Half Dictatorship, Half Democracy

As long as Israel straddles the line between democracy and colonialism, Western criticism is justified.

Many Israelis wonder why the criticism that the West levels at it is so much more vociferous than the criticism against the human rights violations of the totalitarian Arab states.

Why do those that criticize Israel for its violation of the civil and national rights of the Palestinians, in the name of humanity and enlightened behavior, not express at least the same degree of disgust toward the massacre that the Syrian regime is perpetrating against its own people? How much need be said in order to demonstrate that, compared to the Arab dictatorships, Israel is an exemplar of humanism, enlightened behavior and democracy?

If Israeli policy toward the Palestinians really is more disturbing to Western public opinion than the condition of human rights in the Arab world, that is because of the widely held understanding that Israel is fundamentally different from tyrannical regimes such as that of Bashar Assad.

Israel is not a dictatorship. But its democracy is partial in nature. It is a state with the clear markings of a democratic government existing in parallel to a tyrannical system that fluctuates between direct military dictatorship and humiliating delegation of authority to a vassal entity (the Palestinian Authority) that is at the mercy of the Israeli master.

When a state is both democratic and non-democratic at the same time, portraying itself as a democracy to the outside world while discriminating, in the areas under its control, by nationality between free citizens (Israelis) and subjects who have no basic rights (Palestinians), the concept of democracy can be rendered a mere cosmetic accessory.

Democracy is dear to the hearts of Western countries because it is a major component of their identity. It is therefore understandable that many people in those countries are more sensitive to the flawed Israeli democracy than they are to regimes with no democracy at all.

The free world’s absolute opposition to the Israeli hybrid of democracy and colonialism could indirectly contribute to the progress of democratization in Arab countries, perhaps more effectively than a direct conflict with those tyrannies in the Middle East. That is because the Israeli anomaly of a democracy that subjugates another nation – a clear anachronism at the beginning of the 21st century – could cause the Arabs of the Middle East to become cynical about the very idea of democracy.

On the other hand, the abolition of the Israeli colonialist regime in Israel/Palestine will contribute to the rebuilding of the Arab public’s trust in democratic values. Because of this, anyone who dreams of seeing democracy implemented in the Middle East needs to keep condemning the colonialist democracy of Israel. Therefore, in order to stop or at least reduce the international criticism against it, Israel must change its current image as a colonialist democracy.

This can be done in two ways. The first is to put an end to the colonialist regime in Israel/Palestine, whether by dividing the land into two states for two peoples or by granting Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians as part of a bi-national, egalitarian state.

The second way is for Israel to stop identifying itself as a democratic state and free itself entirely of the burden of the outward signs of democracy. This will put an end to the mixture of democracy and colonialism, which deprives democracy of its meaning and holds the fundamental concepts of the Western worldview up to ridicule.

In that case, it is possible that the West will allow the Jewish state to continue to oppress its minorities just as they are allowing, for now, the Alawite state of Syria to do so. But those who are disturbed by the upsurge in the free world’s criticism of Israel are invited to ponder which of the two options – end colonialism or drop democracy – would best serve this country.