Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Israeli Democratic Law: Facing Issues Unlike Any Other Country

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                     

Israel, though the only Jewish state in the world, is a pluralistic society.  The native Jewish population has been here since 70 CE's destruction of Jerusalem by Rome and before.  They've been joined by other Jews throughout the ages since then.  In the 1880s, large groups of Ashkenazi Jews immigrated, escaping pogroms in eastern Europe.  All the while, others have entered who came with 15 religions.  When Jews truly needed this place set aside for Jewish refuge, they couldn't get in.  The British held the mandate and during the the pre-Holocaust days, were allowing Muslims but not Jews to enter.  This helped to cause 6 million Jews to die horrible deaths by the Nazi hands in the Holocaust.
Jews arriving in Palestine by ships from Europe
80% of Israel's Jewish population are of different ethnicities and races.  Many have emigrated from the Middle East and are Mizrachim and Sephardim.
Ethiopian boy newly arrived from Gondar, Ethiopia
Some came from Ethiopia. Their story is that the Queen of Sheba and her train of attendees came to visit King Solomon (961-920 BCE) and she left pregnant with Solomon's child, which started the Jewish Ethiopians. I was living in Safed of the northern Galilee in 1981 and was there to see them come to our city to their new apartments, which were across the street from mine.  They came wearing nothing but white sheets and were barefoot.  It wasn't long till they had done enough artwork to put on an art show.  They were entering a society that was almost 50% westernized.
Ethiopian Jew in IDF
 Today they are having problems of fitting in, much like the same problems facing the Black society in the USA in Ferguson and Baltimore.  I'm sorry to see that.  The army is the place where such discrepancies in people are usually smoothed over, making them a unified group. A few days ago a policeman struck an Ethiopian IDF soldier and a riot occurred.     "There are about 135,000 Ethiopians in Israel, almost all Jews. Many were first brought to Israel from Ethiopia in a series of airlifts, dubbed Operations Moses (1984) and Solomon (1991), designed to bring the Ethiopian Jewish community back to what they saw as their ancestral home."  
Some Maasais from Africa are found to be Jewish with DNA as proof.  Some living in Africa are Christians.  From what I have seen, they are doing well in Israel and are in the army and are educated.  "They had maintained that their ancestors were slaves in the land of the Nile and escaped through a parted sea, pursued by a vicious ruler. Long before arrival of missionaries, Merker stated, the Masai knew the tales of Adam and Eve, and of Noah and the Great Flood, though under different names."  One of my Israeli friends on facebook is an Ethiopian lawyer, studying to be a rabbi, and IDF soldier.  I am very proud of him.  He's a leader of his people.  Other Christians among the Maasais in Africa are very supportive of Israel.  

Other Jews have returned from India, Russia, the USA, England and other European countries.  I saw a stunningly beautiful Indian Jewish lady one day.  I hope Queen Esther of Persia had been that beautiful.  One of my favorite models that visited my class in Israel was from Morocco and came outfitted in traditional Moroccan clothing.  I never saw anything so gorgeous in my life!
Natan Sharansky of Russia
Refugees from Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern an North African countries and their descendants make up a little over half the Jewish population.  Russians weren't allowed to practice any religion in Russia.  My Hebrew teacher, Sarah, was the one writing to a famous Russian in prison and teaching him Hebrew. He was Natan Sharansky.  I hope he remembers her.   Today he's in the Knesset.

 Many are returning claiming to be among the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel.  This wonderful return to Israel has been prophecized in the Bible/Tanakh.  It was in 722 and 721 BCE that the Assyrians had attacked Israel and had taken away the best of its citizens, and here are many now returning, almost 3,000 years later. More Jews were captured and taken away by the Babylonians from 597 to 586 BCE, but most were able to return and rebuild the Temple which they called the 2nd Temple.   Right now the population of Israel is 6 million Jews and 1.7 million Arabs and others.  8.7 million over about 8,000 square miles of Israel.
Arab Christian
  Israel's non-Jewish minority forms 20% of the population and is made up of Arab Muslims, Arab Christians and non-Arab Christians, Druze, Bedouins, Circassians, Asians and others.  All these people have come with their own language and must learn Hebrew, so there are schools set up all over that are free.  Signs are all in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The Palestinian Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, speak the Palestinian dialect of Arabic.  Most all are bilingual now, some trilingual with English added besides their Arabic and Hebrew.  Most Arabs are Sunni Muslims.  Israel had in 2013, 20.7% of the population or 1,658,000.  Many have family ties to Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza besides some refugees living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.   Negev Bedouins and Druze tend to identify more as Israelis than other Arab citizens of Israel.

