What did Kerry mean with "Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both"?

  • What did the Secretary of State mean by this dichotomous ultimatum?

    Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both.

    Why should it be incompatible?

    If England, Denmark and Greece can be Christian states and Morocco and Saudi Arabia can be Islamic states, what did Kerry mean when he said this?

    How is England, Denmark and Greece "Christian states"? Also, how are Morocco and Saudi Arabia relevant to a question about democracy?

    It's irrelevant. The point is, can a state's religious status make it inherently incompatible with democracy?

    @Yannis - England has a state church, and IIRC Germany as well (I think this site actually has questions on the topic). So for that matter does Russia, at least *de-facto* (and would regardless of whether Putin's specific governance is more or less democratic). I'm not 100% sure but I seem to recall that Kerry's Department of State recognizes Turkey as democratic.

    @user4012 If the definition of "Christian state" is having a state religion, then several European countries would qualify (including all those already mentioned). However, that says very little about the actual role religion plays in the politics of those states.

    Obviously we aren't referring to theocracies. So what exactly does Kerry mean when he says a Jewish state?

    @Yannis - well, in Russia religion clearly plays at least as much role as in Israel (let's not even start on Poland - see recent Skeptics.SE question about them electing Jesus as "King").

    @user4012 Germany does not have a state church: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion

    This question appears to be _lying_ about what Kerry said, by saying "a state" and suggesting he's making a general statement rather than "Israel in the one state case" which entails specific borders and therefore specific demographic realities about the population within those borders. It should at least be changed to have a less inflammatory title and an accurate quote.

    Israel doesn't really have a constitution as such, but I believe one of the laws that forms a sort of pseudo-constitution begins with "Israel is a Jewish and Democratic State"... and some interpreters this as Jewish *first* - *then* democratic. In any case, in a democracy everybody should have an equal voice, regardless of their religion... the above may seem to contradict that principle.

    while i don't have enough time to provide a solid answer, i do see that nobody has pointed out that unlike America **Israel still segregates its citizens into `ethos` groups**, ie. a group which can vote (Jews) and several groups which cannot (non-Jews) wherein the only recognized National Citizens of Israel are Jews and non-Jews are relegated to a life as non-voting occupants of "The Jewish State of Israel" (else, allowing non-Jews to vote would create a non-Jewish majority). because America has no such concept (nay, we abhor it!) it's hard for many to understand the statement made by Kerry.

    @ShaunWilson : For all Israel's sins, that's a gross mis-characterization of matters. Israeli citizens can vote (Jewish or otherwise, and Israel has many. many non-Jewish citizens). Non-citizens cannot. That's how voting works everywhere. The problem is that Israel has millions of Palestinians under military occupation, and they have no path to citizenship. Both "Israel segregates its citizens" and "The group who can vote are Jews" are absolutely false.

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    @ShaunWilson, non-jews **can** vote in Israel.

    IIRC to become an Israeli citizen and get the right to vote in national elections, one much declare to support its Jewish character, which means the democratic opinion of people who do not support its Jewish character cannot be represented in parliament.

    Quick question to all. Seeing as Stack Exchange prefers to have answers based upon fact not conjecture, how are any of these answers *including mine* within that scope? Can we truly state as fact what Kerry meant? Or are we merely "answering" with our interpretations/opinions of what he meant?

    @gerrit : Nope; there's no such requirement. There was a proposal suggesting that in 2010, which might be what you're thinking of, but it was rejected. (Hebrew sources: 1,2 ). And of course, we've many many preexisting citizens who oppose Israel as being defined Jewish.

    @Ziv Thank you for the correction. Is it only a requirement to become a member of parliament then?

    @gerrit : I'm not familiar with any such requirement there, either. Wikipedia gives a phrasing that only pledges loyalty to "The State of Israel" -- which I could see having a problem with, but still seems reasonable; that's the parliament you're in. Do you have any source indicating that there exists such a loyalty pledge? Again, it's been proposed, but that's rather different from being actually passed.

    @Ziv I read it somewhere. I don't remember where. It might be wrong. Perhaps it depends on interpretation.

  • That's not what he said. John Kerry said:

    But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both –and it won’t ever really be at peace.

    So what he is trying to say here is that

    1. In his opinion, Israel should embrace a two state solution.

    2. If Israel does not split off Palestine into a separate state, it has to choose between being a Jewish state that does not represent the Palestinian Muslims. Or, it can be a democratic state that is majority Muslim.

    He is not saying that countries in general can't be both religious and democratic. His criticism is specific to Israel as a single state that includes the Palestinian areas. In fact, under his idealized two state solution, presumably both states would be religious and democratic. Israel would be Jewish and Palestine would be Muslim.

