Our friend, Dr. Thomas Mitchell, suggested a blog post on this Haaretz op-ed by Ali Haider, a co-executive director of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel. The article begins as follows:
In his speech… to the members of Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel’s more than 1 million Arab citizens have been enjoying democratic rights for decades. He added emphatically: “Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free, and they’re all citizens of Israel!”
…. There is a difference between the image of the State of Israel presented to Congress and the reality on the ground…. There is also a real difference between the rhetoric and the practice.
First, the premier made an irrelevant comparison between citizens of what is in his opinion the only democratic country in the Middle East, and citizens living under undemocratic regimes. The proper comparison would have been between Israel’s Arab citizens and its Jewish ones, especially as the Arabs are a native minority in their homeland. It also would have been more logical to compare Israel to other democracies. …
Moreover, there is a wide-ranging discussion in Israeli academia concerning the nature of the country’s regime, including over whether it can be called a democracy at all. There are scholars who argue that Israel is a liberal democracy like the United States and Canada. But many others say there are serious and significant flaws in Israeli democracy, and describe it as an “ethnic democracy,” “hollow democracy,” “formal democracy” or a “Jewish democracy.” Then there are those who say Israel is not a democracy at all, but rather an “ethnocracy,” a regime designed to privilege the Jewish majority. … Click here for more online.
My reaction is that it’s a bit rhetorical and debatable here & there, but largely true (unfortunately). Dr. Mitchell responded: “I disagree with [anyone] who posits the ethnocracy thesis, but I agree that Israel is an ethnic democracy. But [the fact] that Israel is a democracy of any sort is a miracle considering the origins of its population and its neighborhood.”