Some would argue a true democracy is an impossible pipe dream propagated by the elite to convince the common masses to partake in their own oppression. But that is neither here nor there, and for the purpose of this assignment it must be conceded that a democracy exists somewhere on planet Earth. To this end, I will compare Israeli practice to the self-proclaimed epitome of democratic government; America.
In simple, Lincolnian logic, a democracy is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” resting on the assumption that frequently held, free elections in which all adult citizens are allowed to participate will ensure the democratic ideology of majority rule. Israel is one large constituency in which each vote represents just that-one vote. America’s presidential election, on the other hand, not only gives more weight to “super” voters, it throws out as many as 49% of votes cast in each state by giving the entire realm to the majority party. Additionally, America disenfranchises a significant portion of citizens,  while Israel gives prisoners the right to vote.  Any person questioning Israel’s determined commitment to democracy need only note Yigal Amir  is allowed to cast his vote like any other citizen.
A true democracy will display “an absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges”  regarding direct participation in government. Theoretically, any American citizen is eligible to run for national office,  but the financial burden attached to campaigning usually whittles the cast of characters down to those who have the economic and social capital entailed in undertaking such an endeavor; namely, the aristocracy. American politics, at times, closely resembles the competition for king and queen of the prom of an exclusive high school, in which the ugly, infirm, or dorky need not apply.  While impossible to avoid this sort of electoral popularity contest,  in Israel it is parties that run for election, instead of individuals, and each party need only win 1.5% of the vote to earn one of the 120 seats available in the Knesset.  Though Israeli campaign spending has been an issue,  a unique but poor party has the ability to draw attention via free air time provided to all. Furthermore, Americans are able to elect as many as five people into national office, but are generally given one Republican and one Democrat per office to choose between. Conversely, Israelis may place only one vote, but are able to choose from numerous parties touting any combination of stances.
Given the evidence above, Israel is at least as democratic as the current American political system, but there are those who have “grave doubts, especially over the restrictions imposed upon those citizens…who aspired to realize their basic rights within a democratic governmental system”  and cite events like the 1965 decision to disqualify the Arab Socialist List from participating in the election on the grounds that the party “conveyed a message threatening the Jewish character of the state.”  Israeli leaders excuse this decision and others like it, by pointing out the nation is a “defending democracy,” and justified in placing “limits [upon] the freedom of expression of its citizens” in the interest of “stability.”  America, too, curbs free speech and assembly  deemed “outrageous,” and, incidentally, did not recognize its Socialist Party as legitimate until 1980.  For the record, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned a 2009 Central Elections Committee attempt to disqualify two Arab political parties on the basis of “incitement, supporting terrorist groups, and refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.” 
Other critics point to Israel’s refusal to allow the repatriation of Arabs who fled in 1948 during the War of Independence, or offer compensation for their loss.  While the situation is unfortunate, dissenters should view this issue subjectively: if I owe Bob a hundred dollars, but have good reason to believe he would take the money and use it to by a gun with which to shoot my loved ones,  should I give Bob the hundred dollars, or would I be a fool if I did? Certainly, I wouldn’t invite him to move next door. Israel finds itself in this situation, the only difference being it hasn’t definitively been determined Israel owes in the first place. True; the nation and its citizens benefited from property abandoned by fleeing Arabs, but some would argue it was Israel’s Arab enemies who (a) started the war in the first place, and (b) convinced the Palestinians to flee. In all the history of civilization has any other nation been expected to compensate deserters’ misplaced loyalty? The United Nations, being emphatically pro-Palestine,  is of the opinion that Israel should go against all democratic principles and actively participate in its own destruction by recognizing the rights of those who aim to wipe it off the map. I  robustly oppose this line of reasoning, and stress that the first directive of a democracy is self-preservation for the benefit of the people it is responsible to protect.
But what about the 160,000, or so, Arabs who chose to stay in Israel; what has become of them and their descendants? While they are “full and equal”  citizens of Israel, comprising 20% of the population, they find themselves underrepresented in the political sphere, suffering high rates of poverty and unemployment,  and quite often, the victims of overt racism.  The 18th Knesset has been called “the most racist since the establishment of Israel” because ” the number of draft racist laws that aim to deprive Arab citizens of their rights has reached a new high.”  Among the legislation in question is a bill requiring non-Jews to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state,”  and a “social suitability”  bill some fear will develop into a wholly undemocratic practice reminiscent of the racial restrictive covenants deemed unconstitutional in America.  Legislation aside, perhaps most worrisome of all is the general inequality  and feelings of discomfort experienced by Israel’s Arab citizens, often referred to as “the fifth column.” 
