Originally published at Middle East Monitor.
Lorna Fitzsimons believes that Israel's lurch to the right is just one facet of a global democratic crisis, but I would argue that the Israeli rejectionism that she defended during her time as head of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) was a key factor in creating an era of militarism that helped to bring that crisis about. Moreover, the former Labour MP noted last month that, "A notion is spreading in the West that Israel is fast becoming an illiberal ethno-democracy - fear-driven, bigoted, and small minded." She was introducing a debate on Israeli democracy in what turned out be one of her final acts with the lobby group and, she insisted, "that notion is just not true".
The claim drew a powerful response from activist Ben White, which outlined the thoroughly illiberal ethnocentric history of Israeli repression of the Palestinians since 1948 in the New Statesman. That in turn drew a rejoinder from BICOM's Dr Toby Greene and Professor Alan Johnson, who argued that a majority of people in Israel endorsed "full equality of rights for Arab citizens of the state" in a recent survey by the Israeli Democracy Institute. A similar majority of Israelis support the long-overdue establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, which will fulfil the national rights of Palestinian Arabs.
Israeli public support for a two-state solution is taken by Greene and Johnson as evidence of Israel's democratic credentials. Yet even if one accepts the premise, a further step in the argument is necessary, in the shape of evidence that the Israeli state is prepared to implement that popular will. Just why, for example, is a Palestinian state so long overdue?