Monday, December 19, 2011

Israeli democracy

There is a lot of fuss right now about discrimination against women in Israel. Our great friend, Secty of State Clinton, even compared the situation of women in Israel to that in Iran. How absurd! If I were to compare Israel with any other western country I'd say that women are much better represented here than in most of the West. For example, the Chair of the Supreme Court is a woman, Dorit Beinisch. There are leading women representatives in the Knesset, the leader of the opposition is a woman, Tzipi Livni, Limor Livnat is a former Education Minister and Anat Wilf is a leading member of the new Independence Party.

What the fuss is mainly about is the segregation of men and women on a very small number of public bus lines that run thru the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Of the people living there only a small minority of this minority try to enforce segregation on women and try to force them to sit in the back of the bus. Since the buses are public property, that is totally illegal, and if the police are called they must prevent this practice. In fact, for a while these bus lines were stopped becsue of this practrice. What is most disturbing is that some women segregate themselves by going to the back of the bus so that they are not accussed of immodesty. This is sheer nonsese and in fact this situation applies to only a tiny percentage of the female population. But, even then it is wrong in principle, and PM Netanyahu as well as Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and other leading Rabbis have condemned the practice.

Have no fear, women in Israel will not be discriminated against and rumors that Israeli democracy is in danger from bills that have been presented in the Knesset, but haven't even been passed yet, let alone become law, are grossly over-stated. The Bill to have the Supreme Court judges vetted by the Knesset is not anti-democratic, in fact it is the process used in the US. The Bill to have foreign contributions to certain NGOs limited by law is not US Government. There are currently no anti-democratic bills in force in Israel and neither will there be. Israel is a vibrant and active democracy, as anyone who comes here can see for themselves. Don't let anti-Israel commentators who focus on and twist anything remotely critical of Israel fool you.


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