Therefore, there is freedom of religion in Israel.  Jews have suffered during their total existence for being different from other people in their beliefs in just one G-d.  Their state will not be guilty of such an attitude.  Besides Judaism, practiced by the majority since 6 million Jews are citizens of Israel, there is Islam and other religions, 15 that are recognized.
  The Ba'hai and Druze faiths, offshoots of Islam are recognized. The Baha'is are a  religious group that was persecuted in Muslim countries.  They have built their world center in Haifa, Israel.
Druze Commander of Herev Battalion in Israel
 There is the Chaldaic and many other Christian denominations, and others.  Each religious community may freely exercise their faith and observe their own holy days and weekly day of rest.  They even administer their own internal affairs.  Israel protects the holy sites of all religions.

As we see Christians being persecuted in Muslim countries, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where their population is thriving instead of disappearing.  Between 1948 at the birth of Israel and 1998, the Christians had a growth from 34,000 to 130,000 in these 50 years, growing fourfold.

Since 1967s Six Day War, Israel won and gained the territories of Gaza, East Jerusalem,  Judea and Samaria.  Palestinian Arabs living there are not Israeli citizens. Israel has since pulled out of Gaza completely.   Arabs had been living in these places when Jordan held the land illegally from 1948 to 1968, but it was in the contract to belong to Israel. Most of the Arabs living in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, have refused Israeli citizenship even though the land they were living on was at first occupied and then later annexed by Israel.  They have not wanted to recognize Israel's claim to sovereignty, so they have become permanent residents instead.  they have the right to apply for citizenship, are entitled to municipal services, and have municipal voting rights.

However, the Palestinian Arabs have ready access to petition Israel's highest courts.  The court judges by the merits of a case and it frequently decides in favor of the Palestinians.  An example of this is when Palestinians petitioned that the security fence by re-routed around Beit Sourik on June 30, 2004 and around Alfei Menashe on September 15, 2005.

Petitioners, including Palestinians, can gain rapid access to Israel's highest court.  This is unusual in other countries.  In April 2002 during the fiercest fighting of that current conflict, the high court was receiving and ruling on petitions almost daily.  This fact was noted in the New York Times on May 5, 2003.

Unlike many other countries, Israel enjoys the freedom of assembly, speech, press and dissent, just like the USA.  It's a democratic country that is set up more like Great Britain with its Knesset.  Israel is known for its freewheeling, self-critical, often blistering debates where differing opinions are aired widely and loudly.  This is a copy of the debating that went on between students in Yeshivas in biblical discussions and continued when students became rabbis.  Law is in our blood.

An example is that the Israeli-Arab Knesset members on occasion have strongly criticized the Jewish State, even from the floor of the Knesset.  Only hate speech and incitement to violence are illegal.  Israel has 9 Hebrew daily newspapers; several dailies in Russian, Arabic, French and English.  They have over 1,000 periodicals;  multiple radio and TV stations and easy access to the foreign press.  As for Civil Rights, their progressive laws protect the rights of all minorities.

Every Israeli citizen has the right to vote; both men and women.  The non-Jewish minority was specifically granted the right to vote in the Declaration of Independence.  Election Day is a national holiday.  Voter turnout is regularly higher than in the USA, often reaching above 80% turnout.

"The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. This was to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, many Arabs have volunteered for military duty and the Druze and Circassian communities are subject to the draft."

"Some economic and social gaps between Israeli Jews and Arabs result from the latter not serving in the military. Veterans qualify for many benefits and jobs not available to non-veterans. Moreover, the army aids in the socialization process. On the other hand, Arabs do have an advantage obtaining some jobs during the years Israelis are in the military. In addition, industries like construction and trucking have come to be dominated by Israeli Arabs.  Arabs are also underrepresented in higher education and most industries.Israeli Jews and Arabs have surprisingly little contact with each other. Arab prefer to live in their Arab villages.  They prefer to attend Arab schools.  Most young people study at different elementary and secondary schools and may not come into contact with one another until college; and by then, many preconceived opinions have been formed. This lack of interaction exacerbates tensions between the two communities.

Some have complained that Israel has "too much democracy" because it is a multiparty, not a 2 party system.  Though Likud  (right) and Labor (left) have traditionally been the largest parties, there are many that promote a broad range of opinions, including Communist, religious, Arab and secular views.  Israel's new centrist Kadima party won the 2006 elections with 29 of 120 seats.
Benjamin Netanyahu in his 4th term as Prime Minister, Sabra born in Israel
Israelis vote for a party, not for an individual like the USA does.  Each party elects its own list of Knesset candidates. Knesset seats are then allotted according to the % of the popular vote that the party received.  For example, if a party wins 5 seats, the first 5 candidates on its list will become MEMBERS OF THE KNESSET (MK).

A party needs only 2% of the vote to win a seat, the lowest %age of any other multi-party democracy, which makes for Israel's  boisterous and sometimes confusing political system.  As many as 19 different parties have been in the Knesset at one time.  Certainly this method allows everyone to be heard, or at least has a greater chance.  Even the smallest parties have a voice because one party never gets a Knesset majority, and the governing group has to form coalitions to function.

