On Israel

Sharon April 3rd, 2005

Interesting short article on Israel in _The Atlantic_ this month. It does a quick but highly detailed analysis of the demographic and political situation in Israel, and asks, quite rightly, whether Israel will exist in 30 years.

I should say upfront that I’m ambivalent politically about Israel - I don’t consider myself a zionist, and while I certainly don’t want to see Jews harmed, I am troubled by our political past in Israel. What I am I unequivocably disturbed by, however, is the uncritical, “Israel right or wrong” input of American Jews into the situation, which annoys most Israelis I know as well. I’m always inclined to think something is truly wrong when someone who would never countenence an act by the American government tolerates it from Israel.

We all know that the central problem of Israel is demographic - and there is really only one way to resolve in a meaningful sense. That is, the two state solution isn’t really a solution at all, when you are talking about cramming too rapidly growing populations into a resource poor area that cannot necessarily support them. There will be more war, more conflict, more territorial disputes, this time by two states both of whom get to have their own Cobra helicopters.

So the only way to fix the Israeli-Palestinian problem is to find another way around. No one is leaving. No one is willing to give as much as they should. So what alternatives are there, except to find a way to create one nation, not two, that captures the hearts and minds of both populations. A difficult call, that, but not, I suspect a totally impossible one. I do not believe it can be a Jewish state - and I do not blame Moslems for preferring not to live in a Jewish state, any more than I would prefer to live in a Christian or Moslem one. A secular democracy, however, with profound protections for both populations might conceivably be possible. I don’t know - I know that it is *more* possible than continuing as things are.

The phenomenon of the religious state is fundamentally anti-democratic - you cannot simultaneously base your laws on theocratic principles and maintain an equal and truly democratic government. Moreover, in a practical sense, in very short order, Jews will be a statistical minority in Israel, and we all know how well a state run by and favoring a minority of the population fares in the long run.

The central tenet of democracy is that if you truly believe something, and your enemies outnumber you, you convince your enemies - you offer them something. No matter how much they hate you and you hate them, in a real and true democracy you must win your enemy’s heart to move forward. Israel calls itself a democracy, but when its enemies outnumber it, it builds a wall. That’s not democracy. Democracy is hard. It hurts. People die when real democracies are established. I am not suggesting this as a quick or easy solution - but I do think it may be both the right one and the only one. People are, after all, dying now.


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