Is Israel operating as a democracy by promoting the interests of the roughly 80% of Jewish citizens, who furthermore, express anti-Arab sentiment,  or as a democracy is Israel responsible to act on behalf of equality for all “the people?” There is no easy answer; some Arab citizens are peace-loving and desire nothing more than a fair deal, while others sympathize with anti-Israeli elements and represent a genuine threat to the integrity of the state and safety of its people. Unfortunately, it is not easy to discern friend from foe until it is too late, and it is not unreasonable to worry that any progress Israel works to make on behalf of its Arab citizens is akin to handing someone a bat in order to be hit over the head with it.
That being said, Israel cannot make a serious claim to democracy without making an effort to promote the well-being of all its citizens, a fact that is not lost on Israel’s Jews.  While some argue that Arabs should stop their bellyaching and be thankful to enjoy a higher standard of living than when they were Palestinians,  most realize more could be done to promote fairness and peaceful coexistence. To this end, the nation has taken steps to improve the poor housing, infrastructure, and generally overcrowded conditions in predominantly Arab areas,  and there has been “a trend of reducing institutional discrimination…”  There is still a long way to go, made especially difficult considering the added burden of fear and mistrust, but if Israel cannot find its way to acceptance and equality, no nation can. It may take a little time, but I am willing to bet Israel’s Jews prove their commitment to be “a light unto the nations.”
historyisaweapon.com Paul Street, Race, Prison, and Poverty ” Ten states deny voting rights for life to ex-felons. According to the Sentencing Project, 46 states prohibit inmates from voting while serving a felony sentence, 32 states deny the vote to felons on parole, and 29 states disenfranchise felony probationers. Thanks to these rules, 13 percent of all Black men in the U.S. have lost their electoral rights…”
 ynetnews.com “Prisoners Vote in General Elections” ” All prisoners have the right to vote, including security prisoners with Israe li citizenships.”
 “The Jerusalem Post” Yigal Grayeff March 27, 2006 “More than 9,000 prisoners are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s elections, including Yigal Amir, who will be the first to cast his ballot in the prison where he is incarcerated.” On November 4, 1995, Amir shot and killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
 The American Constitution does bar those who were not born on American soil from attaining the office of President, but only puts age and years of citizenship requirements upon those who may run for congress.
 Men’s Health, MSNBC, as well as lesser-known venues, like baldingblog, determine at least 50% of the male population will be bald by the age of 50. While this is by no means a scientific theory on the importance of looks in being elected to national office in the United States, a review of photos of the Senate reveals a significantly small portion of bald senators, while images of the Knesset have shiny heads glaring all over the place.
 Gregory S. Mahler Politics and Government in Israel p. 174 “Many argue that ideological differences between the parties have decreased to such an extent that general party image and the popularity of individual party leaders have taken the place of ideology as the reason people vote as they do.”
 See Above; Information taken from Mahler, Chapter 7, “The Electoral Process and Voting Behavior.”
 See above p. 196 “The election expenses of Israel’s political parties through the 1960s had been among the world’s highest. Reform in 1969 led to limitations on overall campaign expenses and increased government oversight of party spending during the election period.”
 Ami Pedahzur The Israeli response to Jewish Extremism and Violence Manchester University Press 2002 p. 1
 Pedahzur p. 33
 Pedahzur The quotes are taken from p. 1, but on p. 4 “The ‘defending democracy’, according to the Israeli court of law, is defined as: ‘the state [that] possesses an implied power, similar to self-defense, to fight against subversive attempts to destroy it’.”
 uscb.edu Skokie: All For None As late as 1977, the socialist party was thoroughly discouraged or outright denied the right to assemble. Also, www.aclu.org is filled with cases where free speech or the right to assemble was denied or heavily fined because it was considered “outrageous.”
