Netanyahu's Israel Is Neither Jewish nor Democratic

Netanyahu does not know how to solve the paradox between the terrifying reality he has created and the idea of a Jewish state he worships.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuCredit: AP
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

In 1978, a 28-year-old named Ben Nitay appeared on the The Advocate, a local television show in Boston, and was presented as an Israeli economic consultant and a graduate of the prestigious university MIT. His wavy black hair was carefully combed with a part on the side, he wore the suit and tie of an economic consultant and in general resembled Richard Dreyfuss in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

He appeared on the program – a format designed to resemble a courtroom – to lay out his political theory concerning the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, an issue on which he, it was said, had written widely. Even though he did not serve in any official position, he moved naturally from speaking in the first person to speaking in an official way. In his flowing words in polished English there was no difference between “I think” and “Israel wants.” He and Israel were the same thing.

Mr. Nitay, as he was called by the moderators, politely – but firmly and without any pretence – claimed the Palestinians had no right to self-determination, but they did deserve, very much so, full human and civil rights. Mr. Nitay was very clear on this matter. He said the Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip were entitled as part of an agreement to be citizens with equal rights in Israel. His Palestinian partner in the debate could not believe what he was hearing, and Mr. Nitay raised the conjecture that he had a hearing defect.

When his attention was directed to the fact that full civil rights for Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including the right to vote, is not in keeping the Zionist vision, and according to him Israel must be a Jewish state – Mr. Nitay waved off this seeming paradox as if it was a learned opinion of the head of the Shin Bet security service. He repeated himself, and said not only that their rights will include the right to vote, but that he could not imagine any birth control restrictions of any kind for them (“Multiply and be fruitful,” he said, it is written in the Bible) or to transfer them anywhere.

But Mr. Nitay, his hard-of-hearing Palestinian adversary questioned, the Palestinians will be a majority in Israel. Mr. Nitay was not confused. Based on up-to-date figures he had received, the birthrate among Palestinians was in decline since because of their right to live in Israel they went to study in university and adopted a Western lifestyle. And remember, Mr. Nitay intended to grant the right to vote not only to residents of Judea and Samaria but also to the residents of Gaza. There is no doubt that even back then he thought it might be preferable to illustrate the point using a chart of the sperm count in the testicles of a Palestinian student.

Thirty-six years have passed, and Ben Nitay changed his name, changed his profession, changed where he lives, but has not changed his opinion. He still believes the Palestinians do not deserve a state. He still cannot imagine limiting their birthrate or transferring them. He has, in practice, fulfilled the dream of the binational state. And he still does not know how to solve the paradox between the terrifying reality he has created and the idea of a Jewish state he worships. That is the nature of paradoxes. They follow only the rules of logic, not the basic laws of the Jewish state. They do not do what Netanyahu tells them to do – even if Sara throws shoes at them.

And now Israel is a state that is not democratic and not Jewish, without equal human rights and civil rights for Arabs. That’s how it is: A paradox that will destroy even the finest theory in the world.

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