One of the clearest rules that distinguishes a democratic state from a non-democratic state is the principle of equality when it comes to rights and obligations. In a democratic country, all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality when it comes to national assets, services and resources, and all citizens regardless of race, religion, gender or origin are equally obligated by national duties.
For example, in a democratic country everyone must pay taxes (although at different rates, of course,) and everyone must obey the law. On the other hand, every citizen in a democratic state is entitled to enjoy individual freedoms. One is entitled to purchase assets in the country, marry anyone he or she wish, work wherever one wants, study whatever one wishes, and express himself or herself as they wish..
In short, equality is the basic tenet of a liberal western democracy and without it a country is not democratic in practice although possibly democratic by law.
Last week, in a series of three decisions that are separate but connected through a stench of racism and discrimination, Israel entered the dismal pantheon of non-democratic states. This past Wednesday, Israel decided to be like apartheid-era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist.
Let's start with obligations. In a democratic country that has mandatory military service, all citizens must serve with no exception (aside from those who are unable to for health reasons or similar grounds.) A person should not be getting an exemption from service based on one's religion or race. And there, with a slight hand gesture, the Knesset decided to "extend" the legislation known as the Tal Law – which initially was meant to be valid for five transitory years only, in order to examine the possibility of integrating the strictly Orthodox into the IDF.
This was a blatantly anti-democratic arrangement and even those who drafted it reemphasized that it was merely a temporary agreement for five years only, yet around here the temporary becomes permanent, particularly when we're talking about discrimination and racism.
The second apartheid decision has to do with the apparent "good news" that those who are unable to wed as a result of religious limitations would be able to marry each other now. What a disgusting expression that is. In a democratic country, a couple is allowed to marry however it wishes and the State is not at all allowed to interfere in this choice. It must allow any man to marry the woman he chooses (and in some countries same-sex marriages are also allowed,) because the State has no interest, and must not have one, in an individual's happiness and in the person one chooses to spend their life with.
But around here the situation is different. The division is based on religions and sects, and a member of one religion is not allowed to marry someone of a different religion. This has led to the emergence of a situation whereby an Israeli whose mother isn't Jewish, therefore making him non-Jewish according to Jewish law, was unable to marry in Israel at all.
Yet instead of allowing such person or any other person to marry as they wish, the government decided to establish a new sect. Now, a tainted sect has been created of people who can only marry among themselves. And so, an IDF officer whose last name is Rabinovich or even Cohen, who was born to a Jewish father but not a Jewish mother, would not be able to marry the woman who served in the army with him because she, lo and behold, is a kosher Jew while he is "tainted."
The culmination of this chutzpa is the fact that the current justice minister makes pretenses to call this racist arrangement a "breakthrough."
The third racist decision was the one that banned Arab citizens of Israel from purchasing national land. Well, not all land, but only a part of it - Jewish National Fund land.
Imagine the French government banning Jews from purchasing land in Paris and its vicinity. Imagine that the United States would ban Jews from purchasing land in New England, because that's the cradle of American culture. What would we say then?
Yet when it comes to Arabs we keep silent, because we have been accustomed to think that in Israel there are citizens of various ranks and not everyone is entitled to the same rights.
The highlight of this absurd situation is that racist discourse takes place in the Israeli Knesset, yet nobody sees their own racism. Arab Knesset members, who justifiably protested the terrible discrimination against them, voted in favor of the Tal Law, which allows discrimination among Jews.
Instead of Arab Knesset members backing the enlistment of Arab Israelis to the army and playing an appropriate role when it comes to duties and rights, they preserve the racism. And so, all the anti-Zionist forces joined together – the Arabs, strictly Orthodox and settlers – to bring Israel to a place of chaos and darkness, blatant racism and screaming discrimination. All of them joined forces in order to bring us to a state of apartheid.
History has amused us by bringing these decisions at the beginning of the month of Av. Anyone who will be studying the destruction of the Third Temple, that is, the collapse of the Zionist enterprise and of the State of Israel, would certainly emphasize the above-mentioned disastrous decisions.
History played another trick by bringing these decisions a day after Jabotinsky Day was marked. Ze'ev Jabotinsky was a full-fledged atheist, secular, and Zionist who wrote that Arabs and Jews will be playing in this country together. Had he been resurrected and seen those who pretend to be his successors pass these despicable and contemptible decisions, he would certainly wish to die.
The writer is a former Shinui cabinet minister