Israel is a cautionary tale for the Anglo-American Left
Netanyahu's multi-ethnic coalition proves that demography isn't destiny
Despite the breadth and intensity of the ongoing political protests in Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netenyahu’s coalition — in possession of 64 of the seats in the 120-member Knesset — has the support of just over half the electorate.
And it draws on a diverse range of demographics, including ultra-Orthodox Haredim, West Bank settlers, and the Mizrahi and Ethiopian working class; the ‘left behinds’ of peripheral Israel. In fact, Israel is one country where the darker your skin colour, the more conservative your politics are likely to be.
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In fact, there are many nations around the world where conservative and authoritarian leaders came to power through harnessing the support of ethnically diverse, or entirely non-white, working- and lower middle-class voters.
These include Brazil under Jair Bolsonaro — where at one point a whole one-third of the former president’s party in Congress was non-white, a much higher proportion than that of Labour in the UK or the Democratic Party in the US. Other examples include Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Narendra Modi in India, and more recently Ron DeSantis in Florida. All have shown the potential of conservatives to mobilise a broad-based, multi-ethnic, working- and lower-middle class support.
It highlights a potential problem for Left-wing and liberal parties: demography is not destiny, and increasingly diverse societies will not by themselves produce increasingly liberal or redistributive policies.
We are seeing this with Hispanic voters in the US, and we may yet see it with black and Asian Britons: as the political scientists Rob Ford and Marie Sobolewska point out in their book Brexitland, the current support of most ethnic-minority Britons for the Labour Party is contingent and by no means permanent. It is easy to see the current alliance between ‘white identity liberals’ and ethnic minorities breaking down over the next few decades, with the potential result of the Left in both the UK and the United States becoming as isolated and impotent as it is in Israel.
The situation in Israel today therefore provides a salutary warning of a possible future for the Anglo-American Left: a multi-racial working and lower middle-class voting for conservative and populist politicians while a marginalised Left reliant on white postgraduates is shut out of political power. Because, while there is plenty of evidence that the general population is becoming more liberal on a host of issues, they will only catch up with the activist base of Left-wing parties if the latter do not themselves become ever more radical.
The case of Israel also tells us that this would not be helped by proportional representation, which far from guaranteeing that a ‘progressive alliance’ would dominate politics, might instead allow a small number of religiously devout voters to serve as kingmakers and exert a political influence vastly disproportionate to their numbers.
In a PR system, a UKIP/Brexit Party-style social conservative party might win 5-10% of the seats in Parliament. PR would presumably lead to the emergence of new parties, and hence the possibility of a ‘religious rights’ party opposed to abortion and LGBT rights winning a few seats — and potentially holding kingmaker power, forcing concessions from the Conservatives in exchange for their support.
To avoid the irrelevance of the Israeli Left, social democratic parties around the world would therefore do well to avoid divisive ‘culture war’ topics, and instead focus on the socio-economic issues that can consistently win support among a majority of the population.
I appreciated this short article. Other commentators have suggested that the Dems’ belief that open immigration will result in a society of poor immigrants who will forever vote Democratic is misguided, but I hadn’t seen the comparisons with the conservative voting patterns of multiethnic populations in other countries.
Unfortunately, it will likely take years, if not decades, for these pro-conservative trends to fully manifest in the US.
This is what proportional representation in elections does to a country. Several small political parties can get together to give minority interests majority control.
While I have to admit that I know little about Israel, I find this article confusing.
The most obvious ethnic groups in Israel are Jews and Arabs. With the Arabs becoming the majority in the not too distant future in any unified state. Which is where things are headed, given the lack of traction of the two state alternative. Not dissimilar to the situation in Northern Ireland as regards the demographics.
But this article appears to be arguing about ethnic sub-divisions within the Jewish population. While ignoring the elephant in the room.
To be absolutely clear, this is not a comment siding with either Jews or Arabs or taking any position on that.
The Israeli situation cannot be compared to many other nations. It has peculiarities of it’s own which are strongly related to the Jewish religion. The ideological debate is between seculars and more religious people. First of all the term secular is rather debatable among all religions and especially in the case of the Jews. Woody Allen (who is Jewish) summs it up extremely well with a very serious joke: ” Thanks God I am an atheist”.
Hence I do not think there really exists a person who is 100 % secular, in one way or another he has a certain degree of religion no matter how small.
Why do I raise this issue ? Because unless it is well highlighted we cannot understand fully what is happening in Israel right now.
Bwarp bwarp bwarp! A lot of twaddle from a loony leftist who doesn’t like anything that wasn’t invented yesterday.
There is an exception to this rule: Continental Europe and Scandinavia, where National Front and various populist outfits in Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Sweden, Italy and Hungary are quite homogenous in terms of ethnicity. These are not fringes, really – they can win elections.
This flavour of populism does struggle in the Anglosphere, though. Not sure why.
Some call it ‘apartheid’. But it’s worse – all South Africa had to do was introduce universal suffrage. Israel already has that, but to remain a Jewish state, it has to exclude people whose grandparents or great-grandparents were born in Palestine, and allow in people with more distant, or non-existent, connections. On the basis of ‘race’.
I don’t understand the downvotes, to be honest. What you have described is literally how Israel has been built in order to be the weird modern jewish theocracy that it is
Much of Unherd’s boomer audience has an instinctive adoration for Israel and reflexively lashes out at any criticism against it.
Bwarp bwarp bwarp! Nothing to say on the comment, so comment on the commentator. Just another keyboard cowboy – all hat, no cattle!
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