Friday, November 19, 2010

The Democracy Poll

Our leftist guests have made the assertion that Israel is not a democracy.

As I understand their arguments, as a result they believe Israel does not morally deserve the automatic support of fellow democracies when Israel's right to exist is questioned or Israel's right to self-defense is attacked in the UN and other venues.

So here is your chance to vote and let us know what you think.

Is Israel a democracy?


SORRY. The poll didn't work. Please enter your vote in the comments section.


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32 comments:

Nathan said...

I truly don't understand this statement at all. Where is it written that democracy promises results? All it is is the best government we've come up with so far.

Israel is a democracy, they just don't like the form that it has taken. Guess what, I'm not sure anyone is happy with it. But because it is a democracy we all have to live with it, until we can all change it.

Walid said...

Is a banana a fruit?

Yonatan said...

It is a democracy in the sense that we get to vote on issues and the politicians promptly ignore the results of the vote and go against our will anyway - just like in America.

JoeSettler said...

Ahh, but vote in the embedded poll in the post too.

If you can't see the poll in the post go here. That should work.

It's a new poll platform I'm trying out. I don't know if it works yet.

avi said...

There should be an option to vote Yonatan's opinion

Vox Populi said...

Joe,

If you were talking about me, I think this misstates my opinion. I think Israel is a democracy, but I also don't think the West Bank is part of Israel, and thus residents of the Occupied Territories need not be accorded the vote in Israel. (If, of course, the occupation was going to go on forever, my judgment would change.)

I was asking how someone like yourself, who believed that the West Bank was an integral part of Israel, and who was opposed to the creation of a separate Palestinian state, could reconcile that belief with the belief that Israel was a democracy. I still wait for that solution, by the way.

Moreover, even if I did not believe that Israel was a democracy, I would still believe that the United States et al owe the Israelis recognition and support of the right to exist and defend themselves, because all sovereign states must support the sovereignty of other states; it's the bedrock of international law.

NormanF said...

Democracy?

Joe and Jameel, what kind of democracy is Israel when the Prime Minister pushes for taking away your right to live where you want, to build where you want and to raise your children there simply because America demands Israel prevent Jews from exercising their basic human rights there.

This would never happen in America. But in Israel, the Cabinet can violate the basic human rights of citizens for crassly self-serving political reasons with absolute impunity.

LB said...

I'm with Nathan, somewhat - why is democracy inherently good? A form of government is a means, not an end, and democracy consistently seems to fail in achieving those ends. So yes - Israel is a democracy, but that is to its detriment.

JoeSettler said...

Here we go again...

Part 1.

First I am glad that you do believe that Israel is a democracy, as that was not clear in your previous comments. I am also glad you believe that the US owes Israel those basic recognitions and support, though I have a fundamental problem with your reasoning.

Judea and Samaria (along with Gaza) are parts of the Land of Israel. Hopefully one day they will be fully incorporated into the State of Israel too.

I am not opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, as new and fictitious as this nationality is.

I am opposed to it being created and fully realized in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

While you would immediately oppose this solution, I have no problem with a Palestinian state being realized in what is today the state of Jordan, a state where an estimated 80% of the population is identified as Palestinian, and where the Crown Prince himself is half-"Palestinian".

It's certainly a fiction to ignore those basic facts that in reality already define Jordan as a Palestinian state based on the "national" identity of the supermajority of its citizens.

Among other alternatives I can easily accept are a confederation between Jordan, Israel and Egypt, where each of the Arab subcultures in the Land of Israel can realize their national ambitions (excluding those that involve hurting or destroying Israel) in an existing and hopefully more stable and mature political framework (one that also happens consists of the majority of their familial relatives).

I am not calling for the physical removal of the Arabs from Yesha (except those involved in terror attacks) as someone claimed.

Unlike civil rights, national rights can be quite flexible in their realization and in ways that minimized the hurts to the rights of others.

