top of page

Democratic? Jewish?

In 1948 the state of Israel was born. Its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, declared its independence in the midst of war and enshrined in the state's founding paper that it is both Jewish and Democratic. While Israel never adopted a constitution, it has instead a series of Basic Laws which define many elements of its legislature. However, one question which Israel's laws haven't addressed until Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel As the National Homeland of the Jewish People law of 2014, is how a state can be both democratic, and defined as belonging to one ethnic group.  Netanyahu's law clarified the later is of a higher importance despite the population of Israel being only two-thirds Jewish.  The problem arises from the fact that a third of the citizens are not, and Israel further controls seven million non-citizen Palesitnians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.  This experiment with nation-building on an ethnic basis resulted in Israel being neither a Jewish nor a democratic state, but instead an Ethnocracy. See the work of Israeli academics Oren Yiftachel, Yoav Peled, Ariella Azoulay, Sammy Smooha, and Alexander Kedar for more details.
Uproar over Ultra-Orthodox Military Service Deepens Old Israeli Rift 


Journalist and documentarian Lia Tarachansky discusses the decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn a law exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. Sept 19, 2017

The Roots of Inequality for Ethiopian Israelis 


May 10, 2015 - As mass protests erupt against police brutality in Israel, journalist Lia Tarachansky explains how Ethiopian Jews are seen as third class citizens in Israel's ethnocracy.

Inside Israel's Pro-War Nationalist Camp

Aug 2, 2014 | As Israel's war in Gaza claims more than 1600 lives, a recent survey shows that more than 86% of Israelis oppose a ceasefire. All attempts to reach one collapsed. As the operation expands so too does the movement in Israel against it. The Real News looks into who are the groups chanting "death to Arabs" throughout Israel and attacking anti-war demonstrators.

Ethnocracy: Who Owns The Land Of Israel?

June 24, 2014 | On Saturday, June 12th, Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of Al Araqib for the 70th time. The land the Bedouin village sits on was given to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) by the Israeli government, and the Bedouin were reclassified as "infiltrators" on lands they've registered as far back as the Ottoman Empire. In this second part in our series on Ethnocracy, a term coined by Israeli professor Oren Yiftachel to answer the question of whether Israel is a democracy, we look at who owns the land of the state of Israel and how it came to be so. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky also speaks to attorney Suhad Bishara and historian Noga Kadmon.

Netanyahu's "Jewish State" Law Stirs Debate in Israel

May 27, 2014 | Since his announcement for Independence Day that he intends to pursue a new Basic Law regarding the country's Jewishness, the Israeli Prime Minister stirred a debate regarding what such a law would mean. All month the Hebrew press debated the nature of Zionism and what enshrining the Jewishness of the state into its constitution-like laws would mean for a nation already struggling to preserve an image of democracy. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky spoke to Prof. Oren Yiftachel about the nature of ethnocratic regimes, such as Israel and Suhad Bishara, the Director of the Lands Division at Adalah, the Arab Minority Legal Center.

Israeli PM Pushes Constitutional Law on Jewish Exclusivity

May 6, 2014 | Days before Israel marked its 66th anniversary, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he intends to pursue a new law that will further enshrine Israel as a Jewish State of the Jewish nation. This Basic Law was announced in the midst of a growing debate over the symbolic, practical, and realistic return of the Palestinian refugees, displaced by Israel in 1948 when the state was created. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky profiles such projects, including a fictional anthology by the Israeli group Zochrot where short stories tell of the day after a future return. She also speaks to Nizar Ashqar, whose great great grandfather established the village of Iqrith on the Lebanese-Israeli border, to which refugees simply returned in a form of protest and a Bethlehem-based architectural project called Decolonizing Palestine.

Will Extremist Lieberman Become
Israel's Next Prime Minister?


This week Israel's Foreign Minister began signalling he is interested in dragging the nation into early elections. These maneuvers came at the peak of Liberman's campaign to rebrand himself as a moderate and pragmatic leader. To discuss what an Israel under his leadership may look like, The Real News' Israel/Palestine Correspondent speaks with Political Economist Shir Hever in the first of a series of conversations on Israeli politics and the occupation. They are joined by author and commentator Michel Warschawski.

Israel's Bedouin Face Displacement Despite Apparent Gov't Concessions


While seemingly abandoning plan to forcefully urbanize Bedouin of Negev Desert, Israeli gov't continues to push forward the multi-billion dollar Prawer plan 


How the Israeli gov't manipulated the press to believe the ethnic cleansing plan of the Negev Desert was cancelled.

Thousands Protest Forced Urbanization of Israel's Bedouin

On Saturday, November 30th, thousands gathered in the Negev in Southern Israel to protest the government's forced urbanization plan of the desert's Bedouin indigenous people. The plan, called Prawer-Begin after its authors passed first reading of three by the Israeli parliament in June, and sparked mass mobilization. The biggest of the protests was in the Negev Desert and was met with enormous police force, water cannons, and policemen on horses, Dozens were arrested and wounded.

bottom of page