Regarding "Israel's decline as a functioning democracy" (July 10): I disagree with Michal Cohen. In my opinion Israel is, in a way, too democratic.
Years ago, actually a few decades ago while living in Los Angeles, my wife and I were invited by friends of hers who were active in an organization called FAIR. This was a relatively new NGO whose purpose was to make sure that the media in the US was indeed fair in their reporting. They were concerned that the more liberal side wasn't getting enough press.Can you imagine?
The meeting was held at a private home in Los Angeles and featured Lani Guinier. She was one of the first people thrown under the bus by president Bill Clinton back then when he dropped her nomination for assistant attorney-general, because some articles that she had previously published were discovered and had been getting bad press.
In her talk, Ms. Guinier (who unfortunately passed away in January of this year) spoke about the state of democracy in the world at the time (1993).
She said then that the one country that in her mind was the most democratic in the world was the State of Israel. She posited that in Israel there were so many political parties that whatever one's political beliefs were, there was a party for whom they could vote that espoused those beliefs, and have representation in the government. In America then and now there are but two political parties which exclude many people who don't fall under one of the two.
As a Zionist, I was very proud to hear her say that then.
Now that I live here and will soon be going to the polls to vote for the seventh time in twelve years, maybe we are indeed too democratic.
It is commonly believed that Israel is a parliamentary democracy. An understanding of the fundamentals shows that this is a mistake.
The word “democracy” consists of two Greek words: demos meaning “the people” and kratos meaning “authority” or “power.” In other words, in a democratic regime, power is in the hands of the people.
In Israel, power is entirely in the hands of the political parties. On election day, the voters cannot vote for individuals – they are presented with a list of names that have been chosen either by the party apparatus or, in the case of some lists, by the party leader himself. The voting public has no say in the names on the lists nor the order in which those names are placed.
The overwhelming majority of Israeli voters do not know the top ten names on a list nor the order in which they appear. At best, they know a few names at the top because they are the vocal party leadership whose names often appear in the news. In a perverted sense, the voters get a bargain – with one vote they choose up to 120 mostly faceless nonentities who will choose the government and legislate for the nation.
The members of Knesset owe no allegiance other than to the party apparatus that prepares the list that is presented to the voters. Once elected to the Knesset, members are often tempted by offers of political advancement or other rewards to switch parties. They often do so with alacrity and without any consideration for the voters of the party through which they were elected.
In a working democracy, like the United States, members of Congress are elected in local districts and must present themselves to the voters. They have offices in their districts to which the voters can turn with their questions and needs. When I lived in the United States, I had a number of occasions to meet with those who represented me at the state and national levels in matters dealing with the Jewish community, particularly day school education. Unfortunately, that kind of opportunity does not exist in Israel.
Until Israel becomes a democracy and not a dictatorship of the political parties, we can be compensated by the fact that the people are more loyal than the politicians to the state and to its future and act accordingly.
Reprimand of the High Court
Regarding "Biden signs executive order on abortion" (July 10): Can you just imagine how the ardent supporters of the drastic judicial innovations introduced in Israel by chief justice Aharon Barak would have reacted if any of the opponents of judicial intervention in democratically-based government decisions would have used that same terminology as did President Biden? You report that Biden said “We cannot allow an out of control Supreme Court, working in conjunction with extremist elements of the Republican [read: “right-wing”] Party, to take away freedoms and our personal autonomy.”
It is an absolutely astounding statement by a president against his own nation’s Supreme Court, which totally undermines its continued credibility.
Biden, however, is justified in contending, albeit with downright impudence, that the courts should stay out of a national ideological discussion and allow the legislature to do its work in proper democratic fashion, in its capacity as a body elected by the public to carry out the will of the public.
The comparison to our own situation here in Israel is so very clear. The refusal of the Supreme Court here to abide by the basic tenets of democracy and honor the doctrine of the separation of powers is unacceptable.
We have seen yet another example only last week of this abuse of power by the High Court of Justice, which had the chutzpah to disallow the decision of the interior minister, who had imposed a quota on non-Jewish immigrants from Ukraine seeking a better life in Israel. This non-elected body, appointed on the basis of “jobs for the boys,” is effectively denying the public of its right to legislate in accordance with its will, as expressed by its legitimate representatives.
I do not agree with Biden’s policy on abortion, but he is correct in his reprimand of the Supreme Court and an equivalent reprimand of our own High Court would definitely be in order.
