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Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities
Tamir Sorek, Assistant Professor of Israel Studies Department of Sociology University of Florida denounces Israel for being undemocratic

The Struggle for Democracy in "the State of Greater Israel"
In 1967, a new state was born in the Middle East on territory that was known by the Jews as the "Land of Israel" and by the Arabs as "Palestine." This state was established as an outcome of the forced unification of a number of territories that before then had been ruled by different states. The three most populated areas in the new state were: the territory ruled by Israel from 1948-67, the West Bank, formerly under Jordanian rule, and the Gaza Strip, formerly under Egyptian rule.

The administrative and symbolic contiguity that was established between the state of Israel and the new state caused many to assume that these two political bodies were identical. In fact, June 1967, led to such a qualitative change that it is necessary to look at the new body as a different state entirely. This is in reference not only to the tremendous territorial gains nor to the fact that its population was about 1/3 the size of the state of Israel. The most important element of all was the complete renunciation by the new state of its ambition of being for the most part a democratic state. In truth, the state of Israel was not a model of democracy. A military government ruled over its Arab citizens and they suffered discrimination in contrast to Jewish citizens. That being said, the declaration of independence, which was the closest thing to a constitution for the young state, expressed a declared readiness to found a democratic regime that protected the rights of all persons irrespective of race or religion. In that context, the end of the military government in 1966 ushered in the possible beginning of a process that would have turned the state of Israel into the only democracy in the Middle East.

The new state that was established, "the State of Greater Israel," was not bound by the declaration of independence of the State of Israel and did not aspire to be a democratic state. The borders of this state as
presented, for example, on the weather forecasts in the press, radio, and television, included the entire territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. In geography and "Homeland" classes, students in public schools of this state learned about the borders of their country that extended from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Afterwards those same students learned about the principles of democracy in civics classes: the form of government in which the people elects its rulers. What was never taught in those schools was the simple fact that the system of democratic rule was applicable only vis-?-vis part of the territories that the state ruled. The fact that about ¼ of the residents of the new state were denied civil rights, could not elect their rulers or be elected, and lived under military rule was left out of the lesson plan.

Over time it has become clear that the distinction between the two forms of rule is not necessarily territorial. A significant number of residents from the territory under the authority of an elected parliament moved into the areas under military rule—the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And miracle of miracles, those residents continued to preserve their right to elect and be elected as well as other rights—for example freedom of expression and freedom to organize—which were kept from the older residents. This is how two groups came to be in the areas under military rule—Jews, who enjoyed full civil rights, and in contrast, Palestinian Arabs (upon whose
confiscated land the new residents settled), who were denied all civil rights, including the right to immigrate to the civil part of the state. At the schools of those with rights they continued to teach that
discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, national or religious background is a horrible thing against which human beings must struggle. In that context many hours were devoted to studying the racism that was aimed at the Jews in Europe, yet no classes were devoted to discuss the condition of the non-citizens of the state, residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The uprising of the deprived habitants of "the Greater State of Israel" in 1987 was inevitable and self-evident. Since then, some serious attempts have been made to settle the issue. These attempts failed because of the shortsightedness and irresponsibility of leaders from both the deprived and the privileged camps. However, until now, the deprived habitants are still desperately demanding their rights. The obvious facts that their uprising includes hideous assaults against innocent privileged people do not subtract from the legitimacy of their claim for freedom from non-elected rule.

The people upon whom the responsibility for suppressing the uprising has been inflicted are the students of the confusing educational system of "the Greater State of Israel." That system on the one hand preached democracy and condemned discrimination based on racial origin, yet on the other hand drew maps that gave legitimacy to a non-democratic racist regime. Today, hundreds of diligent students who learned the essence of democracy in civics classes are demanding to implement its principles in reality, or at least not to demand that they defend in practice the existence of a non-democratic regime. By this deed they are accused by the right wing of treachery and by the left wing of undermining the principles of a democratic regime (!)

There are those who do not rank civic equality and democracy high on their list of values. With those people, of course, I can hardly establish a dialogue. It is still possible to argue with those who still believe in democracy about the desired form of implementing its principles. One large state in which all of its citizens would enjoy equal rights, or division into two independent states in which its own citizens will enjoy equal rights. Yet there is one thing about which there can be no argument: whoever refuses to take part in denying civil rights to millions of people does not endanger democracy, rather he fights for it. Tamir Sorek 

Tamir Sorek



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