The tag-line ‘Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East’ (see previous post) is often used as a determinant for support. If we believe in democracy surely we must support the only one in that region.
It is relevant in context of our own elections to probe a bit deeper. We benefit (?) from ‘first past the post’, which entitles a party with one-third the popular vote but a majority of seats to carry out its manifesto even though that manifesto has been rejected (or ignored ) by 80% of the electorate (including non-voters – & there must be many like me over the years who have voted with considerable misgivings).
The Greeks, who kind of invented it, had a strange notion of democracy by modern standards, democracy of the rich and powerful: think, Simon de Montfort & Magna Carta. In America a president can get elected if his brother happens to be Governor of the State where many are disenfranchised by ‘hanging chads’. In Israel, their form of proportional representation ensures that minority parties have power out of proportion to their vote. Which is why every government is ‘right wing’: in order to govern it has to do deals with (religious) extremists.
Western propoganda (UK, USA, Australia etc) for our ‘interventions’ in the Middle East often refers to bringing democracy to the region.
We express horror at the ‘Islamic State’ theocracy of Iran, where there is a form of democracy which seems to suit many there. And we find support from the progressive regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Is it idle curiosity to wonder whether the Pentagon has somewhere a plan for the invasion of Saudi Arabia to bring democracy to that vast (and oil rich) country ? (a country, as most in the region we should note, created as a client autocracy by the Western democracies). And when, using our ‘Western’ democracy, the people of Palestine elect the ‘wrong’ government it is clearly right that we teach them the lesson about who they should elect by imposing punitive sanction! So we impose democracy in Afghanistan & Iraq: will it work?
Our path to democracy took maybe 800 years, only becoming anything like a modern democracy following WW1. Are we seriously to expect countries which are still largely rural & used to authoritarian rule to make the same step within 5 years? Given that our intervention in Iran in 1953/4 was aimed at destroying, rather than assisting, their democracy our credibility must be in short supply when now we demand ‘democratic reforms’.
Israel is in some ways a more open, liberal society than most of its neighbours. But we might note in the light of current re-negotiations that this ‘Western Style’ democracy has many, unacknowledged, nuclear weapons, refuses to sign the NNPT and has attacked or invaded neighbouring territories at least 6 times in the last 60 years. During that same period Iran, the pariah State, has attacked no-one, has signed the NNPT, and has not so far developed nuclear warheads. Those who trumpet fears that they have may have a point; they might also remember “WMD”.
Now, where did I leave that ‘moral high ground’……