Israel’s Glorious, Messy Democracy

This is a great time to talk about Israel. The only true democracy in the Middle East is having an election this week.

What a contrast with Israel’s neighbors. Iraq had an election last year and only one name was on the ballot — and not voting for Saddam was not an option given the tendency for his security forces to visit people who might have “forgotten” to mark their ballots.

When Egypt and Syria had elections, the dictators running those countries received more than 90% of the vote without breaking a sweat.

And, of course, if you ask the people of Jordan or Saudi Arabia about their elections, the response is, “What’s an election?’

The Palestinian Authority was also supposed to have an election this month, but their dictator cancelled it. Just this week, the only person with the courage to run against Yasser Arafat, an obscure Professor named, Abdel Sattar Kassem, complained that he was being harassed by the Palestinian security services. And last year, when the number two man in the PLO — Abu Mazen — was suggested as a replacement for Arafat, he had to flee to Jordan because his life was threatened.

And remember that nonsense the pro-Palestinian propagandists used to distribute about the creation of a secular state of Palestine? Did you see the draft Palestinian constitution that would make Islam the state religion? I’m sure that will be reassuring to the Christian Arabs who already have been fleeing the PA in droves to avoid persecution, Muslim terrorists, and economic hardship. In fact, it is likely that Christians will soon be minorities in two of the most important cities in the history of Christianity, Bethlehem and Nazareth.

The Palestinian draft constitution also gutted one of the key reform proposals designed to undermine Arafat’s autocracy, namely the creation of a powerful Prime Minister who would run the government while the President serves a more ceremonial role. Guess who made sure that reform was deleted?

Meanwhile, in Israel, democracy is thriving. Just look at the choices voters have — 29 parties! Here in our great democracy we have a measly two parties, and many people don’t think there’s a dime’s bit of difference between them. Israel has parties on the right, left, and in between. Religious parties, secular parties, immigrant parties, and environmental parties. Talk about representative democracy!

And the anti-Semites who persist in their efforts to tar Israel as an apartheid state that discriminates against Arabs should take note of the fact that the Arabs also have more than one party. More important still, the Israeli Supreme Court reaffirmed that even Arab politicians who are hostile toward the State can run and serve in the Knesset. Furthermore, Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote.

Yes, I know there have been scandals in this election, and they’re appalling, but that’s democracy. It’s messy. There aren’t scandals in dictatorships and monarchies, only firing squads. As Churchill once said, democracy is the worst form of government in the world — except for all the other types.

And you know what, as unwieldy as Israeli democracy may be, I’ll bet the next leader of the State will not be chosen on the basis of dimples in the ballot.