עברית   |   عربي  |  English

 

NEWS


 

 
 
 

 

Home - Articles

Lessons in Advanced Democracy

Attorney Nidal Othman*

first Published  : 03/08/2016   Last Updated: 08/03/2016 

   

As every high school student learns in the first year of their lessons in citizenship, democracy must, at times, defend itself against those who are attempting to destroy it.  The problem is that, in the eyes of some of our legislators, the best defense is a good offense.  This is the unavoidable viewpoint of the “Impeachment Law,” according to which it will be possible, with a majority of 90 votes, to remove Members of the Knesset from their position on the grounds of “incitement and racism or support for terror.”  In other words, they passed a baseless law against Arab Members of Knesset.

    There are legislators and political leaders who choose to make for themselves fictitious enemies and then plant them in the minds of the citizens.  In doing so, they reject the basic values and principles of democracy itself.  They erode the breadth of the freedoms of expression and assembly, and strengthen the dictatorship of the majority.

 

     When democracy begins to attack as a way of self-defense, it begins to lose its essence.  There are those who take pride in the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.  We even play soccer and basketball in enlightened Europe and maintain productive trading relationships with the entire democratic Western world.  But when it comes to the essence and foundations of existence, these leaders choose to compete with the shady regimes of the region.

   We can, Jews and Arabs, citizens of Israel, refuse to agree with extremist utterances or with those that are not within the Jewish or Arab consensus in Israel.  Nevertheless, it is our duty as citizens to defend democracy, its values and its foundations, as best we can.  Politicians like Beni Begin and President Reuven Rivlin have chosen to do so quite frequently.  These are people whose political positions are absolutely clear concerning everything connected to the Israeli-Arab conflict, people whom one wouldn’t suspect of having a left-wing political viewpoint nor even centrist.  They are simply fearful for Israeli democracy.

 

   A democracy that rejects those that are different, that pushes them to the margins or even to the extremities, will not succeed in developing a stable civil life as it creates for itself these imaginary enemies.  It insists on creating them in order to justify the on-going dominance of a minority group over the majority with a heavy hand and by means of continued intimidation.

 

The legislative basis for the “Impeachment Law” is an attempt at “neutralizing” specific Members of Knesset.  Someone has already nicknamed it “the Haneen Zoabi Law.”  Without going into detail regarding the case of Ms. Zoabi, it is clear that we are not speaking about defending the governance or honor of the Knesset.  In actuality, the motivation is defending the dictatorship of a minority within the majority by using the “Impeachment Law.”  By means of this drug, the minority neutralizes and controls the majority, which, under the influence of this law, continues to imagine that only this minority group can promise peace and security, and can protect the majority from these fictitious enemies.

 

            In this manner, it is also possible to continue justifying a policy of institutional discrimination against various groups in Israeli society, to continue racist institutional practices against various communities, even from among the majority, and to legitimize the racism that is visible among citizens and people from different communities and different backgrounds.

 

    True democracy cannot but aspire to reject and to annul the “Impeachment Law.”  This decision must also be based on the principles of justice over which the High Court presides.  If the High Court does not do this, it will surrender to the minority, whose way and method are the policy and culture of neutralization and intimidation.

 

*The author is the director of the Coalition against Racism.