Monday, February 28, 2011

Israeli Legal Structure: Uphold Laws of the Land: Ottoman & British Legacy

Shlomo Cramer in the uniform of British police 1938. Israelis served in British police and armies during World War II in the hope of stopping the German forces  http://pikiwiki.co.il/?action=gallery&img_id=5752
I am still thinking about how to explain to the average Libyan citizen daily democratic life.  US president Obama said recently "Democracy does not end with free elections". That might seem like an obvious statement, yet in many places this idea is not completely clear. How do you actually explain democracy? Israel is probably one of the best examples of democratic success. A country started completely unplanned by a few immigrants from around the world, mostly from non-democratic countries (Russia, Yemen, Poland). Now it is one of the best examples of democratic government. Democracy in Israel is complex and sometimes not exactly what you would think (a more direct description would be "a mess" and definitely "frustrating"). Still, Israeli democracy is free and usually fair for the average citizen. Democracy in Israel also support a strange legal system. A system made up of Jewish, Ottoman (Turkish), British and international legal roots all at once. The Israeli legal system resembles other democratic areas in the society. There is acceptance and compromise across the board. In government, business, culture, religion, economy and lifestyle, very different democratic ideas make up the landscape. People live with differences and usually try to accept them. Religious live with secular, nationalists live with free traders, business with labor. This acceptance is what makes for real democracy: living with differences and allowing others to have their own lives. Israel's legal system is a good example of democracy in this country. 

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Money, Industry, Innovation: What Counts in the Israeli Economy

   

Lots of people have written about the "amazing Israeli economy". Just recently the two books Start-up Nation and The Israel Test (Guilder) are examples of how Israel amazes people around the world. The reality is a little different than just simple amazement. Some things are truly amazing, and people coming to Israel the first time really see us as unique. Some are not amazing at all, but are still different. Israel, like many small countries, does a few things very well. There are great engineering companies here and some of the best international engineering teams for companies like: Intel, IBM, Motorola and Microsoft. Some things like drip irrigation and solar water heating are simple and amazing and made a huge difference in how Israelis live. But the most unique factor here is how people have focused on the economy like very few other countries. The countries who have done similar things also succeeded: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Brazil, Chile and recently China. They achieved just as much as Israel. The one big difference between Israel and other countries is our geographic location. Some it tied to natural resources: Israel has none! People do not expect Israel, amongst so many Arab countries, to be so successful. They also do not expect a new country, with very little to start with, not even a base population. Essentially the country started out with fresh immigrants all coming from a distressed environment. European Jews came from that horrible experience in the holocaust. Middle-Eastern Jews coming from discrimination in Arab countries.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Israelis Would Tell Arabs About Democracy: You Know Best...

What would you tell all the citizens of a country who just elected a democratic government? What would be the best and simplest pieces of advice? I have been thinking about this while Arab protesters (or is it revolutionaries) have been trying to remove despot rulers. Once you have a democratically elected government, how do you live like an effective citizen? What will make democracy in daily life better than a dictator run government? Probably every free state leader is searching for this answer right now. How can you teach a billion people to "just do it" democracy? (taking a phrase from a Nike commercial) Once the Arab states adopt democracy, this will be the largest change in the world's social structure in probably 200 years, maybe ever. So while the eastern European states may think that their shift from communism to democracy was a big event, the one going on now may overshadow that wave of change.

You Know Better Than Your Government: ? !

The one thing that you hear in Israel is criticism AND improvement on government policy. In a democracy everyone has to give his point of view. But that does not mean protesting with signs on the street, or screaming at a house of representative in session, or complaining by mail to government clerks. Just annoying people is not useful and actually makes democracy less effective. I am talking about a useful suggestion if it is keeping the streets clean from dog poop (shit). As the problem was in Tel Aviv a few years ago. All the way to how medical service is organized and funded. Government by the people means exactly that. Each person has to improve and contribute to their government's operation. If you lived under a dictator for a long time, in the Arab countries case forever, than this idea is the hardest to grasp. Some requests by citizens are not going to be popular. The government is going to set rules (i.e. you have to clean up after your dog). Then the government is going to start sending out people to enforce the new regulation. Then the government is going to start punishing and fining people (i.e. it will cost you $20 for every poop we find). Then the people are going to fight back and abuse, curse and even hit regulators that come to punish dog poop violators. You get the point. Sometimes democratic government is not good for everyone, it is suppose to be good for the majority. But the operative word here is "suppose". That does not happen every time. But most of the time it does.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball: Professional Team as a Reflecton on Economy

