Sunday, August 10, 2014

Haaretz journo: 'Israel is only a democracy for those who fall in line'

Don't just take my word for it, listen to an Israeli Jewish journalist, who recounts how Israel's public discourse has been deformed and coarsened by decades of government aggression against Palestinians and official censure of any Israeli citizen who questions that aggression.

Gideon Levy echoes my words from last week about how Israel's government and media have effectively dehumanized the Palestinians, leaving them open to whatever punishment they "deserve" from the IDF and its supplier of deadly weapons, the United States [emphasis mine]:

But the biggest problem is not the marginal extremist who cheers for the killing of Palestinian children in Gaza, or applauds every Israeli bomb that falls on a private residence. The biggest problem is the Israeli mainstream, which spoke with one voice during this war, and which had zero tolerance for any kind of dissent, or even the simplest human compassion with Palestinian sacrifice, suffering and bloodshed.

It is all about dehumanization. As long as Israelis don't perceive Palestinians as equal human beings, there will never be a real solution. Unfortunately, dehumanizing the Palestinians has become the best tool to strengthen the occupation, to ignore and deny its crimes and enable the Israelis to live in peace, without any moral dilemmas. If the Palestinians are not human beings, there is no question about human rights. This process climaxed in this war and this is the real basis for the moral blindness which has covered Israel.

American sympathizers with Israelis' plight and the cause of Zionism must be aware: Israel is not a democracy as we know it. It's a system where something more brutal than Jim Crow is codified in law and justified by self-serving morality:

Israel likes to describe itself as "the only democracy in the Middle East," but it's really only a democracy for its Jewish citizens who are quick to fall in line with the mainstream every time Israeli tanks roll across the border.

Americans should not express kinship with that kind of democracy. Eventually, we Americans rejected the physical and cultural genocide of native Americans, expressed our sorrow and made reparations. Eventually, we rejected the codified injustice of slavery, Jim Crow and "separate but equal," and we are a better nation for it. 

We Americans mustn't stoop down now after having passed through all that and commiserate with a nation that exceeds our worst historical sins, simply because we abhor the Holocaust and support the idea of a Jewish homeland. We must push Israel hard to listen to its better angels, its liberal dissenters, and transcend the original sins of its founding, just as the U.S. has done.  

By Gideon Levy
August 8, 2014 | CNN

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