Monday, April 04, 2011

Israel on the Democratic Forefront

Nadene Goldfoot
Everyone's clamoring for Democracy in the Middle East.  There has been one Democratic country there since 1948 and it probably has been driving the Arab rulers crazy knowing that a democracy was so close by and instituted by Jews. 
Israel practices freedom of religion even though it was created as a Jewish state.  It recognizes 15 religions including Islam, the Ba-hais, Druze, Chaldaic and other Christian groups and more.  They administer their own internal affairs and Israel protects all the holy sites.

In Muslim countries Christians are being persecuted but between 1948 to 1998, Christians grew from 34,000 to 130,000 in Israel. 

In Israel citizens have freedom of assembly, speech, press and dissent.  Only hate speech and incitement to violence are illegal.  There are 9 Hebrew daily newspapers; several daily papers in Russian, Arabic, French and English.  The Jerusalem Post was the one I read in English when in Israel from 1980-85.  There are many radio and TV stations and easy access to the foreign press. 

All minorities have the same civil rights as the majority.  Israel is a pluralistic society.  It's a product of the ingathering from all the corners of the earth.  80% of Israelis are Jews of different ethnicities and races.  Many emigrated from the Middle East, Ethiopia, India, Russia, the USA and Europe.  Having been a part of this, I was so impressed to have friends from various parts of Britain, Australia, Canada, South Africa and the USA.  All those people speaking English in so many accents made us realize that we were really a part of the prophesized ingathering to Israel.  It had come to pass. 

Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and at one time, Gaza, are not Israeli citizens.  Even so, they can petition Israel's highest courts.  The Court judges by the merits of a case and frequently decides in favor of the Palestinians.  For example, In June of 2004 they petitioned that the security fence by rerouted around Beit Sourik and around Alfei Menashe in 2005.  In April 2002, during very fierce fighting , the high court was receiving and ruling on petitions almost daily, and that made the New York times on May 5, 2003. 

Palestinians are in the Knesset and have 5 political parties.  Some people have said that Israel has too much democracy because it is a multiparty, not a 2 party system.  There are many parties, far more than the USA has including a Communist, religious, Arab and secular parties.  Israelis vote for the party instead of an individual and each party has its own list of Knesset candidates.  Depending on the % they receive of the popular vote determines how many seats it wins.  For example, if a party wins 5 seats, the first 5 candidates on its list become Members of the Knesset or an MK.   A party needs only 2% of the vote to win a seat.  It turns out to be a boisterous and often confusing political system as at one time they had 19 different parties running.  The governing group has to form coalitions to function, so even the smallest parties get a voice. 

Reference: Israel 101 from StandWithUs, special Edition, partners Christians United For Israel (CUFI)

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