Sunday, October 19, 2003

What do you want from us?
I always think it is both unfair and unwise to make unfavorable and critical comparisons between Israel and old, established Western democracies. Israel is not an old, established Western democracy and cannot be expected to have reached the same levels of development in issues such as human rights in such a relatively short period of time. Think how long it took for the UK to give women the vote (or to give anyone but the landed gentry the vote, for that matter), or for the USA to abolish slavery (or even to award all African Americans their basic civil rights). We're mere infants, in comparison, and, taking that into consideration, we're not doing so badly. Actually, we're doing damn well!

Strangely, many see Israel's being forged as a Western style democracy as a natural development, but when you think of it, it was anything but natural. The Israel we see today was built, in the early days, by Eastern European Jews, most of them born and bred in Orthodox Jewish households, where the Rabbi's word was law and the secular ruler of the land, often a cruel tyrant, was feared and hated. Jewish Pioneers from Western democracies were few and far between in the Land of Israel, and, mostly unsuited for the life of hardship, didn't last it out. There was no tradition of peer rule, no gradual development over the years of a belief in liberalism or in individual freedom, or anything like that. Still, amazingly, these people, joined later by, among others, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from feudal Middle Eastern and North African countries, somehow managed to break away from what they had experienced before, and established a Western-style democratic state (as opposed to a Soviet-style socialist one), long before this was to come to be in any of their countries of origin. Is this not a wonder? Is this not amazing? True, our democracy has its flaws. It is far from perfect (as are all democracies, even old, established ones). But give us time. We're working on it. We have one or two other problems, as well.

I believe the example of Israel can give us hope, because surely it proves that other countries in this region are also capable of functioning as democracies. Ve'yafa sha'a ahat kodem (= and better sooner than later).