Israel Uses 'Crazy Democracy' to Justify Security Needs

The peace activists of the flotilla, or flytilla, represent a point of view that Israel has been trying to eradicate for years, that Israel is not immune to outside pressure, and that when Israel declares itself to be the only democracy in the Middle East it means it.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The attack of the peace activists should certainly create deep anxiety for the Israeli government. That is because behind this attack, whether it is called a flotilla or a flytilla, is a point of view that Israel has been trying for years to eradicate. It is the position holding that Israel is not immune to international pressure, that it is a Western state like any other, where public opinion influences the government and whose central political stream, at least, welcomes the international peace activists as an alternative to a mad policy. This worldview genuinely believes that when Israel declares itself to be the only democracy in the Middle East it means it, and that human rights - including those of humans living under occupation - are an integral part of its influential public debate.

Those "dangerous invaders," who are always characterized as "deluded," just as the Israeli left was termed "loony," that is "crazy" or at the very least ignorant of the world in which it lives, insist on changing a situation and policy that even superpowers like the United States and the European Union have failed to change.

Israel believed it had succeeded in confusing the concept of defensive democracy with that of defensive occupation. It presents the Gaza Strip as if it were part of its sovereign territory, and the blockade as a means to defend that sovereignty. It clings to the international law that permits it to block the flotillas seeking to undermine its sovereignty while rejecting international law when it tries to tell it how to conduct a "legal" occupation.

Therein lies the error of the human rights activists: Israel adopts international law only when it allows it to take action: to detain, to prohibit, to restrict the caloric intake of the occupied population. But it pushes to beyond its territorial waters the prohibitions of international law, such as the ban on building in the settlements or on demolishing homes.

Israel aspires to become a "crazy democratic state." On one hand, a state with an elected government, a multiparty system and concern for civil rights that listens to its citizens. On the other hand, a state it's best not to mess with because when it comes to security it is completely unpredictable. A state that shoots first and asks questions later. If innocent civilians are killed - Palestinians, Turks or "deluded peace activists" - it is not just human error, an accident of war, but a tool to reinforce the "crazy" reputation, the purpose of which is deterrence.

Israel did not invent the method. The greatest democracy of all, the United States, operates the same way in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nor does NATO, which includes British and Turkish troops, eschew this deterrent in Afghanistan or Libya. The difference is that when they hurt innocent civilians they at least feel discomfort, express regret and even pay compensation on occasion.

Israel still enjoys this "crazy democracy" reputation, and has even convinced the majority of the population that it is the only formula that can guarantee them security and quality of life. So great is its success that the majority of Israelis see nothing wrong with stopping the aid ships to Gaza and the entry of peace activists, or the definition in general of human rights activities as an existential threat to the state. The inculcation of the threat succeeded beyond all expectations: Iran and the peace activists have come to be seen in the same light.

The Israelis' fraught anticipation is all about the imminent show: Will the navy manage to damage the propellers of the flotilla ships and make our hearts thrill with pride? Will the hundreds of hero police officers succeed in capturing the members of the international peace mafia?

And here lies the activists' great danger to Israel. Their activity could demolish its reputation as a crazy democracy, emphasis on the crazy. The activists believe that at least some of its citizens will raise an eyebrow, ask a question, perhaps even go and demonstrate. It must be hoped, for the sake of state security and citizens' peace of mind, that the army, the police and the airports authority can counter this danger using appropriate force. If Israel were to surrender tomorrow to the peace activists, God forbid, it could end up also having to obey American demands.



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