognito detention.

The existing law allows authorities, under certain circumstances, to delay a suspect’s arraignment, to keep a security-related suspect in custody for a longer period of time than a suspect in another type of crime, to hold hearings in absentia and to limit the suspect’s freedom to appeal court decisions regarding his or her arrest. In addition, the law requires the security bodies that make use of these freedoms to file a biannual report indicating how often this law was implemented.

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nazri said statistics indicate that the Shin Bet (General Security Service) is making use of the temporary order in a “logical and restrained” manner. In 2014, Nazri told the committee, the law was used in cases involving only 23 of 200 relevant detainees, “a relatively high figure compared with previous years.” This year has seen a significant reduction in the use of the law, Nazri said. “The law’s clauses were implemented this year in cases that involved only seven of 341 relevant detainees. The Shin Bet is using this special tool only to prevent the loss of life,” he argued.

In the spirit of Israel being “light unto the nations,” Nazri told the committee that countries around the world “want learn about our use of the anti-terror law.”

Addressing the investigation involving the Jewish suspects, Nazri said “there are no interrogations in the dark; the Shin Bet is not hiding anyone. All of the actions are being accompanied by the attorney general.” He admitted that in this case “irregular measures have indeed been taken, and clauses of the discussed law have been implemented.” In response to a question by MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), he said the suspects “have been allowed to put on Teffillin (phylacteries) and light [Hanukkah] candles. I personally spoke with the administrator at the facility in which they are being held. Terror is terror. There is no terror law for Arabs and a terror law for Jews. To our regret, there is also severe Jewish terror which sometimes justifies the use of these tools.”

Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) refused to extend the temporary order by two years, as was initially requested. The committee unanimously approved its extension by one year. Addressing the Duma affair, Slomiansky said “if I will learn that there have been deviations from the law, I will hold a special meeting on the issue.”

MK Anat Berko (Likud) said “Jewish terror should be treated like terror, but we must remember that we are facing jihadist Muslim terror.”


Surreal: Israeli Police Raids Conference Against Anti-Democratic Administrative Detention

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

(JNi.media) Large police forces as well as a SWAT team on Thursday surrounded the community center at the village of Nof Ayalon near Modi’in, inside the 1949 armistice “green line.” The center was hosting a conference of right wing activists, rabbis and public figures, who gathered to debate the sharp rise in the issuing of administrative detention orders by the Israeli government. Police detained two (although there were reports of four) activists who have been expelled from Judea and Samaria attended the conference, although there presence there did not violate the orders against them.

Among the better known activists at the conference were Professor Hillel Weiss, Torah scholar and writer Rabbi Yoel Schwartz—a co-founder of the IDF Nahal Haredi battalion, former MK Michael Ben-Ari, Lehava leader Ben-Zion Gopstein, Noam Federman, Baruch Marzel, attorney Yitzhak Bam, and “hilltop youth” activist Meir Bartler.

Honenu legal aid society chairman Shmuel Medad, who attended the conference, wrote on his organization’s Facebook page, “The landlord is crazy (an Israeli expression meaning the government has lost it). It appears that even a conference against administrative decrees is not to the liking of the Israel Police. Unfortunately, the police receive instructions to act as if there are no restrictions on their force and no limitations on their resources.”

A senior police official confirmed to Maariv that forces were active in the village, and said, “The event was attended by young people who have recently accepted administrative orders. The orders include a prohibition on contacting other activists. These are activists who had violated the ban and met each other in this place. Troops arrived to carry out arrests following a breach of the order. Two activists have been arrested.”

Despite their claim to justification, police confiscated video cameras and erased records of their raid, saying the clips would expose clandestine members of the Jewish division of Shin Bet.


Congratulations President Abbas

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Republished with permission from Israellycool

The Palestinian Authority is an island of stability in a volatile Middle East, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas enters the 11th year of his 4 year term.

Photo of the Day

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/congratulations-president-abbas/2015/06/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: