In The Toronto Globe And Mail of Friday, July 31 2009, the iconoclastic, neo-liberal Neil Reynolds wrote about a new book on Israel by George Gilder. Gilder is a contrarious analyst of trends in capitalism. His new book The Israel Test, according to Reynold, holds up Israel as a model of what can be achieved by a state dedicated to democracy, education and economic growth.
The notion that Messrs Reynolds and Gilder proffer Israel as a paragon of democracy and development troubles me. As I write, Israel continues to expropriate homes of Arab citizens of East Jerusalem. Such actions violate international laws. Similarly, despite the protestations of the Obama administration, Israel is strengthening the illegal foothold of its half million settlers in the West Bank. Israel is only a democracy in a severely mitigated way. One could argue that its bundle of democratic rights and responsibilities only belongs fully to its Jewish citizens.
I recognize that all ‘democratic’ countries have constraints. Canada, after all, has the embarrassment of an appointed Senate and suffers still the shame of the Victorian era apartheid regime constructed under the extant The Indian Act.
Israel’s exceptions to the fundamental tenets of liberal democracy are more salient. In an ample Israeli democracy. the state might have to acknowledge to the world that it has nuclear weapons. That state might then sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Finally in the ultimate test that Mr. Gilder and Mr. Reynolds would presumably vaunt, a true Israeli democracy would extend voting rights in Israeli elections to the more than 3 million Palestinian Arab citizens of the West Bank and Gaza whose lives have been controlled by Israel since 1967.