Observations of an Expat: Who Am I Politics

July 20, 2018 Asia , Middle East , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

Reuters photo

 

By

Tom Arms

 

 

It is apartheid. Or, at the very least, the beginning of apartheid. It is also the legal enshrinement of a disturbing trend in politics worldwide.

 

Israel’s “Jewish nation state” bill says that Jews have the “exclusive right to national self-determination” in Israel; Hebrew is now the only official language and advancing Jewish settlements is now a national interest.

 

The new bill is different from other legislation. It will become part of Israel’s basic laws which underpin the country’s legal system and so it is more difficult to repeal.

 

Adalah, an Arab rights non-governmental organisation, condemned the law as an attempt to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”. Ethnic Arabs make up 20 percent of the population, They have long been prejudiced against. Now it is legal.

 

This is how South Africa’s apartheid regime started in 1948. The National Party swept to power on the platform that national identity should be inextricably tied to racial identity.

 

Israeli protesters have managed to prevent passage of a clause that would have enshrined in law the creation of Jewish only communities. But observers believe it is only a matter of time before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition manages to re-insert it.

 

Israel’s new law would be disturbing at the best of times. It is particularly disturbing now because it is the ultimate expression of what has been termed “national identity—or identity– politics” which is sweeping the world’s democracies.

 

In democratic systems politicians are elected by a majority vote to represent all of their constituents, not just those who elected them. They are also responsible for insuring that all of their constituency residents are protected by law. This, of course, can create problems for the elected representatives. They may have to adjust their campaign promises to fulfil their responsibilities. This could in turn expose them to the charge of lying. The alternative is to effectively leave a large proportion of the population unrepresented and pushed towards extralegal methods to achieve their aims.

 

The current situation is complicated by globalisation and migration patterns. It is a truism that the rise of Donald Trump can be partly attributed to the American white community’s fear that the Hispanic and African-American community is expected to comprise a majority of the American population by the middle of this century.

 

Fear of creeping Islamisation was a major factor behind the Brexit vote. It also resulted in the election of right-wing populist governments in Austria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic; victory of an anti-immigrant coalition in Italy; and political instability in Germany.

 

In each of these instances power-hungry politicians exploited the ethnic majority’s fear of a loss of national identity to push through measures which are seen as protecting the rights of the majority.

 

Netanyahu spelled out this position when he justified his new law to the Israeli Knesset. He pledged to insure civil rights, but added: “The majority also has rights and the majority decides.”

 

There have always been politicians who have represented special interest groups. In the British Parliament there is a clear link between the trade union movement and the Labour Party and for many years specific trade unions “sponsored” selected Labour MPs. The Conservative Party is largely financed by contributions from big business.

 

In Lebanon the divisions are legally enshrined with seats reserved for the Christian and Muslim populations. This is topped off with a gentleman’s agreement that dates back to 1943 which reserves the presidency for a Maronite Christian. The result is perpetual political gridlock. Both groups see their responsibility as battling for the interests of their respective group rather than seeking consensus in pursuit of national goals.

 

Identity politics may have always been with us—and probably always will be– but they are becoming more pronounced and creating greater divisions. Israel’s solution is wrong. It enshrines the divisions in law and thereby exacerbates them. Discussion, compromise, consensus and win/win goals should be the only answer to the problem of identity politics.

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and emailtom.arms@lookaheadnews.com.

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