 vote-socialist.org “…legal status as a political party, which the Federal Elections Commission recognized in 1980…” (Considering some of the websites I have visited while researching this paper, I will not be surprised if I have ended up on some FBI trouble-maker list)
 haarets.com “Supreme court overturns ban on Arab parties from national elections” January 26, 2009
 United Nations General Assembly 3236 22 November 1974, recognizes the right of the Palestinians to “self-determination,” and encourages all states to support them in their quest to “return to their homes and property.” In fact, I went to the UN website assuming it would be the one place I would find non-biased information regarding the “Palestinian Question,” and was appalled to find a thoroughly pro-PLO stance that criticizes Israel for its “blatant contempt for international law” (General Assembly Security Council 11/10/2010)
 science.co.il/arab-israeli-conflict.asp#jerusalem A power point Education of Arab Palestinian Children, portrays young Palestinian boys being schooled in weaponry and practicing “proudly wearing the sacred explosive belt.” Images of murdered Jewish families coincide with celebrating Arab children. The power point closes with the words, “The Palestinian children are brought up from infancy to become assassins. [sic] To kill as many Jews as possible. Their mothers are brainwashed by a savage, merciless regime to sacrifice their children to Allah…Help save the children of Palestine and Israel from this barbarism.” The website is strongly pro-Israel, but I thought it only fair considering the PLO slant of the UN.
 There are eight countries that tend to vote with Israel in the UN, but the first and most important vote, whether the Palestinians had a right to self-determination and repatriation was voted 163-1 (Israel being the 1), with a few other nations (USA being one) abstaining. Furthermore, I went to www.un.org, assuming it would be the one place I could find unbiased information and was appalled to realize perusing the site would give the idea Israel is a tyrant nation with “blatant contempt for international law (GASC 11/10/2010).”
 I understand that being an American, I have been influenced by American media, etc., which leans in favor of Israel, so I cannot claim to be strictly unbiased. However, in all my personal experience I have found Jews to be more willing than most to (a) forgive (b) live and let live, and (c) take critical stock.
 The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel May 14, 1948 “WE APPEAL…to the Arab inhabitants of the state of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the state on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its permanent and provisional institutions.”
 jewishfederations.org Israel Economy 2009 1/3 of poor are Arabs, 60% of children living below poverty line are Arab, Only 19% of Arab women and 59.7 of Arab men are employed. The numbers are much higher in the traditional Arab sections.
 washingtonpost.com/postglobal Fareed Zakaria “Disowning Israel’s Arab Minority” The Yisrael Beytenu, lead by Avigdor Lieberman, won 15 seats and has a zealous anti-Arab stance.
 middleeastmonitor.org.uk Sawsan Ramahi “Israel’s Discrimination Against its Arab Citizens” June 2010
 See above “Arab Knesset Member Speaks to MEMO on Israel’s New Loyalty Oath” October 11, 2010
 Despite a concerted effort, I was unable to find official Knesset documents regarding this issue. The “fairest” reporting I could locate was Roi Maor October 28: A Vote for Segregated Communities “Despite the law’s insistence that discrimination would not be allowed, the vague and broad criteria it permits (lack of suitability to the social and cultural fabric, or social life of the community)…”
 Shelley v. Kramer 334 US 1 (1948) By the way, according to Thomas Sugrue in The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit p. 243, restrictive racial covenants were something Jews had “little use for.” I do not know the legalities, but I am personally aware of a “village” in America that can legally bar a person who has the funding to purchase a “share” from doing so.
 See above, Fareed Zakaria “This inequality has been documented in a large number of professional surveys and studies, has been confirmed in court judgments and resolutions…”
 According to britannica.com, the “fifth column” is “a clandestine group of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation’s solidarity by any means at their disposal.”
 While I could not find the specific survey, a number of articles, including www.jta.org “Survey: Israeli Jews Back Arab Emigration” note 53% of Jews (and 77% of immigrants) support Arab emigration, 38% feel “Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens.”
 Avishay Braverman, Israel’s Minister of Minorities expressed it best; “If we do not do what is right and wise, we will be pushing the young Israeli Arabs into adversaries. Therefore, partnership and equality for Israeli Arabs is not only good for the Arabs, it is good for the Jews.”
 jewishvirtuallibrary.org “Arab Israelis” “In the years since the founding of the State of Israel, the Arab Israeli community sector has made great strides in almost every area of development.” Note: This organization does NOT state “Arabs should stop their bellyaching and be thankful,” but it does tend to sugar coat the issue.
 bbc.com.uk “Israel launches economic plans for Israeli Arab towns” March 21, 2010 “The Israeli cabinet has backed a $214m investment plan for Israeli Arabs…”
 Sammy Smooha Israel: Pluralism and Conflict University of California Press 1978 p. 198 Admittedly, this particular quote is old, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish commentaries from all over the globe expressing this sentiment.