Netanyahu  in his 4th and last term, is using up all the given time to form his government today.  He's from Likud and has just had to take in a religious party to make up the government.  Midnight was his goal and "he was scrambling to form a coalition with the slimmest possible majority in Parliament. 
Ayelet Shaked of a new Religious Zionist Political Party, Jewish Home

 He yielded to Jewish Home’s demand for the Justice Ministry, lawmaker Ayelet Shaked, a woman, which the party could use to weaken the Supreme Court, emphasize Israel’s Jewishness and restrict leftist advocacy groups.  “Any major changes, economic or foreign policy, are not going to take place — it’s a government that will be based on an ongoing balancing act and pleasing the members without aggravating the other members too much,” Mr. Plesner said. “Either it will expand or it will collapse. It’s not going to have a big promise, nor longevity.”  "The Jewish Home (Hebrewהַבַּיִת הַיְהוּדִיHaBayit HaYehudi) is a religious Zionist political party in Israeformed as the successor party to the National Religious Party."As part of its 2013 coalition agreement, the Jewish Home has the right to veto any laws that change the fragile status quo on religious issues. In December 2013, the party vetoed a Yesh Atid–proposed bill that sought to give gay fathers equal tax benefits, saying it would have far-reaching implications on marriage laws. Currently, mothers receive more benefits than do fathers under the law, and thus couples composed of two men are ineligible for certain tax breaks.  The latest news is that Ayelet Shaked, 39 years old with only 2 years in politics, is set to become the justice minister.  Netanyahu will keep the foreign minister's job open in hopes of wooing Herzog.  "Shaked will also have a seat in the key decision-making security cabinet, by virtue of being justice minister."  "Shaked's appointment is considered a major political coup and could potentially pave the way for an historic change in Israeli politics. The judicial system in Israel is considered to be the strongest governmental bastion of the leftist founding elites, and its “activism” has hampered attempts by the Right to effectively rule Israel for decades. "

Update: 3pm, 3:44pm: Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu had officially reached an agreement 2 hours before the deadline, and the Bayit Yehudi party will be joining the coalition, giving Netanyahu the 61 seats he needed before midnight tonight to form his coalition government.
Bennett will be the Education Minister, as well as Deputy Minister of Defense. Uri Ariel will be the Agriculture Minister with control over the Settlement Division.

The coalition agreements that Likud has already signed with Kulanu, Shas and another religious party, United Torah Judaism, call for repealing laws passed by the last government to expand the military draft of ultra-Orthodox men and to ease the conversion process to Judaism. Each party in the coalition would have veto power over the nationality bill, and members would not be bound to support efforts to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to invalidate Parliamentary actions."

Jews arrived with the right to settle in Palestine through many legal documents and the historical fact that it had been their original home.  Today the Arabs are finding it difficult to be a part of a Jewish society that the rest of their Arab neighbors are trying to destroy.  So are the Israelis.  So problems have developed, something no other country has ever had to face.  America solved their problem by placing Indians on reservations.  Israel is trying to integrate the Palestinians that were on their land when they arrived in mass.   

"Israel's hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a long-time advocate of transferring large groups of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) , recently published an updated programme for his Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party.
The platform's "peace programme" will encourage Arab citizens to move to the West Bank by offering them "economic incentives". Lieberman's programme states that Arab citizens "who feel that they are part of the Palestinian people" should be encouraged to move "with economic incentives" in order "to resolve this issue of duality and divided loyalties from which they are suffering".
So besides all the external problems this Knesset has to face of nations attacking them and Iran wanting to drop an A bomb on them, they have these internal problems of a country with 20% Arabs who think in these terms that Salah Mohsin, media coordinator fo Adalah, shared:  "Palestinians in Israel face official discrimination in every area of life. The law enshrines Jewish superiority within the state. The only practical aspect of the new bill is that it makes it constitutional, but it is not expected to change the reality very much."   
What you see as Jewish superiority, Salah, is because Israel was created as the one refuge in the world for Jews under anti-Semitism.  One Jewish state amid about 50 Muslim majority countries in the world    Don't be so resentful!  They've been under the gun suffering from that for the past 2,000 years.  They have returned home and have only found they're being attacked for being there as well.  First it was being attacked by the Palestinians of the PLO who grew into Fatah, and then Hamas who have attacked at every chance, not to mention nations who attacked in force beginning in 1948, then 1956, 1967, 1973 and on and on, sniping when terrorist groups felt like it.  These Jews have 8,000 square miles to live in.  Palestinians have many of the compadres in other lands that they can choose to live in if they want.  They are free to leave if so desired.  You will find, though, that they have a better life and more freedoms in Israel than they will find in any other Muslim country.  

Israel 101, produced by StandWithUs, special edition for CUFI, page 39

. It's Final: Ayelet Shaked Will Be the Next Justice Minister

by Ido Ben Porat, Gil Ronen

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