It has been a bad few days for the democratic credentials of The Only Democracy In The Middle East. Last week, there was the unedifying spectacle of an Israeli Government Minister suggesting that Palestinians might be genetically defective.
This week, Al-Ahram reports that McDonalds has banned the use of Arabic by its staff in its Israeli restaurants, and that the mere use of Arabic by an Israeli-Arab employee serving an Israeli-Arab customer may constitute grounds for dismissal. This in a country where 20% of the citizens are Arab-Israeli, and Arabic is recognised as one of the nation's two official languages.
Yep, you spotted him. Well done. That big red X is hard to miss isn't it? According to Maariv:
[T]he white hard hats worn by Israeli-Arab construction workers building the new wing of the Knesset have been spray-painted with a red “X”. The Security Department instructed that their helmets be marked so that it would be easier to distinguish them from other, foreign workers and keep a constant watch on their movements. The instructions were issued even though many of the workers were cleared by the General Security Service within the last month. In a story scheduled for the Hebrew magazine section of Friday’s Maariv, the X is explained as a target for security snipers posted on the Knesset balcony, in the event of a riot or attack.
Unbelievable. I wonder how they decided on the red 'X'? Maybe they were all out of yellow stars.
Update, 10 Mar '04: The War on Democracy continues. The Israeli authors of the Geneva Accord were today barred from debating with Israeli students at the Ort Comprehensive High School in Arad. The long-planned debate was one of a series of presentations planned for the students (including speakers from the Israeli Right, and representatives of the settlers movement in the Gaza Strip), and was cancelled at the last minute at the initiative of Deputy Education Minister Zvi Hendel of the far-right National Union Party.
Students were not impressed to find out that the Geneva speakers had been banned, commenting:
At first, they told us that they [Beilin, Lipkin-Shahak, and Arieli] had cancelled the gathering. Now that I know that they were barred from entering the school because they are from the left, I am angry.
We live in a democratic country, and we need to decide for ourselves, without the Education Ministry deciding for us whom we can meet with.
Is it a good sign or a bad sign when your eleventh graders show more understanding of democratic principles that your government?