"Jewish and Democratic"? The Price of a National Self-Deception

The current academic and legal campaign to constitutionalize Israel as a state that is both “Jewish and democratic” amounts to an act of national self-deception, rooted in the collective inability or unwillingness to accept that discriminatory policies toward the non-Jewish minority contradict democratic processes, on the part of that country’s Jewish majority. The author addresses the recent efforts to create an Israeli constitution by the consent of the Jewish majority that would legitimatize the denial of equal citizenship rights for non-Jewish citizens. Because Israeli Jews have constructed opposition to the “Jewish and democratic” model as “extremism,” Palestinian citizens of Israel are forced to limit their resistance to passive rejection of the concept, refusing to acquiesce in their own subordination and denying moral legitimacy to the system that discriminates against them.

Nadim Rouhana is the Henry Hart Rice Professor of Conflict Analysis at George ‎Mason University and the director of Mada al-Carmel—The Arab Center for Applied ‎Social Research. A longer version of this essay appeared in “Israel and the Palestinian ‎Minority 2004: Mada's Third Annual Political Monitoring Report” (August 2005).‎