Peace in the Levant won't happen unless creative solutions are considered, not imposed solutions, and certainly not imposed solutions that ignore the basic rights of the Jews to the Land of Israel as well as the complex realities on the ground.

While there are those on the left that immediately dismiss this idea; Jordan has repeatedly explored and seriously discussed variations of it with Israel.

Jordan's concern is that the "Palestinians" would be a destabilizing force whether as an independent state or incorporated into their own.

This solution and considerations (one of many proposed) are also certainly the most peaceful plans; they do not involve uprooting anyone, they grant everyone maximum rights (as much rights as any Arab can have in an Arab state at least), and would be far more stable than any left wing solution tested on us to date.

Locking oneself into definitions of state created in previous centuries, does not recognize that the world is structured far differently today and needs better solutions.

JoeSettler said...

Part 2

I do not believe that every sovereign state must support the sovereignty of other governments.

That supposes there is no objective morality in the world, and any state, a kleptocracy (the PA), a radical terrorist state (Hamastan), a rogue state (North Korea, Syria), and a genocidal state (Iran) have equal moral standing to any democracy that doesn't oppress its citizens, and respects the rights and lives of others.

I fundamentally disagree with that concept, and governments that fall into these categories should be taken down as they are illegitimate as they derive their power through force and terror, and not the will of their citizens

It is a fundamental and I'd say legacy flaw in international law that doesn't recognize that some governments are illegal, tyrannical and immoral, and thus places all forms of government, even criminal ones, on equal standing with good citizens of the world.

Furthermore, that these states openly and blatantly ignore and abuse international law (such as it is) and ignore (or would ignore) with impunity the sovereign rights of other states indicates that the system is completely irrelevant to the real world of international politics.

The US should support Israel's basic rights as it is the moral act for a democracy, just as it should not support the right of a genocidal government to exist, such as Iran, or a dictator to rule, such as Saddam Hussein.

Vox Populi said...

Obviously we have very different conceptions of what is an acceptable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but I don't think it would be helpful for us to rehash that particular debate.

From what you appear to be arguing, I'm gleaning that you're making an argument for some sort of democratic Israel with Palestinians in it that are citizens of some other Arab state, but not Israel, but still get to live in Israel.

The fact that every other country in the world would consider this undemocratic (besides, also, a pipe dream, but fine) is irrelevant, you say, because the old ways of the international order are over, and we must adopt different concepts of sovereignty to deal with the complex realities on the ground.

(As an aside, it seems like you're asking the Palestinians, Jordanians et al to give up on their outdated concepts of sovereignty, but you get to hang onto them. "Complex realities" only apply to the Arabs, but not to the Israelis, who get to keep all the land they want, and enjoy (traditional) sovereignty over that land, and deny the vote to its inhabitants. IOW, For thee, but not for me. But I digress.)

The difficulty with constructing new world orders is that you will frequently be met with charges of illegitimacy, so I would get used to it. Calling something that is not democratic democratic is going to attract negative attention. I would stop acting surprised or hurt when the US does not back you up at the UN, because this is not democracy as we've been understanding it for a long time, and indeed fits together nicely with some of our working definitions of apartheid. Especially if you think that only reason the US should back you up is because you are a "fellow democracy".

Note that this difficulty applies even if we assume your plan is the moral, workable solution you think it is. Even if we assume that it is democratic in the true, objective sense, and the rest of the world is wrong, I would not act outraged if the rest of the world did not see things my way. What you're outlining is quite a revolutionary understanding of democracy (and, a wrong one) so if I were you, I would operate under the assumption that nobody is going to agree with me for a while, and start adopting plans to get by with world (and US) opprobrium.

Vox Populi said...

>Furthermore, that these states openly and blatantly ignore and abuse international law (such as it is) and ignore (or would ignore) with impunity the sovereign rights of other states indicates that the system is completely irrelevant to the real world of international politics.

