Democracy at War: Israel's Twisted Image in Western Democracies

Date of event:

On Tuesday 10th 2017, The Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations (PCTR) in cooperation with Forum 2000 held another important debate at the CEVRO Institute. The topic of this debate “Democracy at war: Twisted view of Israel in Western democracies” could not be more timely. Levant continues to be the hotbed for conventional conflicts in 21st century and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not seem to be nearing its desired end. Yet when we look at the situation from the “Western civilization” perspective we see a very twisted image of the conflicts themselves, but most importantly a very twisted image of Israel and the role she plays in the Middle East. PCTR therefore invited three distinguished professors from prestigious universities and institutes from around the world to discuss this phenomenon, where the most important Western ally in the Middle East is being critiqued by virtually every European country and by a significant part of the US population.

Our guests were Dr. Amichai Magen, the Head of the MA program in Diplomacy & Conflict Studies at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy located in Herzliya, Israel; Dr. Joshua Muravchik, a distinguished fellow at the World Affairs Institute and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, both located in Washington, DC; and last but not least Dr. Dan Schueftan, the chairman of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, Israel. All three gentleman write extensively about the role of Israel in the Middle East as well as the import role Israel has in combating terrorism and fighting the radical forces form the Levant region.

Alexandr Vondra, the president of the PCTR, opened the venue and Tomáš Pojar, a professor of Security Studies and the head of International Relations at the CEVRO institute, moderated the debate.

In their opening statements, all three guests agreed that the number one reason why Western countries hold a very twisted view of Israel is because they disregard key facts about the role Israel plays in the Middle East. Dr. Joshua Muravchik argued that although there are disputes between the Israelis and the Palestinians (Jews and Arabs) the relationship between them is far better than anywhere else in the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs live side by side. Dr. Amichai Magen seconded this argument and also mentioned that until very recently, Israel was the only fighting democracy since the end of Cold War, a fact both Europe and US often gladly omit. Another obvious fact that Dr. Dan Schueftan highlighted was that there are tensions in the Arab world between interests and values and that it has a major impact on the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, Israel, since they have to operate in a region full of hostile powers.

In regards to the Middle East region and Israel, both Dr. Schueftan and Dr. Magen argued that Israel is an open and liberal society living in Hobbesian world, where only self-interest drives the Middle Eastern countries without the regard for others in the region. Because of this dynamic, peace in the Middle East is not an option. None of the Arabic nations treat each other as equal counterparts, which only deepens the friction between them and creates more conflicts. A very interesting point was raised by Dr. Muravchik as he commented on the difference between European view of Israel and that of US. He said that since religion plays a much more important role in the US culture than in Europe, Americans are much more sympathetic to Israel. They also do not have a significant history of anti-semitism, which is still a relevant topic in some European regions. Both Israel and US have shared much of their intelligence since the end of World War II and US provided Israel with significant military help during the Six-Day war and Yom Kippur War. Therefore US views Israel in a much brighter light than European, although it is not perfect.

The concluding part of the debate was enriched by some heated comments from few members of the audience to which our guests promptly and eloquently responded and received loud ovations from the crowd. They fiercely critiqued the Palestinian media campaign that tries to blame Israeli government for hostile engagement towards the Palestinians. In their concluding remarks, all three guests reiterated their previous comments and emphasised the good that Israel does in Middle East and the enormous help it provides to Europe and the US as it combats terrorist organisations at their epicentre, which seems to be working very well. They encouraged the audience to think again about the Israel of 21st century and about the position it has in the world affairs.

Thank to all the participants and hopes that you will join us for our future events. Debates in open society are the bedrock of democracy and we must all cherish that we can share our views openly and without retribution.