Israel Against Democracy: Introduction

To skip this introduction and go directly to read today’s In-Depth post, “Israel Against Democracy: Post-Elections Analysis” by Hilla Dayan, click here.

In today’s “in-depth” post, Hilla Dayan provides critical insight into the Israeli political landscape, following the recent elections. She paints a stark reality. The elections in her judgment have a “Groundhog Day” quality. Once again, a centrist, anti-religious, patriotic party appeared from nowhere. Once again, the left was not a significant factor, and once again the right-wing ruling party prevailed to form the coalition. Dayan presents a much more radical response than did Michael Weinman in his inquiry into the future prospects following the elections for Israel. Weinman foresees a fundamental challenge to Israeli democracy, worries about theocratic and authoritarian dangers, and sees in the modest quest for a normal society a possible key for a democratic future.

In Dayan’s account, in contrast, the key question is whether the strong anti-democratic agenda of the far right will proceed, whether Israel’s present regime, combining an unsteady and receding liberal democracy for Jewish citizens and second class Palestinian citizens, with dictatorship over the Palestinians in the occupied territories, will be replaced by a more pure authoritarian indeed fascist regime, with the potential of a genocidal approach to the Palestinian other.

While for Weinman hope lies in the internal dynamics of Israeli society, for Dayan hope can be found in the potential common project linking the post if not anti-Zionist left within Israel and in the occupied territories. Both see the elections as indecisive. Both see real dangers. Yet, both also provide some grounds for hope: Weinman in the possibility of incremental steps toward a two state solution, between now and a better then, Dayan in the radical step that must be taken for a just secular one state solution.

My ambivalent response: as a matter of temperament and personal experience, I am attracted to the quest for a normal society as a wise political end in the face of gross injustice.  I know from my experience in Central Europe that this quest involves more than its critics imagine, especially because it can be realized immediately, its self limiting means can constitute its end. This project would be especially powerful if it included Palestinians.

On the other hand, the degree of injustice and suffering among Palestinians, clearly calls for a radical resolution. The peace process over the past decades has only intensified this for many if not most Palestinians, as Nahed Habbiballah has highlighted here. The peace process has led to few improvements for Palestinians, especially when considering their longing for a normal life.

Hilla and Michael are both former students, colleagues and friends. I learn from both of them, in these posts and in their other writings. Their reflections on the election results both require serious and deliberate consideration. My intuition tells me that their shared deep concerns are more important than their differences. More on that in an upcoming post.

To read today’s In-Depth post, “Israel Against Democracy: Post-Elections Analysis,” by Hilla Dayan, click here.

  • Jeffrey Goldfarb

    I apparently misinterpreted the implications of Dayan’s reflections on the elections. She emailed me: “I am not for “one state” but for democratisation, in whatever form (be it federal, bi-national, power sharing, what have you).” I think this is very important, and fundamentally agree with her position. I will extend this point in my future post.