    In a way, this is an offering to Israel. If they surrender to his terms, he believes they could be Jewish and democratic in their portion of the current country. However, many people aren't reading it that way.

    There have been a number of criticisms of this stance. For example, it's not clear that the two states would achieve peace. This doesn't resolve the overall problem that most Middle Eastern Muslim countries do not support Israel's right to existence as a Jewish state, at least not popularly (the leadership may).

    Note that such criticisms have their own detractors. Obviously Kerry doesn't agree with this, and he's not unique in that.

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  • I love this question, if simply because so many people have misinterpreted Kerry's statement. He is stating that if Israel commits to a one-state solution, they will have to choose between being democratic and representing all of the people within the country, or remaining a state in which only Jewish people (and a small minority of Arab Israelis) are represented within the government. That is what he meant when he said that, not that a country cannot combine Judaism and democracy.

    "a state in which only Jewish people are represented within the government" .... But there are non-Jews in the Knesset presently! So why again can it not both???

    @ElShteiger: You can be a non-Jew in the Knesset, as long as you do not deny *the state of Israel* being Jewish in nature... See my answer.

    Upvote. Anybody who has been paying attention knows there is absolutely no chance of a one-state solution. Nobody involved even wants that. So this part of his speech is totally irrelevant. Not to mention that he was wrong, even.

    @ElShteiger What is the current status of voting in Israel. Due to another comment, I got curious. Can everyone of voting age vote? Or are there class/religious restrictions?

    @NZKshatriya : All adult citizens can vote, whatever their race and religion. But Palestinians aren't citizens (Arab Israelis, in contrast, are).

    Ah. That makes more sense. The whole darned situation over there is enough to make one rip their hair out. There is enough land for both peoples to live. Toss out religion from the process, and it should *theoretically* be a simple territory negotiation.

    @NKZshatriya: It's much harder than that. It's not just two religions, it's two cultures (OK, more than two), which have been at outright war for decades. And as for "enough land"... that's... a bit of an oversimplification. There's no "easy" division of land -- especially taking into account current population, water rights, security concerns for both sides, the simple desire for contiguous territory...

    Which I guess is basically saying, "Oh yes, a _SIMPLE_ territory negotiation, how _easy_, ahahahahah" :P

    `or remaining a state in which only Jewish people are represented within the government.` Not so much of an "only" Jewish government. It's about that if the Palestinians were to become citizens, they would out-number the Jews in the country, and the Jews would be a minority. This would also lead to a majority of Arabs in the Knesset, therefore the country turning into an Arab country.

    It would also entail changing the laws on lease of land which if i understand correctly means that to be able to buy a home you need to be able to obtain a lease from the state on the land below it. Unfortunately only jews and people with jewish ancestors can obtain a lease.

  • All of the answers have said this, but I am going to try and water it down, and have the answer not focus on any nation/state at in particular.

    Any purported democracy cannot be a insert description of race/religion/other here state and still be a democracy.

    Then again, what type of democracy is meant by Kerry's statement exactly? The same as America? That would be a federal republic/constitutional representative democracy. There are others as well.

    I don't think that is what he meant.

    And of course the downvotes with no explanations, how mature of people. How can a representative democracy, force anyone who wants to run for office to have to openly state that the country is one thing, even if it goes against that candidates beliefs/opinions? Screw the religious aspects, this can be applied to anything.

    > "Any purported democracy cannot be a insert description of race/religion/other here state and still be a democracy." - a democracy can be religious, provided a majority of the people share that religion. Kerry is saying that the Palestinians can not be represented by a Jewish democracy, since they would wish to elect Muslim leaders, so a one state solution cannot be both Jewish and democratic.

    @superluminary As others have stated, a candidate MUST assert that Israel is a Jewish state....I can see issues with this, getting a Palestinian to agree to this, and not say the law needs to be changed (which leads to instant ineligibility for a gov't position)

    Or create a 2 party state. This would allow Israel to keep the law, and still be representative, because the Palestinians would have their own independent parliament. Jewish and democratic.

    That too would work....but only if both sides actively participate and quit trying to prove who has the "right" to be there. News flash, both parties have an equal right to live and exist as human beings....Take religion out of the entire situation and this situation would be so much more simple.

    A two-state solution would have a Muslim country (Palestine) and a Jewish country (Israel), each with their own territories, governments and borders, which could be both democratic and religious. You can't take religion out of the situation. The people in Israel would see the whole world burn before abandoning their faith.

    The USA is NOT a democracy... It's a republic. @superluminary by giving the small minority group of muslims in Israel equal say in Israeli politics to the large Jewish majority, you throw away the very democracy Kerry claims Israel does not have when in fact it does.

