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Contradictions at the heart of Israel’s ‘ethnic democracy’

TJI Pick
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Published: 6 August 2019

Last updated: 4 March 2024

PETER BEINART: Israel must be honest about the tension between its mission to protect Jews and granting equality for its Palestinian citizens

THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE’S Ken Jacobson [claims] I called Israel racist in my recent article The real reason so many Republicans love Israel. Their own white supremacy. “Characterising Israel as fundamentally racist,” he claims, constitutes one of my “arguments.”

But he has a problem. I didn’t call Israel racist because that’s not what I believe. I called it an “ethnic democracy.” Jacobson calls that a “euphemism” and says my real “intent is unmistakable.” No, “ethnic democracy” and “racist” are different. He’s confusing my motives with his ignorance.

Israel is a democracy inside its original, pre-1967, boundaries because it holds elections in which virtually everyone can vote. It’s an ethnic democracy because it has a special obligation to protect and represent one ethno-religious group: Jews. That means that, even inside the green line, where Palestinians (sometime called “Arab Israelis”) enjoy Israeli citizenship, they lack all the rights of Jews.

Does this mean Israel is “racist?” No. For starters, Jews aren’t a race. What it means is that there’s a genuine tension between the promise of “complete equality of social and political rights” in Israel’s declaration of independence and Israel’s special obligation as a Jewish state to protect and represent Jews.

FULL STORY ‘Delegitimising Israel’ Is code for pointing out truths Israel doesn’t want to admit (Forward)

Photo: Palestinian and Israelis rallying in Jerusalem (AP)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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