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Success of Israeli democracy overlooked


The state must have an effective monopoly over the legitimate use of violence if it is to establish a strong and sustainable democracy, says a Queen’s University researcher.

“The fact that Israel has established a successful democracy under extreme stress and in a region which has been less hospitable to democracy than any other part of the world is lost, or at least downplayed, amidst the tumultuous and tragic history between Israelis and Palestinians,” says lead author Thomas S. Axworthy, Chair of the Centre for the Study of Democracy in one of two studies released by the centre today.

The study suggests that other new states or emergent liberal societies could learn from Israel’s struggle to create a successful democracy by recognizing the importance of:

• Establishing and relying on institutions and traditions that foster democratic values and practices

• Balancing minority interests with majority concerns through institutions that respond to and help foster pluralism, and

• Establishing effective institutions of governance through the fostering of a constitutional political order and rule of law.

Coinciding with Israel’s 60th anniversary the paper entitled New State to Sustained Democracy, was selected for presentation at next month’s 12th Biennial Jerusalem Conference in Canadian Studies

- Responding to the Challenge of Diversity: Canada, Israel, and Beyond. Queen’s law student and study co-author Mathew Johnson will deliver the paper in Israel.

In reviewing the history of Israeli democracy, the paper examines the pre-war influence of the Jewish Agency; the dismantling of private militias after the establishment of the state; the integration of diverse groups of citizens; and the creation of the rule of law centered in Israel’s Basic Law.

The importance of the rule of law is the centerpiece of a companion paper, Human Rights in Israel – A Brief Overview, by Queen’s law professor Tsvi Kahana, and law student Mathew Goode.

It examines the history of human rights in Israel and argues that they developed through an unwritten constitution, which sprang from the judicial recognition of diverse rights. Although parliamentary sovereignty reigned, it was the Israeli courts that gave human rights legal status.

The two papers represent the Israeli component of the Centre for the Study of Democracy’s Enhancing Democracy Abroad project. Studies on Taiwan and Afghanistan have already been released, with further investigations of Palestine, Liberia and Costa Rica to follow in the fall.


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