    @NZKshatriya and they do. In Israel all citizen can vote, including muslims. That's definitely NOT the case in the PLO and Hamas controled areas, or in any other country in the ME where Jews are explicitly excluded from any representation.

    And this is why I am hoping a comet hits the earth.......wipe out this senseless arguing once and for all.......comet > bickering over desert. I have another idea. Let's give a chunk of west Texas to the Palestinians........it's hot.........desert-y.........devoid of life......

    I'm not surprised at the massive downvote. I'm upvoting to help make this answer visible, because whether Kerry specifically meant this or not, it's absolutely true that you can't have a democracy when the laws of religion (and/or a religious litmus test) override nonsecular laws. That's something the USA would do well to learn.

    @jwenting You miss the point, he is not talking about the arab minority in Israel proper. If Israel goes to the "one state" solution, either they give political rights (including vote) to the Palestinian people in Gaza and Cisjordania (thus no longer a "Jewish state") or opt for a country in which a majority of the population will not have political rights (not a democracy, or as democratic as 1980s South Africa).

    @CarlWitthoft What if the people democratically choses to obey those laws? As long as they are free to later change those laws if they desire, I do not see that as undemocratic (and I am not a religious person). If Israel were following the Torah to the letter it would certainly be problematic (as most religions, lots of issues with human rights), but the fact that their voters are influenced by the Torah (and the rest of the Jewish culture) is not, by itself, more problematic or less democratic than the fact of Christmas Day being a public holiday in countries of Christian tradition.

    @CarlWitthoft Whether or not the statement in the answer is correct is irrelevant. The question was about what Kerry meant, and the truthness (or not) of this answer is irrelevant for that question.

    @SJuan76 1) Any time religion affects politics it's no longer democratic in the sense of being based on reality. 2) Xmas Day is a blatant absorption of dozens of pagan year-end celebrations by various Christian sects who have forgotten that Xmas is not St. Nicholaus' Day. FWIW I'm strongly opposed to making Easter, Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, or any other religion's 'Important Days' public holidays.

    @CarlWitthoft There are at least four contemporary celebrations at Christmas: (1) pagan winter fest (2) baby Jesus (3) father christmas / christmas carol / present giving (4) coca cola reindeer santa claus.

    @gerrit Don't forget the Polar Bear Coca Cola retailers making a killing Santa Claus lol. History of X-mas Interesting read......specially how December 25 was "decided" upon as the best day for X-mas.........religion by committee, gotta love it.

    I didn't DV, but this is not really a good answer, sorry. (1) It assets something as a truth with zero evidence; (2) It doesn't actually attempt to show that that is what the politician in the question actually meant, which is what the question is about; (3) The assertion has obvious counter-examples, so on top of anything else the answer is just factually wrong - the following countries consider themselves democracies: **Islamic** Republic of Iran, **Islamic** Republic of Pakistan, **Arab** republic of Egypt. Turkey.

    @user4012 The main problem here, is that this is a question that should be closed for the opinion-based reason. As the only person that can answer this question is Kerry himself. Any other person answering this is merely stating their view on what he meant, even if they post facts that may support their view. To know what one meant without them stating what they meant, goes to the operation of one's mind.

    @NZKshatriya - Agreed. I was actually tempted to vote to close but it seemed like a futile effort given the question's popularity and the fact that moderators were active but did not indicate they have concerns over question's scope.

    @user4012 I did flag it as should be closed yesterday, but oh well. Personally, I think popularity should not be placed over stated scope, but it all depends on which mod responds to each flag I guess/

  • Kerry claims that Israel, because of it being Jewish, is not democratic. When in fact it's the only democracy in the entire middle east...

    He gets this idea from the fact that the Knesset is overwhelmingly Jewish. Which is of course hardly surprising as the entire population is overwhelmingly Jewish. It's not because non-Jews can't vote or can't have representatives, there just aren't enough of them to have more than a token presence in parliament.

    Given his past statements, he wants Israel to just go away, be replaced with another muslim nation, let's call it "the palestinian authority", as in his ideology this would lead to eternal peace in the region (as well as getting him his Nobel peace prize if it happens in the next 2 weeks).

    Eh? This statement was clearly in the context of a hypothetical one-state solution, *wherein individuals presently in Palestine would be citizens of that one state*. The "not enough of them" reference would not at all hold in this hypothetical.

    You have completely misunderstood what he said and are projecting worst-case scenarios that nobody in the Obama administration ever considered, let alone promoted.

    Did Israel become the only democracy in the "Middle East" before or after it expelled the Palestinians off their land?

    Cyprus, Turkey, and Lebanon are in the Middle East and are pretty much democracies compared to most countries in the region, despite the latter two having deficiencies. Downvoted because what you state is not what Kerry claimed.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM