What the Guardian won’t report: Israel’s thriving, liberal democracy

Our friends at CAMERA wrote the following, in a post titled ‘Where’s the coverage? Israel the Only Free Country in the Middle East, Jan. 23, the day after yet another free and fair Israeli election.

Maybe they were too busy bemoaning the state of Israel’s democracy to do any actual reporting, but the mainstream news media [as well as the Guardian] completely ignored a report by Freedom House, an independent watchdog group dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, that rated Israel as the only free country in the Middle East.

As we noted in a post on Jan. 22, predictions by Guardian journalists, analysts and commentators that Israel’s democracy was in decline – and that the Jewish state was lurching towards an extreme right political abyss – were proven wildly inaccurate.

CAMERA continues:

In the 2013 edition of its annual report, “Freedom in the World,” the organization wrote: “Israel remains the region’s only Free country. In recent years, controversies have surrounded proposed laws that threatened freedom of expression and the rights of civil society organizations. In most cases, however, these measures have either been quashed by the government or parliament, or struck down by the Supreme Court.”

In other words, Israel’s democracy works. By contrast, both Gaza, under Hamas, and the West Bank, under the Palestinian Authority were rated “Not Free,” as was Jordan. Lebanon and Egypt ranked as merely “Partly Free.”

To look at a map of world freedom, click on this link. You’ll have to enlarge it quite a bit to see the sliver of green freedom that is Israel in the sea of yellow (“partly free”) and purple (“not free”) that is the Middle East and North Africa.

Here’s a snapshot of the Freedom House political freedom map, with a red arrow pointing to the sliver of democracy in the Middle East.


CAMERA adds:

Given the hyper-focus on Israel by the press, one might expect news outlets to at least mention this positive evaluation of the Jewish State. However, although Israeli and Jewish outlets reported the Freedom House study, CAMERA could not locate any mainstream news media that covered it. More embarrassing still, even Egypt’s Daily News wrote: “Egypt is now one of six countries in the Middle East that is classified by Freedom House as “partly free”. Eleven are classed as “not free”, while Israel is the region’s only “free” country.

A newspaper in a country that has only recently been upgraded to “partly free” covered Israel’s “free” ranking but news outlets in “free” countries did not.

One has to ask, why the hesitancy to report something positive about Israel’s democracy? 

While there are many factors which explain why the Guardian ignores evidence of Israel’s clear democratic advantages in the region, one of the most central is the ideological orientation of the Guardian Left which typically reduces complicated political phenomena down to a binary David vs. Goliath paradigm.

Such framing nurtures coverage of the region which routinely characterizes Israeli leaders, even in the context of fair and free democratic elections, as extremely “right-wing”, while avoiding such pejorative depictions of even the most reactionary Palestinian leaders.  

Indeed, as Simon Plosker observed, such a political orientation inspired the Guardian to describe Mahmoud Abbas, in one editorial, as the “most moderate Palestinian leader”.  Abbas is similarly framed as a “moderate” by Guardian journalists and CiF commentators despite the fact that the Palestinian President is currently serving the 8th year of a 4 year term, has engaged in Holocaust denial, and leads a government which promotes martyrdom and antisemitic incitement, and severely oppresses women, gays, religious minorities, critical Palestinian journalists and political opponents.  

Further, it simply strains credulity to imagine that a new independent Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank would be truly democratic, any more liberal, or nominally respect the human rights of its citizens. 

However, as long as Israeli politics are myopically viewed through the ideologically skewed filter of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, even the most intuitive evidence regarding the extreme right political center of gravity within Palestinian society on one hand, and the Jewish state’s liberal, democratic advantages on the other, will continue to be downplayed or ignored.

54 replies »

  1. Israel is a thriving democracy, no one’s denying it.

    The problem is not Israel, the problem is Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.

    Israeli settlers living in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israel’s control, have the right to vote for the government.

    However Palestinians living in the same Area C of the West Bank do not have the right to vote for the government.

    I’m looking forward to CIF Watch’s commenting on this double standard.

    • Shall we explain it to you yet again, Nat?

      ISRAELIS living in Area C have the right to vote in Israel’s election. So do ISRAELIS living in London, New York, Hong Kong (but not in Iran, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, cos there aren’t any). PALESTINIANS, whether they live in Area C, London, New York, Hong Kong, Iran, Jordan or Saudi Arabia do not. Neither do French, American, German, Chinese or Panamanian people living in Area C, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Petach Tikva.

      Now what could be the reasoning for that, I wonder? Could it simply be a question of… erm…nationality?

      • Hi Labenal

        the subject of expat voters is interesting and very much open for debate . Should people who do not live in a country and are therefore not affected by the policies of the elected gvt. have a right to influence it ?

        As I understand it the right of expat Israelis to vote in Israeli elections has had limitations relating to ‘time since Israeli residence’ attached . There were discussions last year (2012) about this – with various changes being mooted.

        The difference between an Israeli and a Palestinian living in area C is that while both are affected by any legislation etc. originating from the Knesset. – those with voting rights are the actors and those without acted upon. Should not all be allowed to vote – as all citizens in Israel can ?

        Some will argue that Area C Palestinians can vote in their own elections while Area C Israelis may not – but this is not actually the same as the Israelis are not subject to Palestinian law. The Palestinians in Area C are effectively disenfranchised.

        • Yes there has been discussion about expat voting rights. But your argument about Palestinians in Area C is almost entirely analagous to my example of French, German etc residents of Israel, or any non-national residents of any democratic country. They are also “affected by the policies of the elected govt.” but also have no right to vote. That’s life when you are not a citizen of the country you live in.

          • Labenal, Israelis living in London, New York, Hong Kong… have a residency permit for these countries.

            Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, including East jerusalem, do not have a residency permit and are in violation of international law.

      • Labenal,

        Area C is under Israel’s control, and is ruled by Israel.

        How come the Israeli settlers living in Area C can vote for their rulers, but Palestinians living in the same Area C cannot?

        Why these double standards?

          • Palestinians and Israeli settlers living in Area C are ruled by the Israeli Civil Administration, whose policy is determined by the Government of Israel.

            Why can Israeli settlers vote for the Israeli Government, but Palestinians cannot? Why these double standards?

            • As I have said some anomalies are bound to exist when a PA breaches terms of agreements.And you haven’t answered my question. Will Arabs let jews vote in the “new” Palestinian state? And if not, where are the blogs on Arab websites campaigning for that change? And why aren’t you mindful to agree that there is something very wrong in the Arab mindset to realise how difficult it is to please everybody and to identify where the problem really lies?

              You pose in your stupid argument one impossible standard for one and no standard whatsoever for the other. That’s why I consider your comments as complete trash since they are not legitimate argument , but a means to torment others. .

    • When it comes down to it, all that matters is whether you are a citizen or not. The Israeli settlers are already citizens. Israel cannot annex Area C and grant the Palestinian Arabs there voting rights without breaking international law till a negotiated settlement between the two parties is made. And yes, Israel did do that to East Jerusalem, but I don’t think many Israelis care because it’s impossible to manage a city with an international border going through it.

      Also, only a tiny percentage of West Bank Palestinian Arabs live in Area C.

      • Michael, both Israeli settlers and Palestinians living in Area C are ruled by the Government of Israel, and affected by any legislation or ruling originating from the Government of Israel or the Knesset.

        How come Israeli settlers can vote for their rulers, but not Palestinians?

        Why these double standards?

        • Arabs beyond the Green Line are not citizens of Israel Nat . If they recognised Israel as the Jewish State, expect to see some changes. The continuous unwillingnes to do so leaves their status outside the electorate. Similarly if the PA were to announce that Jews can vote in their (non-existent) elections you can then talk about double standards. At the moment your comments stand on the side of Israel bashers and bigots as per usual.

    • Nat, thank you for admitting that Israel is a thriving democracy.

      No thanks, however, for your apparent ignorance as to how the state of affairs you complain about came to be.

      Would it have happened had Israel’s Arab/Muslim neighbours left her in peace and not attacked her?

      They use the very state of affairs their barbarism has brought about as an excuse to continue to attack her and you don’t appear to be aware of that.

    • Off you go, Nat and expect the same of Comment is Free.
      Prove to me that you have a glimmer of understanding about how Israel’s Arab neighbours have brought about the state of affairs you complain about.
      What might have happened had they not attacked her in 1973?

      Take your time…

        • Another little bash at Israel Nat. The 750,000 Arab refugees is all Israel’s fault, isn’t it ? Arabs did nothing at all to end up as they did, did they Nat? The 1948 attack on Israel was all israel’s fault wasn’t it Nat? Had Israel committed suicide, that would have been OK Nat? Yeh yeh yeh. yawn yawn yawn.

          • Joshua, Refugee Law states that all refugees have the right to return home at the end of hostilities. Why were these 750,000 Palestinians forbidden to return home?

            • If you go back to the 1950s, there were some proposals put to allow 100000 refugess to return in return for full recognition , even after a war that if successfully carried out according to plan , would have resulted in total anihhilation of a jewish population. Most Arabs rejected the offer (as per usual), or made no reasonable counterproposal.. So your suggestion Nat is to allow the refugess to return to Israel and cause mayhem?

              • The problem is that 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their land in 1948, and that most of them and their descendants are still living in squalid refugee camps because they were never allowed to return home. This is a problem that needs to be acknowledged if we want to have durable peace.

        • What might have happened if arabs hadn’t attempted a war of extermination against Israel, “nat” fraudster? Your Jew-hatred is just pathetic.

