Israel prides itself on being the “only Democracy in the Middle East,” a claim that would be completely laughable if it weren’t such a disgrace. It is definitely a claim which directly contradicts a series of actions perpetrated by the government.
Nobel Prize-winning German author Gunter Grass, Israel’s latest recipient of “democratic treatment” was recently barred from Israel as a result of a poem he wrote criticizing Israel’s nuclear weapons program as well as Germany’s sale of submarines to Israel. The announcement was made by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, stating “If Gunter wants to continue disseminating his distorted and mendacious works, I advise him to do it from Iran where he will find a supportive audience.” Of course Grass’ criticism was met with the ad nauseam riposte of anti-semiticism. It has become the standard charge against anyone who dares not to toe the line when it comes to Israel and its policies.
Any criticism of Israel translates into one being either anti-Semitic if s/he is non-Jewish, or self-hating if one is Jewish. Such is the case with MIT professor and lecturer Noam Chomsky. Chomsky, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies, while on a speaking tour in May 2010 was denied entry to Israel and the West Bank where he was scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University. The Interior Ministry stated the incident was merely a misunderstanding, however in an interview with Israel’s Channel Two news Chomsky stated that was not at all the case. According to Chomsky he was told by the Israeli border official, “You know they don’t like your views”.
Israel doesn’t just reserve this treatment for “outsiders” or foreigners. Israeli former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu is all too familiar with Israel’s tactics of silencing dissidents. In 1986 Vanunu revealed to the British press Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which up until that point the world didn’t know existed. In response he was kidnapped by the Mossad, brought back to Israel where he was convicted in a closed trial for treason and espionage, imprisoned for 18 years and to date has been banned from communicating with the press and foreigners and placed on country arrest. Vanunu has petitioned the Israeli courts to grant him permission to leave the country, however the Supreme Court still considers him to be a threat.
To those who are rational thinkers, the idea of Vanunu being a threat to Israel seems unfounded, ridiculous even. And to impose another prison sentence upon him by confining his movement after he’s been released is not only reprehensible but an affront to Democracy itself. The truest form of Democracy is dissent. When we love someone or something, in this case our country, we wish to see her live up to her greatest potential. To be the best she is capable of being.
Remember back in junior high how you chose only friends who agreed with you? But as you became older and, hopefully, wiser you realized you didn’t want to be surrounded by people who couldn’t challenge you and make you see things from a different perspective? It is those who are constantly challenging us that inspire us to do better, to be better, to evolve. It is time for Israel to become a nation where liberty, free speech and democracy are not just great ideals which are espoused in 60-second soundbites. It is time for Israel to become a nation where freedom of expression is not only welcomed when it’s flattering. It is time for Israel to evolve into a true Democracy.
Mikki Israel is an American-Israeli or Israeli-American, depending on the circumstances. Mikki currently resides in Israel but comes to the U.S. whenever Israelis become too annoying, then returns after the Americans have become a headache. She is a featured writer for Borderless News and Views, and a freelance writer for whatever media outlet is brave enough to print the news — minus the spin.
Image: Speak No Evil, Darren Robertson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net