Demographics and Democracy

Another good article from Salon, this one on the impact of demographics on Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. More than any other event, the growth of the Palestinian population in Israeli territories may be driving politicians to consider partition and the creation of a Palestinian state, an idea previously seen as anathema by many religious conservatives and right-wing Israelis. The alternative is to face an Israel where Jews are no longer the majority, or a permanent, unstable state of disenfranchisement for the Palestinian population.

This piece, from the New York Review of Books, discussed the relevance- and utility- of the identity of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ in the modern world. There are certainly significant reasons why Israel was created, and why it has retained its identity as a uniquely Jewish state, but the idea of a nation defined by a single ethnicity or religion should give any believer in democracy cause to pause and consider. How can you protect the individual rights of all the citizens of a state that privileges a particular ethnicity, religion, or race? With so much effort in modern times given to trying to erase the legal enthronement of particular religious and ethnic identities, you have to wonder at the long-term prospects for stability and growth in Israel if it remains committed to a state that privileges Judaism- and only certain types of Judaism at that- over other religious and ethnic backgrounds. The author of the article at the New York Review of Books advocates a solution that embraces the idea of a more pluralist Israel. I’m reminded of a professor from a Middle Eastern history class that I took who commented along the lines that the idea of a ethnically or religiously homogeneous society in Israel- be it Jewish or Arab- was a modern fantasy, an attempt to paper over the complex history of interactions and intermixing that had defined the region for thousands of years with politically convenient fiction.

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