This isn't true. Or, not as true as you suggest. Yes, Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein will not win any good governance awards, and they are/were/will be little more than thugs, international law does impose constraints on them. Moreover, the vast majority of states (if not all) do see themselves as bound by international law and do make efforts to abide by it, for a variety of reasons. Yes, of course, Iraq and North Korea have violated international law on occasion, but you'll notice that they don't violate all international laws all the time. North Korea has not invaded South Korea in a long time.

The questions you raise are part of a wide body of academic literature, and go to the very nature of international law. I would suggest Louis Henkin (How Nations Behave) and Harold Koh (Why Do Nations Obey International Law?).

Second, International Law and other states choose to recognize rogue states as states out of convenience. It does very little good to pretend they do not exist, or to not have relations with them. It won't make things better for their citizens.

Third, respecting sovereignty does not mean that human rights are ignored. There have been numerous military interventions to stop gross human rights abuses. A corollary of this point is that just because a state is a human rights violator or a thug does not mean it's open season on its oil fields. If Kuwait was a troublemaker, that would not give Iraq the right to annex it, at most it would give it the duty to effect a regime change. That is part of respecting sovereignty. I think you are confusing the legitimacy of governments, for the sovereignty of states. They are two separate issues.

Fourth, it's obviously impractical to go knocking off every country we deem to be a thug state, which is also part of the rationale. Not to mention the disputes that will occur, as every state wishing to violate the sovereignty of another state will just assert your doctrine, as will his opponent, and before you know it, it's the war of all against all in the name of international law.

Fifth, I would be extremely reluctant to make general assertions about that the "people" of a state really want, and whether they are or are not represented by their leaders. Putting aside the general difficulty in determining what "people" really "want", the fact is the North Koreans worship Kim like a G-d, and the mullahs have some support clearly, and the Chinese are not advocating for a regime change of the PRC. Now, you can argue that because you believe in an objective morality, you're perfectly comfortable telling people what they really want, or who is really moral and upstanding international citizens, but that's the same logic that leads to vigilantism which does no one any favors in the end.

Gee a Moron said...

I tried to vote once and got a response that I cannot vote repeatedly. I got the same result from the non-embedded web page.

I guess that's in the spirit of the democratic tradition of manipulating thew vote.

JoeSettler said...

Apparently the poll doesn't work.

I can't imagine the world being outraged by a solution accepted by all sides directly involved. That would be hypocritical and imply ulterior motives.

The solutions tried so far, those that were and will be imposed on Israel have only and will only lead to more violence and certainly not an end to the conflict, so rehashing them under different names, or imposing them from above is not about to bring a different result or peace.

They ignore the fundamental cause of the conflict which is another discussion entirely.

International law is something a country voluntarily accepts to comply with (when convenient) or demands be applied to another country (when desirable).

It is a series of conventions that has no authority except a self-imposed one, and desire for a certain level of acceptance by other specific states.

North Korea sank a South Korean ship not so long ago. Rogue countries flout international law all the time. Look at Iran's nuclear buildup and violation. That NK doesn't invade South Korea is due to their assumption that couldn't win at this time, not out of any respect for international law.


Sharansky pointed out that you cannot know the actual will of the people under a repressive, non-democratic government. (Nor is long-term peace viable with a non-democratic government without external incentives).

My Arab acquaintances regularly tell me privately about their views of their government and what they really want, things that they would never say publicly for fear for their lives under their current regime. (Of course they could also be lying to me too).

As for objective morality, yes as a religious Jew I believe there is such a thing.

Second, the first world has developed a set of basic moral standards and there is no shame or wrong in demanding others follow them (without a double standard) - such as no genocide, to name the most obvious one.

Anonymous said...

I think we're mixing up the ideas of democracy vs. constitutional and democratic republics. The U.S. is not a true democracy- we elect representatives and hope (and pray) that they will act in accordance to "our" will, but that's really a game of chance. More often, we elect them based on vague promises or ideologies- or fear of a real or perceived alternative, then they go and act based on their own political advantage. This protects us from a true democracy, which would leave us vulnerable to the "tyranny of the majority," i.e. the popularly-elected Gore/Lieberman administration.

Vox Populi said...

>International law is something a country voluntarily accepts to comply with (when convenient) or demands be applied to another country (when desirable).

Yeah, but ultimately, that's all law. And the fact is that all countries obey international law, at least when it comes to the international arena, most of the time. Just like all (or the vast majority of) people obey the law most of the time.

>It is a series of conventions that has no authority except a self-imposed one, and desire for a certain level of acceptance by other specific states.

It turns out that the desire of other specific states can be pretty important in getting other countries to agree to obey your laws. Again, your indictments against the international legal system really apply to all law. All our legal systems are self-imposed. We all need them to orderly structure our lives, have expectations, and build things. They're no less real because of it.

>North Korea sank a South Korean ship not so long ago. Rogue countries flout international law all the time. Look at Iran's nuclear buildup and violation. That NK doesn't invade South Korea is due to their assumption that couldn't win at this time, not out of any respect for international law.

Right, but this is not flouting international law "all the time", but very few, limited times. If you're making an argument that a legal system does not exist, it's not a knock-out argument that, yes, sometimes, there are periodic violations. Exceptions that prove the rule.

Also, the North Koreans do not invade South Korea because they think they would lose? Maybe. But lose to who? They know that it's not just South Korea they would be up against. They also know China, their patron, would be pissed. They also know all aid would be cut off, and their regime would end. These are all enforecment mechanisms of, you guessed it, international law.

Vox Populi said...

>I can't imagine the world being outraged by a solution accepted by all sides directly involved. That would be hypocritical and imply ulterior motives.

Right, so I'm glad to see that you're saying that the only viable solution is one that meets the wishes of the participants. As you might guess, I really really really don't think any of your plans meets that criteria, at least in regards to the Arab parts of the equation.

Regardless of what your friends tell you, I (and I'm going to assume most people in the world) will find it very difficult to believe that what the Palestinians really want is to be truly stateless forever. I don't think that what they really want is the right to live in Israel but not vote there, and to have all their national aspirations funneled through a kleptocracy next door. I think they would much rather have their own state, than live in one run by Jews, but I could see a situation where they would like to live in Israel. It just defies belief to think that they really want Israel to control sovereignty over where they live but give them no vote as to how it's run.

>Sharansky pointed out that you cannot know the actual will of the people under a repressive, non-democratic government.

True, but that cuts both ways. We can't know that the Russians all thought like Sharansky, either.

>(Nor is long-term peace viable with a non-democratic government without external incentives).

Okay, maybe, but this is so banal as to be a truism. All desires for peace are motivated at least in part by external incentives. E.g., war.

>Second, the first world has developed a set of basic moral standards and there is no shame or wrong in demanding others follow them (without a double standard) - such as no genocide, to name the most obvious one.

Yeah, but for the most part, they've codified a lot of that in international law. When you say that you want countries to act like they follow an objective morality based on Western values, what you;re really doing is making an argument as to what international law should be, or how it should be enforced, not that it shouldn't or doesn't exist.

Just because a legal system does not entirely sync with our objective moralities does not mean they are morality systems or that they do not exist or are not legal. You and I follow laws every day and all day, despite the fact that we don't agree with all of them.

Second, while, yes, genocide is a violation of Western morality and international law, so is the annexation of territory, as is settling civilians in occupied territory. If you really want the world to enforce every serious violation of international law, I'd watch out.

JoeSettler said...

And a serial killer isn't flouting the law all the time, only when he murders someone.

And Iran isn't flouting international law all the time, just all the time since they signed the "legally binding" NPT and continued to develop nuclear weapons.

And NK is only violating international law during the time when they test their nuclear weapons (according to Obama).

And NK were only always violating the NPT treaty they signed and used for cover, until they canceled it out of convenience.

Your argument doesn't reflect reality.

International law has no power and no reality beyond what individual countries choose to accept upon themselves, and they all choose (even the US) to follow it or not follow it selectively when it suits them.

JoeSettler said...

Right, so I'm glad to see that you're saying that the only viable solution is one that meets the wishes of the participants. As you might guess, I really really really don't think any of your plans meets that criteria, at least in regards to the Arab parts of the equation.

And that's the fundamental point. What would it take for the Palestinian representatives to openly declare and end of conflict and all attempts to harm or destroy Jewish state.

There is only one answer to that, and it has nothing to do with a state of their own.

I think they would much rather have their own state, than live in one run by Jews, but I could see a situation where they would like to live in Israel.

1.5 million self-identified Palestinians are citizens of the state of Israel and they don't want to live in a state of Palestine (they might want to see the end of the state of Israel though, which is an idea completely unconnected to a Palestinian state).

250,000 arabs live in Jerusalem and most do not want to be citizens of Palestine or have Jerusalem divided.

JoeSettler said...

Again it is your interpretation (and perhaps that of many countries) that Jews living in Yesha is a violation of international law.

Except that is a selective and in many cases self-serving interpretation, and it is certainly not the only interpretation.

Article 6 of the British Mandate for Palestine (endorsed by the US in 1924) encourages "settlement by Jews on the land, including state lands and waste lands not required for public use." And that meant all of the Land of Israel.

And that is still in force as the UNs' 1945 Charter, Article 80 states that "nothing in the charter shall be construed to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or peoples or the terms of existing international instruments."

Which according to that interpretation means that the "territories" unequivocally belong to Israel and we aren't settling in some occupied territory at all.

Meanwhile, under international law, the 1947 UN partition plan has the legal status of merely a recommendation.

JoeSettler said...

Under international law, Jordan's occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank was illegal as they had no title to the land (unlike the Jews).

And more so, their (with UN assistance) transferring of Arab populations into the stolen homes in the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood of Jerusalem was a direct violation of the 4th Geneva convention not only by Jordan, but by the UN itself.

Friends of KAT said...

Khaled Abu Toameh, Arab resident of Pisagat Zev in a recent interview: "Am I a radical settler living in an illegal settlement, a Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, or an Israeli citizen living in unified Jerusalem

I would add, "And why won't Obama allow me to expand my porch?"

Clark said...

It's a democracy.

NormanF said...

I've never heard of a democracy that prevents Jameel and Joe Settler from adding new rooms to their homes for their growing families.

Or keeps them from building new schools, businesses and cultural institutions in their community.

I'd like to ask them if they can live with restrictions that will never be imposed upon the Arabs.

Isn't that undemocratic as well as racist?

Vox Populi said...

>Your argument doesn't reflect reality.

I don't think you're considering the larger point. There are lots of international agreements out there, and lots of international law that arises outside of these treaties. It's not just the stuff you care about. Yeah, Iran is/was/will be violating parts of the NPT (and North Korea, as well) but that doesn't mean that international law does not meaningfully exist, or even that Iran and North Korea don't generally uphold international law. It's a big world out there.

Again, even if Iran and North Korea were the nation-state equivalents of serial killers (which I don't think they are), that would not be an argument against the existence of international law. Moreover, I would not want to make the argument that if serial killers don't have to follow the law, then I don't either.

>International law has no power and no reality beyond what individual countries choose to accept upon themselves, and they all choose (even the US) to follow it or not follow it selectively when it suits them.

I don't know what you mean. What does it mean to follow the law when it suits my interest? Many people follow the law because they feel it is right, but doesn't that mean it suits them to do so? Many people follow the law because they fear prosecution and punishment, but isn't that also obedience out of interest? Many people obey the law because of societal pressure, or because compliance makes things easier in the long run - that's also self-serving. Yet our legal systems still exist and serve as meaningful influences on our behavior. I'm sure there are many instances when the US feels it would rather not uphold international law, times when the law does not suit it, but for the most part it does.