Even more shameful
Regarding “World hunger rising as UN agencies warn of ‘looming catastrophe’” (July 10): It is scandalous that at a time when nine million people worldwide are dying of hunger and its effects annually, over ten percent of the world’s people are chronically malnourished, and “the Ukraine war and climate change [are] threatening starvation and mass migration on an ‘unprecedented scale,’” according to UN agencies.
About 70 percent of the grain produced in the US and over a third produced worldwide are being fed to farmed animals to fatten them for slaughter. Making the situation even more shameful is that healthy foods like corn, soy and oats, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates and devoid of cholesterol and saturated fat, are being fed to the animals, resulting in meat and other animal products, with the opposite nutrients, contributing to the life threatening diseases that are afflicting so many people.
In addition, the production of the feed crops is contributing substantially to climate change and other environmental threats to humanity and the very inefficient use of land, energy, water and other resources. This situation must change in order to help leave a healthier, environmentally sustainable world for future generations.
RICHARD H. SCHWARTZ
Regarding “Diplomatic flurry breaks out ahead of Biden’s visit” (July 10): The only flurry going on should be how to make clear to President Biden that he is only a guest here, and the rules will be ours as befits a sovereign nation and not one on its knees cowering like frightened sheep. Consenting to Biden visiting the “Palestinian” medical center in east Jerusalem especially without an Israeli escort is tantamount to giving up more of our land.
This is one more travesty in such a pathetically long list and only shows our desperation to please at any cost. What more does Mahmoud Abbas, the terrorist in a suit, have to do and say to bring home the realization that his goal of our extinction remains solid? He denies that we have any claim to this land which he tells the world we stole from his people, while we look on benevolently.
Abbas has been given the status like that of the terrorist Yasser Arafat who, with the guns supplied by us, murdered and maimed over 1,000 Israelis. Abbas makes no secret of his intention to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Arafat. By continuing with concessions, treating like criminals our own people who believe in the Jewish land for the Jewish people, we are consolidating the lie that we are the intruders in another people’s land.
We are not fools, so why do we insist on behaving like such? It will eventually lead to self-destruction.
Where were they?
Regarding “US demands accountability in death of Abu Akleh” (July 7): This whole investigation reeks of a set-up. Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot while covering a shoot-out between Arab terrorists and Israeli forces on May 11.
Her shooter is unknown. The Palestinian Authority rushed off with the body, did a secret autopsy, shared the data with no-one and even refused to release the bullet. Of course, they blamed Israel.
Shireen’s family was, and is, in a tenuous position. They are Christians, surrounded by Muslims who consider them to be dhimmi. They dare not defy the mob. The family planned a dignified funeral. They coordinated plans with Israeli authorities. Before the hearse reached the Christian cemetery, Palestinian thugs (not pallbearers) dragged out the coffin, draped a Palestinian flag over it and ran through the streets, creating another Pallywood photo-op.
Abu Akleh’s co-workers at the scene confirmed the PA/Hamas line. To do otherwise would mean certain arrest, torture and possibly death for them.
It is now two months after the shooting. Rules of evidence demand a transparent chain of custody. Can anyone guarantee the bullet offered to the Americans followed American standards of custodianship?
The unashamedly antisemitic UN, EU and PA are now calling for an independent inquiry. Where were they on May 11, when it was possible for the PA and Israel to perform a joint autopsy? The PA had rejected a PA/Israeli investigation under American supervision.
Shireen’s family doubts this process will lead to accountability. They are right.
We are being fed a predetermined answer, meant to provide a diplomatic cover to smooth the way for President Biden’s visit to the region.
Did the US demand that the Palestinians provide documentation of the chain of custody for the bullet the PA claimed had killed Shireen Abu Akleh? Did the US demand accountability from Palestinian leaders who have refused multiple Israeli and American proposals for ending the conflict but insist that they have no choice but to incite the people living under their administration to violently resist the “occupation,” honoring and rewarding those who answer the call with lifelong stipends for murderers and/or their families?
Do the Palestinian leaders have any credibility left when they have diverted monies donated for the people’s benefit to the leaders’ own bank accounts, or to the effort to destroy the nation-state of the Jews and, yet, have the chutzpah to state that the “Martyrs’ Fund” payments don’t encourage attacks on Israelis?
TOBY F. BLOCK