Israel, a state unencumbered by democracy
The Knesset presidium has excised the principle of equality from the definition of democracy. Instead of dealing with the Balad party’s vision, they have chosen to kill the messenger.
Haneen Zoabi member of the Parliament
Jun 18, 2018 1:01 AM
In a rare move, the Knesset presidium last week refused Balad’s request to bring the party’s proposal for a Basic Law: Israel as a State of All Its Citizens before the Knesset for discussion and a vote in the plenum. The proposal reflects the party’s values, vision and platform. In a democratic country, the vision of “a state of all its citizens” should have been an existing reality that is taken for granted because it is one of the core principles of a democracy.
A democracy does not exist without equality among its citizens and if there does exist a certain deviation from this, then the principle of equality should be what directs it. That is, any deviation from equality should be done for purposes of “compensating” some weakened group (and not to grant privileges to the strong group), the aim of which is to enable that weakened group to achieve fundamental equality with the others.
A selective democracy is not a democracy. The granting of privileges to a strong group does not accord at all with the democratic principle. An egalitarian state is supposed to grant its citizens rights at the individual and collective levels in an equal way and therefore it cannot be identified with a specific national group.
However, the Knesset presidium believed otherwise. It excised the principle of equality from the fundamental definition of democracy and reduced it to the individual plane only. (What else is left?) However, when the state expropriates lands from us, the Palestinians, to benefit the Jews, or when it damages our national rights – does this not damage us as “individuals”? Is it possible for an individual to exist when cut off from his historical affiliation, identity or culture?
The difficulty with dealing with Balad’s vision has always been a key characteristic of the relations between the party and most of the elements in the political arena. The repeated attempts to prevent the party from participating in elections and the campaign to delegitimize its Knesset members reflect the difficulty the state and its political elite have in dealing with its messages. Instead, they have chosen to kill the messenger.
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Second shoe drops
And if the stupidity of denying a discussion of the proposal for the law were not enough – it has been barred from public discourse because of the excess of democracy inherent in it – less than two weeks after its rejection came the draft law on party funding proposed by Likud MK Yoav Kish. This bill limits the number of parties that can receive funding in a union of parties such as the Joint List. The aim of the law, as explicitly stated, is to eject Balad, which has been defined as its most “extreme” element, from the Joint List.
If we are “extreme” from a nationalist perspective, go ahead and rein us in by means of the vision of equal citizenship we proposed to you two weeks ago. But no, it turns out that accusing us of “extremism” is only an excuse. The truth is that we are “extreme” because we are not even granted any partial, distorted or demagogic definition of democracy, and because of our insistence on realizing a democratic vision, even when it collides head-on with the privileged status of the dominant group.