   
   

Do sports teams make a city? or the other way around? At one time US sports franchises tried to convince city governments that sports teams are important to make the city an important destination site. The argument went, if a city is important enough to have other cultural sites like museums, symphonies and music halls, why not a sports stadium. This has been such a successful argument in the US that many cities have made the investment in a new stadium and attracted a sports team to come with it. Nobody has made the same argument to Tel Aviv. The city has two soccer teams, a basketball team and various other organizations running sailing, swimming and other sports clubs.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Should Israel Send Aid to Arab Revolutionaries?

Protest poster against Quadaffi in recent days. From Haaretz.co.il story, 22-Feb-11

Cuba and France were known in Africa for sending doctors during civil wars and revolutions. Once in a while they would also send soldiers to fight on one side or to stop massacres. As a whole, African revolutionaries would not turn down medical aid from outside countries. Israel has helped people in crisis all around the world. Earthquakes, tsunamis, famine and war are times where people simply need help. So Israelis go, no matter what happens between governments and politicians. If the Libyan and Bahrainian clashes turn into full blown civil wars, should Israel intervene? Most Israelis would say ABSOLUTELY YES. There are plenty of countries willing to help Arab revolutionaries. I am sure that once again France and certainly Italy will send medical aid to Libyans. In the Persian gulf states probably the Iranians will want to jump in. But India is also close by and has a good medical system with well trained doctors and nurses. Will Bahrain even allow Israeli doctors to land and treat their injured? I would like to think that the answer is YES.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Will New Arab Democracies Open Diplomatic Relationships With Israel?

Let's look forward a year from now. Let's dream of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Bahrain with a democratically elected government. Let's dream a little of open diplomatic relationship and trade agreements with all these new democracies. Not just with Israel but with most of the countries in the world. Happy buzz around the world for the great advances in the Arab world. Something most of the west was hoping for since the 1950s. What does that mean in terms of diplomatic relationships with Israel? Not too far fetched if you just go back a few years. Remember the had shakes between Rabin and Arafat? Rabin didn't want to do it, but he did. Arafat was full of himself. They both got a Nobel Prize for Peace (1994). What most people forget is how the whole world suddenly loved Israel. They suddenly thought that the Palestinians are going to be just like the Israelis, free and democratic and unbelievably successful. Well, that didn't last, but it could have. If the Palestinians did become a democratic pluralistic territory, regardless of the issues with Israel. But with no real example of pluralistic democracy in the Arab world, that did not happen. Maybe it was just too hard to expect a small territory to innovate while organizing a whole new world for themselves.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Arab Uprisings All Around: Quiet Tension in Israeli Press

 
 
  Haaretz showing protests around the Arab world. Not exactly democracy yet, but quietly hoping for a change. From Haaretz.com 18-Feb-2011  

Arabs are rioting now for over a month. It started with Tunisia. A country that seemed quiet and cultured. The Israelis who came from Tunisian descend are known for their quiet personality and hard work. Then came the Egyptians, hardly people of protest, at least not the violent kind. We still hear a bit of echoes from Iranian protests. But somehow the government's harsh suppression and communication isolation has made us forget. We hear protest in other places, like little lights turning on in the middle of the night. One should remember that Israel is the only democracy in our little corner of the world. From the Atlantic ocean to India. Far south as South Africa and who knows how far north, maybe Russia if one considers that government democratic. Israel is by far the only democracy here. So suddenly seeing countries who did not go through the adoption of democracy asking for rule by the people is refreshing. But not really. Israelis are cautious about celebrating democracy in Egypt, Syria or Jordan. Here, we better off not getting our hopes up. We have seen the rise of Gaddafi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt. We have seen changes in economy and government in the gulf states. We have seen the war between Iran and Iraq, with very little change in how these countries are ruled and their acceptance of democratic processes by the people. So the press is quiet about our hopes, so is the government. Unlike Obama and Clinton in the press, Bibi and Lieberman are shy to advise Arabs what to do next.

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