Sunday, May 06, 2012

Onward to apartheid in Greater Israel

The surprise agreement bringing Israel's leading opposition party into the governing coalition will have uncertain impacts.  Andrew Sullivan has the rundown - I tend to think it makes a disastrous attack on Iran somewhat less likely.

I'm less optimistic about the effect on apartheid in Greater Israel, where there's some bad news:
  • American Congressman Joe Walsh supports soft ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, with annexation, second-class citizenship for Palestinians and incentives to leave the country for Jordan.
That second proposal is only somewhat different from the present situation, where there's a longstanding, tacit agreement that a ruling majority will not rely on Arab parties to survive no confidence votes.  (Sorry I can't find a link referencing this, please leave one if you've got one in the comments.)

To The Point discusses Israel's decision to exclude visiting foreigners whose political viewpoints it dislikes (the US has also done this in the past, but I don't know of it happening recently for people not supporting violence).  The show discusses more extensively Peter Beinart's book, which seems to make a lot of sense about how Israel is betraying the democratic dream and what American Jews should do about it.

While I think partial democracies can last for a long time, they're not stable at a fixed level of partial democracy but instead change over time.  While it usually changes towards improvement, that's not always the case.  The pre-Civil War American South became more oppressive in some ways in the 1800s, criminalizing attempts to discuss abolition in the press.  Israel can become more democratic in some ways (gay rights) at the same time that it may double down on oppressing West Bank Arabs.  An oppressive policy creates its own tension - do you ease off on the policy, or double down to reinforce it?  We're seeing that in play in Israel.

And despite that fact, the room for political discussion on this is still wider in Israel than in the US.  A major Israeli politician can accurately call the situation apartheid, while a retired American president gets pilloried for doing the same. Whether either country will do anything to fix the problem is much less clear.