Challenging Israel’s Democratic Process

In the Christian Science Monitor (09 Feb. 2001), Helena Cobban’s article entitled “Sharon, the peacemaker?” points out that voter turnout “was an unprecedentedly low 60 percent.” She then parenthetically adds that: “At least 62 percent of eligible Israeli voters did not vote for Sharon.”

This theme is repeated in an editorial in the British Guardian (08 Feb. 2001): “Of 4.5m eligible Israeli voters, only 1.6m backed Mr. Sharon. Should all Israelis be condemned by the minority’s foolishness?”

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To the Editor of the Christian Science Monitor:
oped@csps.com

Earlier this month, the only democracy in the Middle East chose its new prime minister. In extraordinary chutzpah, however, the article “Sharon, the peacemaker?” (Feb 9) attempts to delegitimize the voters’ choice. Writer Helena Cobban claims that voter turnout “was an unprecedentedly low 60 percent” and then parenthetically writes, “At least 62 percent of eligible Israeli voters did not vote for Sharon.”

Ms. Cobban is distorting the facts to draw false conclusions.

Only despotic countries like North Korea or Syria report 99 percent voter turnout. Truly free elections mean that citizens are also free not to vote. In the United States, only 51 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2000 presidential elections. This means that President George W. Bush received fewer than 25 percent of the eligible votes; additionally he did not even win the popular vote. To paraphrase Cobban’s calculation, “At least 75 percent of eligible American voters did not vote for Bush.”

In years when only congressional elections are held, American voter turnout drops to 36-38 percent. But no one makes such charges undermining the American president’s authority or legitimacy.

So why is Israel treated differently?

I would appreciate a response explaining why you have allowed such a biased article to appear in your fine publication.


 

To the Editor of The Guardian:
editor@guardianunlimited.co.uk

Earlier this month, the only democracy in the Middle East chose its new prime minister. In extraordinary chutzpah, your February 7 reader (editorial) chooses to delegitimize the voters’ choice: “Of 4.5m eligible Israeli voters, only 1.6m backed Mr. Sharon. Should all Israelis be condemned by the minority’s foolishness?”

Your article is distorting the facts to draw false conclusions.

Only despotic countries like North Korea or Syria report 99 percent voter turnout. Truly free elections mean that citizens are also free not to vote. In the United States, only 51 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2000 presidential elections. This means that President George W. Bush received fewer than 25 percent of the eligible votes; additionally he did not even win the popular vote. To paraphrase your assertion, “Should all Americans be condemned by the minority’s foolishness?”

In years when only congressional elections are held, American voter turnout drops to 36-38 percent. But no one makes such charges undermining the American president’s authority or legitimacy.

The Guardian admits its dilemma: “George Bush, Vladimir Putin, and Jiang Zemin all attained equivalent positions by less convincingly legitimate means. All three have current responsibility for sustained, systematic human rights abuses, in Iraq, Chechnya and Tibet. Ethically speaking, should Britain thus cut ties with the US, Russia and China?” The Guardian leader suggests a conclusion that Britain cannot cut ties with those countries. But the editorial continues: “Britain must make clear its moral repugnance of much that Mr. Sharon stands for and has done. Yet nor can it walk away, holding its nose. More than ever, the Middle East needs tough-minded, honest brokers.”

Considering the violence spawned and spurred by the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, it appears to me that the Guardian is sniffing up the wrong tree.

I would appreciate a response explaining why you would publish such a biased editorial in your publication.

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