The New York Times published a piece by Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism and political science, titled “You Can’t Save Democracy in a Jewish State” in which the writer explained why “Israel” is not a democracy despite continuous claims by its officials on the importance of “saving democracy”.
Beinart discussed the topic following an era of unprecedented chaos in “Israel”, where Israeli demonstrators claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government has imperiled efforts to “preserve ‘Israel’ as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Former Prime Ministers Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett and former minister Benny Gantz have also voiced their concerns on “saving democracy” in recent days. However, Beinart marked a significant difference in what is happening in “Israel”, which has been likened to anti-populist demonstrations elsewhere in the world.
“The people most threatened by Mr. Netanyahu’s authoritarianism aren’t part of the movement against it,” said Beinart and explained that very few Palestinians have joined the ongoing demonstrations.
According to the professor, the anti-Netanyahu movement is “a movement to preserve the political system that existed before Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition took power, which was not, for Palestinians, a genuine liberal democracy in the first place.” More clearly, the NYT report argued,
It’s a movement to save liberal democracy for Jews.
Beinart further made the argument to depict “how illiberal the liberal Zionism” can be. He used one example from the Lapid era, where he argued that then-PM Lapid “implored the Knesset to renew a law that denies Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are married to Palestinian citizens the right to live with their spouses” inside the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
In a more blunt approach, the professor explained, “For most of the Palestinians under Israeli control–those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip—’Israel’ is not a democracy,” adding,
It’s not a democracy because Palestinians in the Occupied Territories can’t vote for the government that dominates their lives.
Beinart also made reference to Gaza being an open-air prison and the Palestinian Authority being “a subcontractor, not a state.”
Significantly, the Jewish professor re-examined a 2018 incident wherein a number of Palestinian legislators presented legislation “to anchor in constitutional law the principle of equal citizenship.” At the time, Beinart said the speaker of the Knesset refused to even discuss the topic because it would “gnaw at the foundations of the state.”
The country “belongs to Jews like me, who don’t live there” the professor said, adding “but not to the Palestinians who live under its control, even the lucky few who hold Israeli citizenship.” This is a reality from long before the Netanyahu coalition came to power, the NYT piece highlighted before concluding that “this is the vibrant liberal democracy that liberal Zionists want to save.”
Democracy in time of domicide
To further double down on the contradictive rhetoric of democracy in a Jewish-led occupation state, it is worth putting into context the incidents.
The protests in “Tel Aviv” and Al-Quds have occurred without any connection to the Israeli occupation’s security cabinet approval the “legalization” of nine illegal Israeli settlement outposts and the advance of nearly 10,000 “settlement units” in the occupied West Bank, which were established by settlers without the approval of Israeli governments.
The United Nations Security Council, shortly after, on February 16, considered a draft resolution that would demand “Israel” to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory,” Reuters reported.
According to Reuters, the text “reaffirms that the establishment by ‘Israel’ of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
The draft resolution also condemns moves toward the further seizure of land by the Israeli occupation, including the “legalization” of settlement outposts.
However, On February 20, it was reported that according to multiple diplomats familiar with the situation, the US was successful in delaying the resolution proposed by the Palestinians and their supporters.
The UN diplomats said that in order to avoid having to use its veto to block the resolution, Washington has encouraged Palestine and its allies in the UNSC to consider drafting “a more symbolic” joint statement condemning the Israeli cabinet’s announcements.
Democracy in time of genocide
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided, on January 26, the Jenin camp in Occupied Palestine’s West Bank using force the camp had not seen in years. The raid left residents and popular resistance groups with no choice but to defend themselves and confront the occupation forces. This raid was happening in parallel to intra-Israeli divisions.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced the martyrdom of 10 Palestinians during the genocidal raid on Jenin. It is also worth noting that as part of the raid that was launched against Palestinians, the IOF prevented ambulance crews from entering the region.
Democracy in time of apartheid
Amnesty International released a report last year in February that asserted once and for all that the Israeli regime is forcing a system of apartheid on Palestinians.
Amnesty said the Israeli system is founded on “segregation, dispossession and exclusion”, which amount to crimes against humanity, and its findings were documented in a report that shows the Israeli seizure of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcibly displacing people, and denying them citizenship.
This is the second report by an international rights group to accuse “Israel” of enforcing an apartheid system, the first being Human Rights Watch whose report was released in April 2021. As per Israeli custom, it accused Amnesty of anti-semitism.
The organization further said that “Israel” was enforcing a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians in all areas under its control “in Israel and the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit Jewish Israelis. This amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.”
The measures employed by the Israeli regime against Palestinians include: restrictions on Palestinian movement in occupied territories, underinvestment in Palestinian communities in pre-1967 occupied territories, preventing the return of Palestinian refugees.
Even more so, “Israel” forcibly displaces Palestinians, and tortures and kills them extrajudicially in order to maintain a system of “oppression and domination”, which constitutes “the crime against humanity of apartheid”.
Laws, policies and practices which are intended to maintain a cruel system of control over Palestinians, have left them fragmented geographically and politically, frequently impoverished, and in a constant state of fear and insecurity.
“Israel is not a democracy”
In an interview with Foreign Policy, the former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Alon Liel, made brazen statements that sharply cut through arguments that the Israeli establishment continues to push; Liel openly stated “Israel” is not a democracy.
“‘Israel’ always says it’s a democracy. The government always says we are the only democracy in the Middle East and we are part of the West. But in real terms, we are not a democracy with the occupation, and we are only part of the West when it suits us,” Liel argued.
Democracy devoid of rights
The Palestinian Prisoners Information Office confirmed on February 16 “that the occupation prison administration is tightening the screws even more on ‘Megiddo’, ‘Gilboa’, ‘Nafha’, ‘Ramon’, and the ‘Negev’ prisoners, by imposing new punitive measures that affect their daily lives.”
#Palestinian female prisoners cried for help in an audio message sent from behind the bars of Israeli "Damon" prison. They demanded the Palestinian people to stand and defend their rights. This comes after Israeli forces violently beat and abused the prisoners yesterday. pic.twitter.com/vXhDUfBx3y
— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) February 1, 2023
Israeli media talked about the decision of extremist Israeli Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who ordered showering time to be reduced to four minutes per prisoner.
On February 4, Palestinian prisoners sent a message from inside the Israeli occupation prisons asking their citizens to prepare to wage a major battle against the oppression of Ben-Gvir. The prisoners later announced the beginning of the “days of rage”, which will culminate in a hunger strike that will begin in the month of Ramadan, to continue until they are liberated from their captivity.