Israel’s Jewish Character Makes It More, Not Less, Democratic

March 30 2015

Many have argued that a proposal before the Knesset to affirm Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is geared to favor Israel’s Jewish over its democratic character. Yoram Hazony contends that this argument is not simply wrong, but is based on a false understanding

[Israel’s] success has not been in spite of [its] character as the state of the Jewish people, but because of it. To see this, one need only compare Israel’s trajectory to that of other states established in the region at around the same time but based on a “multi-national” model: Syria (independent 1946) was assembled by the French by forcing together Alawite, Druze, Kurd, Assyrian Christian, and Sunni Arab peoples—willfully ignoring national and religious boundaries and vocal demands by some of these peoples to be granted independent states of their own. Iraq (independent 1932) was a similar British construct, imposing a single state on radically disparate Kurdish, Assyrian, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab peoples, among others. Most states in the Middle East—“pan-Arab” in name only—were built by the Western powers in just this way.

The results of these experiments in constructing multi-national states have been just as [John Stuart] Mill predicted. Israel, built around a cohesive and overwhelming Jewish majority, was able to establish internal stability without repression, and quickly developed into a fully-functioning democracy. In contrast, the other states of the region have been able to retain their integrity only through brutality and state terror. . . .

In a sense, this is a distinctly Israeli vision, emerging from the Jews’ experience of suffering and redemption in the last century. But it is also a humane and universal vision—the only one that can offer genuine hope to the devastated peoples of the region. This vision receives concrete re-affirmation in the proposed basic law confirming Israel as Jewish state, which reinforces a vision of the Middle East as advancing . . . in the direction of an order of independent nations based on the principle of religious and national self-determination.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, John Stuart Mill, Middle East, Nationalism, Zionism

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at The Hill

More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen