Israel stands among the countries of the world most committed to achieving real equality for all its citizens. Pictured: Members of Israel's new cabinet attend their first meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel on June 13, 2021. (Photo by Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)
I challenge anyone to name a parliamentary democracy that has had a more diverse coalition government -- racially, religiously, ethnically, ideologically, politically, national origin -- than the current Israeli government. It includes people of nearly every color from Black Ethiopians to brown Muslims to swarthy Sephardim to pale Russians. It includes a modern Orthodox Jew as Prime Minister, along with fundamentalist Muslims and atheist and agnostics Jews. It has a gay cabinet member, a deaf member of the Knesset and people who trace their roots to Asia, Africa, Europe and America.
A record number of nine women will be serving in the new Israeli cabinet. The current Prime Minister is a right-winger. The Prime Minister designate who is currently Minster of Foreign Affairs, is a left-winger. Every shade of political opinion -- and there are many in Israel -- is represented in this government. The old expression "two Jews, three opinions" can now be changed to "20 Israeli cabinet members, 30 opinions" -- because each cabinet member represents multiple opinions within their parties.
All the same, bigots, particularly on the hard left in the United States and Europe, insist on characterizing Israel as an apartheid state. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel has real diversity, not the kind of phony diversity that characterizes many American institutions. American diversity is simply a euphemism for more Blacks, and especially more Blacks who hold the same views about political and racial matters. It has little to do with diversity of attitudes, experiences, views.
The best evidence of this truism came from Google's appointment of a chief diversity officer who had expressed anti-gay and anti-Jewish views. It is inconceivable that Google with its vast resources and ability to check everything, did not know of his bigoted views. He is Black and that is all that diversity means at Google and many other American institutions. It is different in Israel, because Israel is such an inherently diverse nation that takes its diversity seriously.
Does this mean that perfect equality has been achieved in the nation state of the Jewish people? Of course not. Like every democracy struggling with racial and ethnic issues. Israel is far from perfect. Its laws mandate equality, but discriminatory practices persist against certain groups of Jews and Muslims. Israel's courts consistently render decisions moving the country toward complete equality, but courts alone can never achieve that result.
Moreover, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and as such can give equal civil, legal, religious, linguistic and political rights to its non-Jewish citizens, but it cannot give them equal national rights. The state was created to be Jewish in character and to never discriminate against Jews in immigration or religious rights. It is the only Jewish state in a world which discriminated against Jews for thousands of years and which stood by as six million of them were murdered.
Many other nation, states and provinces around the world, with far less historical justification, have even greater national and religious characteristics. Every Muslim-majority nation is officially a Muslim state that bestows considerable benefits on members of that faith. England is an Anglican Christian state with an established religion. Catholicism is the official religion of several European countries. Many national flags and emblems have crosses, crescents or other distinctly religious symbols. Several particular national anthems refer to religion.
Many countries have laws of return that favor certain ethnic and religious groups. Several Arab countries have religious restrictions and citizenship and land ownership. And on and on. But Israel is the only nation that is routinely condemned for its law of return, its observance of Jewish holidays, its flag and its exemption from military service for most Arabs (and Jews learning full-time in religious seminaries).
Even with these limited and historically justified exceptions, Israel stands among the countries of the world most committed to achieving real equality for all its citizens.
The good news is that Israel has finally achieved a government, and that the government is among the most diverse in the history of democracy. The bad news is that its very diversity -- particularly its political and ideological differences -- also make the government one of the most unstable in the history of democracy. It prevailed in the Knesset by a vote with 60 votes out of 120, with one abstention. So stay tuned to see how the now government manages to survive the challenges of diversity. In the meantime, however, stop singling out Israel for demonization by mislabeling it as apartheid or undemocratic.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, The Case Against the New Censorship: Protecting Free Speech from Big Tech, Progressives and Universities, Hot Books, April 20, 2021. His new podcast, "The Dershow," can be seen on Spotify, Apple and YouTube. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.