October 20, 2013
When I started these letters, I called them ‘In Defence of Israel’. My filing reference is ‘IDI’, But such a title is too subjective for what I have in mind.
It’s years since I started the letter, but not only does the situation not get better, I think it has got much worse.
I believe peace with the Palestinians is as distant as ever.
I believe that the situation in the Middle East has become much more critical.
And I believe that the unrest in the world, much of which based on terrorism and the organisations associated with terrorism, is out of control.
Where was I? Oh yes, Israel. (I am happy to report that, in those years since my first ‘Letter’, Israel’s made fantastic steps forward, as many of my letters have shown).
This morning, we released the second group of prisoners, supposedly in return for getting the Palestinians to come to the peace table.
I do not know of anyone, directly or indirectly, who has given a decent or positive reason for releasing such prisoners, all of whom have Israeli blood on their hands, whether it be from a Jew, a Muslim, or a Christian.
From the Palestinian side we hear no mention of compromise, precondition or any other interim agreement.
We are told that some expansion of areas in Jerusalem and major Jewish settlements in the West Bank are part of the agreement, Yet every such move today is met with derision and screaming from the Palestinians and great criticism from Europe, UN, etc.
One of the many letters to the Jerusalem-Post I have read on the subject told us of the brother who was brutally killed while working in Gaza for a European fact-finding mission. His two killers and their accomplice were caught and jailed. In a decent democracy or civilised society, that should have been the end of the story. But not here.
Among the over 1000 prisoners released when the soldier Gilad Schalit was swapped, was one of the killers of this man. Two months ago the accomplice of the killers was among those released. This morning, the second of the two killers was released. That adds up to 1 killing and three stabs in the back.
Such stories, and I still have so many reasons for having to write this letter.
3-4 years back, my brother in Canada sent me a copy of their equivalent of Newsweek and Time magazine, called McLeans. Its cover story asked ‘Why Israel cannot survive’. It argued that you cannot have both a Jewish and a democratic country. My unpublished response asked them what is currently meant by the word ‘democracy’. I would put Israel very high on the list of the countries which claim to be democratic. But of course it cannot allow itself to have a Jewish minority – for obvious reasons.
I think Israel can not only survive but can also flourish as a Jewish state and as a democracy.
So it appears we have either an oxymoron, or a contradiction in terms. But then we come back to the definition of the word ‘democracy’.
In today’s Jerusalem-Post, our potential next prime minister, Yair Lapid, defined democracy as ‘equality in the eyes of the law’. Sounds good. He wants to see far more integration of the Arabs into Israeli society; education, employment and so on. Still sounds good, and I applaud him for voicing the beautiful words. I think the cultural differences are going to disappoint his ambitions.
For example, look right as you drive towards Haifa on the main coastal road. Next to each other, you have the Arab town of Faradies (Paradise) and the Jewish town of Zichron Yaacov (In Memory of Jacob…Rothschild – it’s where he’s buried). First of all, a reminder that there are many areas where Jews and Muslims live together, such as Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem etc. But you won’t find them really integrating – rarely sharing the same buildings, let alone the same districts. That’ll take some doing…
So, back to those two adjacent towns on the slopes of the Carmel hills. Paradise (Faradies) has some magnificent abodes, with columns and stately roofs. But there’s hardly 1 tree, no hedges, plants, occasional flowers. We give thanks for the coloured roofs… Zichron is one big avenue, with gardens, vineyards and, I have to say, one of the most beautiful cemeteries you’ll ever see.
Walk in the streets of one, and you’ll see the occasional stray animal. Walk in the other, and the animals are pets.
They are worlds apart. I have not said better or worse – just ‘apart’.
Add to that, that much of the Arab world, especially the Palestinians, are educated from birth to keep those worlds apart. For the foreseeable future, tolerance is the best we can expect.
My definition of democracy? Hmmmmmm.. Equality? In whoever’s eyes (and I know G-d has a stake in all this), it’s nice to say, but that just doesn’t work. Nice dream for the future.
So, how to adjust to this dream? One Man One Vote is nice, but it’s not being allowed to work. I love the principal that democracy allows the man in the street to decide, not later than 4-5 years down the road (can be much earlier), to throw out the government which has not performed as hoped/expected.
I want a political system that minimises the chance of a result enforcing a coalition. Then, all promises made in manifestos and on TV have to be compromised – and little parties command unfair power…I am also against the US system, which does not give a successful President the chance to continue. If he/she’s doing well, why force him/her to be a lame duck for 2 years, and then a memoir-writer?….
My solution? Well, it’s just a suggestion, mind you. I was sitting round a table in Cape Town, during the Apartheid period. That’s when the then 26 million blacks, coloureds, Indians etc. had no vote. That’s when the million-plus town of Soweto did not exist on official maps….Our round-table discussion suggested at least one vote per person. At least? Yes, more votes could be earned, based on some of the following:
Education – complete high school = 1 vote / University = another vote / Perhaps further education = another vote (although academics does not necessarily make you a more ‘political person – so perhaps the ‘further education’ has to specialise on something that can be judged to benefit society)
Tax-payment = 1 vote. It’s debatable whether the more you pay the more votes you have, but not such a bad idea – I mean, how many tax-paying billionaires are there, compared to ‘the-man-in-the-street’?
Service in the community = 1 vote.
Who decides? Why, a democratically-elected committee, of course.
And we were ‘presuming’ that a fair and decent education system could be made to exist.
And another thing….Qatar
Qatar is another Israel. It’s a country that is mentioned all over the place, about which many (like me) have an opinion, without knowing anything about the place (like me). So, let me update slightly. It’s another ex-tribal community in the Arabian peninsula, it’s a monarchy, hasn’t yet had the promised elections – it’s 1/15 the size of Iceland, with a similar population (around 1/4 million, plus perhaps 7 times that number of foreign workers – Iceland has hardly any foreign workers…wonder why?), and it’s the host of the 2022 World Cup.
(Sepp Blatter and his team are rumoured to have benefited nicely. But these are only rumours – they cannot be true. In fact, forget I ever mentioned it).
Qatar is an incredibly rich country – # 1 on the list of capita per person (but that’s not saying that all 1/4 million are benefitting – and the death of many Nepalese construction workers recently exposed the horror of the conditions under which they work).
So we all love the Qataris, don’t we? We’re happy to see their name on the football players’ shirts and stadiums (and Etihad, Emirates etc. etc. – should that be ‘stadia’?).
BBC love organising debates in the capital, Doha. Well, they have terrific hotels there.
What ARE they going to do with all those stadia after 2022? I have educated information that not all the 250,000 citizens are football fans, and not all the other 1.75 million inhabitants will be able to afford tickets to the matches. Matches? Oh, I forgot, they don’t have enough football teams in the country to give each a stadium…
And I think it’s interestingly wonderful that Qatar is the main financial backer of all Muslim Brotherhood organisations, starting with those in Egypt, those among the rebels in Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and the Jihadists in Turkey.
Aren’t we a well-balanced world?
That’s democracy for you.