Call it the case of the missing correction and the tortured textbook. One year ago—Jan. 5, 2015, to be exact—CAMERA wrote to Westview Books, a textbook publisher in Boulder, Colorado requesting it correct a glaring error in the final proofs of A Political Economy of The Middle East, Fourth Edition. The mistake? The book’s authors asserted Israel was not a democracy as far as its non-Jewish minorities were concerned.
Alerted by a professor of Middle East studies who had read preliminary material from the fourth edition, CAMERA found that the authors—Alan Richards, John Waterbury, Melani Cammett and Ishac Diwan—stated, of the region’s countries, that “… in political terms these societies run the gamut from authoritarian rule by cliques and juntas to the qualified democracies of Israel [Footnote 1], Turkey, Palestine, and until the outbreak of civil war in 1975, Lebanon.”
“Footnote 1: “Israeli democracy is the real thing, but only for the country’s Jewish citizens. Non-Jews, although enjoying a range of political rights, are second-class citizens.”
The new version was to be released the following month, meaning the proofs were ready to go to press. In a letter to Westview Books, CAMERA wrote, “The allegation that Israel is a democracy only for its Jewish citizens is erroneous. All Israeli citizens, Jews and non-Jews, are equal before the law and exercise the same civil rights.”
Diwan also claimed “similar processes of moderation took place in Turkey and Tunisia.” In Tunisia, apparently; in Turkey under the Islamist party of prime minister and now president, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, hardly. “At the same time, insurgent groups using violent tactics declined,” Diwan stated, contrary to almost daily headlines from numerous Arab countries and Iran, which sponsors such groups.
*Alan Richards, University of California at Santa Cruz, joined a group of professors who in 2002 signed an open letter suggesting Israel might take advantage of a war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to conduct “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinian Arabs. Richards has said that the United States would not have peace with young Arabs until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is resolved, and that Washington should modify its initiatives toward Iran and away from “stunningly myopic” energy policies reliant on petroleum from Arab countries, the proceeds for which have funded “many a Salafi [Sunni fundamentalist] madrassas [religious school].”
*Cammett, Brown University, has referred to descriptions of Hamas as being dedicated to the destruction of Israel as “the Israeli interpretation.” Perhaps that “interpretation” is justified, given that Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel, genocide of the Jews and establishment of an Islamic theocracy over the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Israel.
*John Waterbury, New York University/Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), was president of the American University of Beirut from 1998 to 2008. In 2013-2014 he served on the advisory board of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. As a Princeton University emeritus professor, he signed a 2014 faculty petition to divest from “Israeli occupation.”
Whatever the textbook authors’ backgrounds or scholarly grounding regarding Israel—and, with benefit of the doubt, the above examples might not be definitive—CAMERA’s letter to Westview about Israeli democracy continued:
“The only significant legal difference is that unlike Israeli Jews, most Israeli Arabs, with the exception of the Druze, are not subject to military conscription. They may volunteer, and hundreds of Bedouin and some non-Bedouin Arabs, Muslims and Christians, do so, but they are not required to serve. Because the network of friendships and contacts formed in the military often proves advantageous in terms of later employment, non-service can lead to narrower economic opportunities, but that is a consequence of a social-cultural choice, not an imposed legal limitation….
“Secondarily, Turkey may be a ‘qualified democracy’—or something less, given the ruling party’s increasing, arbitrary control over the military, press and courts and attempted suppression of dissent in recent years. But ‘Palestine’ is no democracy at all, limited or otherwise. As you know, the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not constitute a sovereign country. Pending a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement negotiated according to U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and related accords such as the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, these territories remain subject to Israeli oversight in certain areas, security among them.
“The Gaza Strip, administered by Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, is a would-be Islamic theocracy, funded by Qatar and Iran. What few open opponents or dissidents remain risk summary execution. The West Bank, administered primarily by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, tends to jail rather than murder its opponents and is generally recognized as a thuggish kleptocracy. The election mandate of the president, his government and the virtually dormant legislative council expired years ago. At best, its ‘democracy’ could be termed ‘suspended,’ not ‘qualified’ and non-sovereign.
“Therefore, CAMERA requests a correction to the pending edition of A Political Economy of the Middle East, noting simply, and accurately, that Israel is a democracy, Turkey a ‘qualified’ democracy or, more to the point, an authoritarian/democratic mix, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip—not ‘Palestine’—are divided between the one-party rule of Fatah’s Palestinian Authority, whose democratic mandate expired, and the one-party rule of Hamas, an anti-democratic Islamist terrorist organization.”
Apparently the message was received, lack of response and transparency at Westview and Perseus in regard to requests for names of text editors and their contact information, notwithstanding. Received and twist
“The ways states are governed can be autocratic, competitive (as in democracies), or many shades in between. Most states in the Middle East have been of the autocratic type, with the partial exceptions of Israel, Turkey and Lebanon, which score higher on democratic indices [emphasis added].”
Evasive and misleading. Israel is not a “partial exception” to the predominance of autocratic regimes in the Middle East; it is a complete exception, the region’s one Western-style democracy.
Turkey retains significant democratic aspects, including competitive elections, but Turkish democracy is increasingly manipulated by President Erdogan and his Islamist party. That makes Turkey a “partial, uncertain exception.”
Lebanon has democratic-looking institutions, but its old sectarian spoils system, meant to keep a functioning balance among Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, Maronite and other competing Christian sects, Druze and others stumbles under the state-within-a-state overlordship of Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. That makes Lebanon—where assassination of anti-Syrian, anti-Iranian politicians was common both before and after the 2005 “Cedar Revolution”—not a partial exception but a Potemkin democracy, hostage to Iran’s mullahs, their Islamic Revolutionary Guard and its local Hezbollah henchmen.
On page 75 of The Fourth Edition, A Political Economy of the Middle East notes that in 2014 Freedom House classified 12 Middle Eastern countries as “not free” and six as only “partly free.” It doesn’t say that Freedom House rated Israel as “free.”
Page 75 also includes a chart labeled “Political Regimes and Resource Endowment Groups in the Middle East.” It categorizes countries as either “Authoritarian Republics” (Egypt is an example); “Islamic Republics” (Iran and Sudan); “Monarchies” (including Jordan and Saudi Arabia); “Transition Countries, post-2011”; (Egypt again, Libya, Jordan, Tunisia, etc.) and “Would-be and Quasi-Democracies” (Lebanon, South Sudan, Turkey and—the fourth “would-be, quasi-democracy”—Israel).
In recapping Israeli’s 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other Gaza Strip-based terrorist groups, A Political Economy of the Middle East alleges “the Israeli attacks on Gaza … were widely regarded as an attempt to undermine the power-sharing agreement between the two Palestinian factions [Hamas and the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah movement].” Widely regarded by whom? In reality, Israel counter-attacked Hamas and its allies after increasing mortar and rocket barrages into Israel—each launch a war crime—discovery of tunnels into Israel to facilitate terrorist kidnappings and murders, and the kidnap-murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas members. The text omits this as well.
Perhaps all 522 pages of A Political Economy’s small-print text are not similarly flawed. Perhaps someone other than a student required to purchase and read the book will actually do so. In either case, caveat emptor—“let the buyer beware.” And consult CAMERA’s more reliable recommended readings, a list of which can be found here.