In his recent New York Times op-ed, Peter Beinart makes a linguistic distinction between “nondemocratic Israel” and “democratic Israel” – a distinction meant to jolt American Jews from their slumbers regarding the reality of life for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The linguistic distinction is, in my view, brilliantly conceived.

It is also too kind.

See, Israel’s democracy is not merely cracking under the weight of its own internal prejudices and perceived external threats, as Lara Friedman clearly outlined recently at Open Zion. It is also becoming, all too often, a satirical stage upon which the country’s political players continuously – and unintentionally – mock the idea of democracy while attempting to defend the skewed version that currently exists in Israel.

Witness the latest episode, which was set off by “flytilla” activists who, on Sunday, attempted to legally fly into Tel Aviv on commercial jets and declare their intention to visit Bethlehem. The activists (called provocateurs seeking the de-legitimization of Israel) and their protest attempt (visiting Palestine) put Israeli officials everywhere on edge. So much so that the idea of democracy was supplanted by a different one: stop these protesters from entering Israel, even if we look absurd in doing so.

How absurd?

At +972 Magazine, Dimi Reider was forwarded a contract that a Swedish citizen was forced to sign in order to gain entry into the country at a border crossing, the type of contract free societies do not impose upon frolicking tourists. It is truly a sight to behold:

Can one imagine a similar scenario playing out in America? Picture a European tourist, driving into New York State from Canada, being handed a contract by a border guard that demanded she agree not participate in any Occupy Wall Street or Tea Party protests, for doing so would result in her immediate expulsion from the country.

Of course not.

Such absurdity doesn’t stop with the above contract. Netanyahu’s spokesperson, Ofir Gendelman, presented the official letter those “flytilla” activists who actually landed in Israel were to receive upon stepping foot in Ben Gurion. (Countless flights were canceled at Israel’s behest, preventing over sixty percent of the original activists from landing in Israel.)

The letter was composed with serious intention:

The “Middle East’s sole democracy” is turning away those who desire to visit the Occupied Territories with a letter extolling Israel as a beacon of human rights, religious freedom and equality. It is a country that has transformed the mere act of visiting Palestinian lands into an act of protest, as an act of de-legitimization.

What’s being de-legitimized is not Israel, but Israel’s own democratic standing (not to mention a future Palestinian state).

These contracts and letters border on an absurdism that, unfortunately, is anything but funny.

Follow the author on Twitter @David_EHG

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