Can genocidal Israel really be a “liberal democracy”?

By Haydar Oruç

Last week, a news article that appeared in almost all Israeli newspapers caught my attention. According to the news, Israel fell from the “liberal democracies” category and was relegated to the “electoral democracies” category, which was at the top of the list where it had been for the last 50 years, in the Democracy Report, which is published every year by the V-Dem Institute within Sweden’s Gothenburg University and measures the democratic quality of 200 countries by subjecting them to various criteria.

Following this news, I examined the report in question to find out why Israel fell from the category of liberal democracies at the top of the list. I leave the link to the report here for those who want to review it. (https://www.v-dem.net/documents/44/v-dem_dr2024 highres.pdf)

According to the report, the sole reason why Israel fell behind in the democracy rankings was the judicial reform, or in other words, the judicial coup, carried out by the Netanyahu government last year.

As you may remember, as soon as the Netanyahu government received the vote of confidence, the first thing it did was to introduce the regulation known as the judicial reform bill to the parliament. In the bill that regulates the election of judges to the Supreme Court and provides the government with more opportunities in this regard; The powers of the high court were also restricted, thus preventing the high court from reviewing or annulling the laws called “Basic Laws”.

In this case, those who claimed that the principle of separation of powers in the country would be damaged the balance-monitoring mechanism would be disrupted and the government’s actions would escape judicial control, took to the streets, and started to protest. Since the government could not provide sufficient assurance on this issue, the protests increased in intensity and the situation turned into civil disobedience throughout the country.

Ultimately, Netanyahu said in March 2023 that the bill was withdrawn, and the reactions partially eased. However, after passing the budget law and relieving itself, the government submitted this bill to the parliament again in the summer. In the new draft, also called the “reasonableness law”, only minor retouches were made, but the essence of the law remained the same as the previous one.

In other words, the Supreme Court’s control over the laws was relatively reduced, and it was completely abolished for the “basic laws” that had constitutional force. In addition, the government and political parties with groups in the parliament were given more quotas to determine the judges to be appointed to the high court.

Referring to this regulation, the report underlined that politics interfered with the independence of the judiciary and put it under tutelage, and for this reason, it was written that Israel was relegated from the category of liberal democracies to the category of electoral democracies.

That is, the reason why Israel was dropped from the category of liberal democracies was not the six-month-old Gaza attacks and the crime of genocide committed there, but the regulation publicly known as judicial reform.

Yes, judicial independence and impartiality is one of the indispensable criteria in democracies and it is necessary to be sensitive to this issue, but in this report announced in March, there is a category reduction only due to judicial reform, without any reference to Israel’s Gaza attacks that have continued since October 7. If so, this indicates that the evaluation system or the determined criteria are inadequate and problematic.

So what was it?

A state can be accepted as a democratic country even if it clearly commits genocide against a race by killing more than 32 thousand civilians and injuring more than 75 thousand in six months.

Such a democracy that it dropped more than 70 thousand tons of bombs on 2.3 million people who were forced to live in an area of 45 square kilometers; by destroying 80 percent of the superstructure, including houses, schools, mosques, and churches, it displaces 1.5 million people and turns them into nomads in their own homeland, condemning them to starvation.

It is such a democracy that a genocide lawsuit was filed against it at the International Court of Justice, and the court accepted the case in its interim decision, stating that there was strong evidence that the crime of genocide was committed, and ordered that acts of genocide should be prevented so that the people of Gaza, who were brutally attacked, would not suffer irreparable harm.

However, this country is located in the Middle East and North Africa region, 98 percent of which is under the rule of so-called “closed authoritarianism” and “elective authoritarianism” regimes, and as such, it is the only democracy in the region…

Despite this, Turkey, which has been making great efforts to stop the attacks on Gaza since October 7 and trying to bring the parties to the ceasefire table by using all diplomatic means at its disposal, is defined as “elective authoritarianism” in this report. While Israel ranked 44th in the democracy list, Turkey could only find a place for itself in the 140th place.

This is the perception of democracy of the researchers at the institute, which operates within a distinguished university in Sweden, a European country with very high so-called democratic values and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Israel, which has occupied Palestinian lands for 75 years, massacred tens of thousands of Palestinians over the years, stole their lands, imposed a blockade on Gaza, and turned it into an open-air prison since 2007, can be in the top category of the democracy list?

However, shouldn’t Israel, which does not comply with any United Nations resolutions, suspend the law of war, as seen in its latest attacks on Gaza, and kill all Palestinians it encounters, including children, women or the elderly, not even be considered, let alone at the top of this list?

Let’s say you considered it, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to have it in the lowest category of the democracy scale, or even in the status of a non-democratic country?

Since Israel, which has the blood of more than 32 thousand people in Gaza on its hands and is on trial for one of the most despicable crimes such as genocide, and will probably be convicted and branded for genocide at the end of the trial, was at the top of the 2024 democracy list. Let this list remain in our memories as a shame for Sweden and the University of Gothenburg, the so-called human rights champions.

When the day comes, we will have a few words to say to those who will criticize Turkey on baseless grounds such as human rights, the rule of law, and freedoms that they do not respect.

Then we will remind them that even Israel, which committed genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza in front of the eyes of the whole world, is seen by them as a liberal democracy.

This article was originally published in Diriliş Postası on March 26, 2024, in Turkish.

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