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Panel: is Israel a Democracy?

Written by Nico Black

Digital Strategist and early-stage investor, Nico is also an AdTech enthusiast. He has over a decade of digital marketing experience and has been investing in tech companies since 2006.

May 16, 2011

I had the great honour of speaking on a panel regarding Israel with David Shayne and Huda Giddens with the Seattle Peace Chorus as our hosts.

The panel was kicked off with this short film, “West Bank Story”. Sweet, quaint, and full of all the wrong stereotypes of Jews as pure European bred and a love affair between a Palestinian and Jewish soldier wouldn’t result in her being murdered. So naive, sweet and depressing of how far our reality is from a localised “Romeo and Julliet” story.

The topic of the discussion was this:

“The topic we’re addressing is Israeli democracy. As an arts organization planning to visit Israel as well as the Occupied Territories (though the trip was recently cancelled for a variety of reasons), trip planners were curious about how our message might be received. This question about freedom of expression broadened into a general interest in the liberties and rights that Americans often take for granted as cornerstones of a democratic society. Since Israel’s government self-identifies as a democratic state, often adamantly so, it is valuable to explore how these rights and liberties are similar and how they may differ from our US-based assumptions. Just as the cornerstones of American democracy are experienced differently by different Americans, we wondered how the perceptions of Israel’s democracy would differ among Israelis.”

Naturally I was intrigued by what seemed to be a pretty high leveled discussion, in it’s aspirations. But it became pretty clear that as each speaker was given 15 minutes to talk that the discussion would be pretty superficial.

David gave an excellent legalistic explanation of the legal status of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (“The Occupied Territories” of 1967). Huda Giddens discussed the “occupation” since 1948, aka Jews from Europe are invaders, Ashkenazy oppress non Ashkenazim Jews, Palmach and the Etzel terrorised the Palestinians out, etc.

As is my tradition since the days of my first shouting matches in the Erez crossing and the Jericho Joint Verification Team I stuck to the future. Explaining that we can be stuck in the past with these discussions or can just move ahead like adults and explore the most unpopular solution to the conflict: a two state solution.

The one point I categorically reject and spoke forcefully about was the “indigenous” argument. Jews have always lived in the land of Israel, just because some of us were forced out through the ages and kept out through the Ottoman land laws doesn’t excuse viewing us a foreigners. The PLO charter states that everyone arriving in the land before 1917 is to be considered a Palestinian. 1917 is of course when the freeze of buying land en mass was abolished with the toppling of Ottoman rule in the land. Suddenly we could return home, en mass – as landowners and not as second class citizens (Dhimmi).

Anyway, my point is that we can not look forward to peace if we are viewed as alien to the land. Honestly, let’s say that Israel did indeed commit genocide, ethnic cleansing and use state terror and on top of that don’t even belong in that land – what would be a Palestinians motivation to sign a peace treaty? None.

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