          • 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children were forced to flee their homes in 1948. why haven’t they been allowed to go back home?

            • We need to take into account the refugee problem if we want to be able to reach durable peace. Building one’s head in the sand will not help.

              • Having fun talking to yourself there, troll?!
                STOP trolling on more than month-old threads, idiot…
                Jeez, you’re paid for doing something far more creative, not this tripe…

    • “Israel is a thriving democracy, no one’s denying it.”

      To the contrary, it is denied constantly by the anti-Zionist left and right. It’s usually one of the first assertions made by those of the university campus mentality.

      • Indeed, the fact that Israel is a thriving democracy is one of the most irritating thing for post-modern anti-Semites, particularly leftard ones. Of course, the number one fact they hate is that Israel is a Jewish state that can defend itself, with violence if necessary. They just can’t stand it.

      • Serjew, last tinme I checked, people supporting democracy in Israel and the two-state solution in line with the Road Map for Peace were not “Jew-haters”.

        This kind of pitiful comment only demonstrates your intellectual inability to engage in a respectful debate and to articulate your thoughts.

        • “nat”, drop your pathetic mask. You don’t give a damn about Israel. You are a run-of-the-mill mercenary of Jew-hatred. You are the lowest kind of coward piece of drek.

          • Serjew, last time I checked, people supporting democracy in Israel and the two-state solution in line with the Road Map for Peace were not “run-of-the-mill mercenary of Jew-hatred”.

            This kind of pitiful comment only demonstrates your intellectual inability to engage in a respectful debate and to articulate your thoughts.

  2. Did you know that the Palestine British Mandate extended all the way to the boarders with Iran, so why is Jordan not called an occupier?? Double standards????
    Im not saying that Israel is all right in their acts but neither have the british been. However the reason why there’s a wall separating palestine and israel is due to the number of ‘martyrs’ blowing themselves up to kill israelis. And that isn’t the end of it, check this article

  3. I am sorry no-one is willing to engage with me – however!

    if Bennet’s idea of annexation gains traction this discussion will become more than moot. It could become a reality fraught with some nasty possibilities – for both Israelis and Palestinians .

    What happens, for example, if 50,000+ people refuse to be ‘annexed’ along with the land?

    This site swaps me between log ins – it now sends me to WordPress – to avoid any confusion if it changes my screen name – Leni.

    • Israel declines at the moment a lot of requests from Palestinians to become Israeli citizens.
      Your suggestion of annexation is just a game of thoughts which is open to all possible developments.

      • Fritz

        I didn’t suggest annexation it was part of Naftali Bennett’s election platform – he proposed annexing Area C along with 50,000 Palestinians . Some authorities have suggested that in fact around 1000,000 Palestinians actually live there .

        • Obviously NOT 1000,00 but 100,00.

          Snigger – I find replying to you difficult as anybody who can refer to a whole nation of people as ‘barbarians’ as you have has clearly suspended all cognitive processes and is operating purely from an irrational and prejudiced view point .

          • Where does Snigger refer “to a whole nation of people as ‘barbarians’ “?

            Before you suggest that anyone has “suspended all cognitive processes” it might be a good idea to read and respond to what they have actually written. A knee jerk response to something that is not written says more about you than it does Snigger.

        • An exact number of Palestinians is one of the mysteries which are nurtured by the Palestinian organisations since decades.
          Bennett`s vision is just one of those visions which never turned into reality, a future two state solution will include land swaps, you should not forget we are talking about armistice lines.

  4. Labenal

    waste of my time really to answer you but – .

    The Israeli gvt.’s official position is that the WB is ‘disputed’ land – if we accept this definition then neither Is or Ps can claim undisputed ownership or even national ownership or right to the land .

    The language commonly used around the whole subject of I/P is indecisive and open to interpretation – often it is about perception as people dispute different histories and readings of law – international or domestic .

    to completely disengage on this site from any poster who does not simply say ‘Yes, sir ‘ to everything in the original post is short sighted and will simply alienate them .

    • I am glad you realise Leni, that the language is indecisive. It is deliberately made so by the Arabs who want to use their Palestinian brothers to deflect from their own shortcomings in the government of their people.

      The most dispute is around fanciful ideas which are made facts and take on a life of their own, as well you know, and comment is free is the standard bearer in this sort of obfuscation.

      The complexity is daunting but the facts are there if people want to find them.

      All of which begs the questions (a) why they don’t and (b) why they can’t.

    • It’s only indecisive when it doesn’t suit the PA or Hamas and anti-zionists. The legal position is pretty clear and made complicated to give the arguments some sophitistication for anti-Issrael sentiment to be given a lot of overblown credence.

  5. What does it say to you when more than 50% of arab israelis who voted, voted for israeli parties rathher than arab parties???