Vox Populi said...

>And that's the fundamental point. What would it take for the Palestinian representatives to openly declare and end of conflict and all attempts to harm or destroy Jewish state. There is only one answer to that, and it has nothing to do with a state of their own.

It's curious that the only thing you think they would be willing to accept is second-hand citizenship under a benevolent Jewish regime. Which just happens to be what you want.

But okay. Has anyone offered them a referendum? Let's ask all of the Arabs of the OT what they want. Make three options. A) Status quo forever; B) Independent state; C) Israeli citizenship.

You think the answer will be A?

>Again it is your interpretation (and perhaps that of many countries) that Jews living in Yesha is a violation of international law. Except that is a selective and in many cases self-serving interpretation, and it is certainly not the only interpretation.

OK, and I'm sure Iran and NK think they have not violated the NPT, except as to the selective and self-serving interpretations of others.

We could go back and forth exchanging textual interpretations of the relevant treaties and resolutions and agreements, and I don't think we'd get anywhere. Needless to say, I've seen what you've got and I find it tendentious and not at all convincing. Doubtless you and Eugene Rostow feel the same way of any argument I could produce.

But law isn't decided by the fact that you have an interpretation you feel is correct. Again, I'm sure Iran has interpretations it thinks are correct. And for all I know they could be very interesting ones! However, about the same amount of states and international fora think Iran's interpretation regarding the NPTis correct as do think your interpretation of as to the permissibility of settlement is correct. I'm not aware of any state that thinks Israel has the unrestricted right to civilian settlement of the OT. I don't even think Stephen Harper thinks that. Heck, I don't even think Israel thinks that.

And what we're talking about is your vision of coalitions of the willing coming and knocking out violators of international law. As to these international axes of good, whom do you think they will listen to on questions of international law, as they pertain to Israeli settlement. Joe the Israeli Settler, or their own international legal scholars?

Vox Populi said...

>I've never heard of a democracy that prevents Jameel and Joe Settler from adding new rooms to their homes for their growing families.

You've never lived in a democratic society with zoning?

Also, I would point out that international law does not think Israel has the authority to authorize such construction, by the way.

JoeSettler said...

Your argument has dropped far below weak, its just as circular, and is contradicting statements you made earlier. Time to move on to the next post.

Michael said...

Of course it's a democracy. Perfect, no. But Israel meets all the basic criteria that define a democracy. It is, in fact, more "democratic" that the US. As a constitutional republic the US system puts more limitation on the "will of the people", but the trade off is a more stable system.

There's much we could do to improve our system like raising the threshold for party inclusion and having regional representation in addition to party representation. The most important thing we need to do is find a way to eliminate these small parties that care more about their narrow agenda than the overall good of the country.

JoeSettler said...

Vox Populi: "North Korea has not invaded South Korea in a long time."

Speaking of the devil.

Vox Populi said...

>Vox Populi: "North Korea has not invaded South Korea in a long time."

Yeah, we've been over this. The occasional violation of international law does not mean international law does not exist or that it does not provide meaningful restraints and disincentives against its violation. Let's see what happens.

Also, again, North Korea is not an average state. As states go, it's probably the least well-behaved state there is. Even so, one rogue state cannot do a lot to undermine the international state system. The presence of crazy people or serial killers does not contradict the existence of laws.

Also, North Korea didn't invade South Korea - it fired shells on South Korean territory, which it claims was provoked. It probably wasn't provoked (as the US and SK claim), but it's interesting that even North Korea feels the need to justify its action by resorting to international law.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be confusing a state that respects the concepts of international law but occassionally violates it, with a state that doesn't accept or respect the concepts of international law except to abuse it and use it as a weapon and shield against other states that respect it more.

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