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Israelis have an un-American view of democracy
28 Apr 2010
Imagine reading this report in an American newspaper:
More than half of white Americans think human rights organizations that expose immoral behavior by the United States should not be allowed to operate freely, and think there is too much freedom of expression here, a recent survey found.
The pollsters surveyed 500 white Americans who can be considered a representative sample of the adult white population.
They found that 57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by the United States should not be allowed to operate freely.
Slightly more than half agreed that “there is too much freedom of expression” in the US.
The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the US military.
Another 82 percent of respondents said they back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the military.
In reality, the views related in the fictitious article above are not those of white Americans but come from Jewish Israelis and pertain to their own state, military, and press. The results of the poll commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, are reported by Haaretz.
During his recent visit to Israel, Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the “unbreakable bond borne of common values” shared by America and the Jewish state.
What the Israeli poll makes clear is that Jewish Israelis and Americans, far from having an unbreakable bond of common values, actually have significantly different views about how democracy works. As Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at Tel Aviv university said: “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”
Of course, even my attempt to contrive some kind of ethnic symmetry by juxtaposing the dominant ethnic group in the United States with that in Israel, is itself a tenuous parallel. We now have a non-white president but for as long as Israel remains a Jewish state it will surely never have a non-Jewish prime minister.
Most Americans understand that the separation of Church and State protects both democracy and religious freedom. In this era, we know that if any single ethnic or religious group were to assert a “right” to control this country, the United States would cease to be a democracy. The principle of equal rights does not come in different ethnic flavors.
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