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The international workshop on "Themes of Conflict in Middle Eastern Democracies: A Comparative Perspective from Turkey and Israel" – organized by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, the Middle East and Africa Research Center at Kadir Has University, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung's Turkey office – took place on November 5-7, 2014 in Istanbul. The workshop brought together academics, politicians, and civil society members from Turkey and Israel. It aimed at creating a dialogue between academics and civil society members of both countries by engaging them in a discussion on the comparative aspects of challenges to their democracies.
The workshop centered on the theme of majoritarian democracy; each session tackled a different aspect of this phenomenon from the perspective of Turkey and Israel. The sessions began with a general theoretical discussion on majoritarianism and how majoritarian rule has a tendency of becoming authoritarian by imposing its will on the minority and eliminating political discussion on differences. This session was followed by a discussion on political parties and grassroots politics. The participants emphasized that deliberative democratic practices and grassroots civil society organizations are important in overcoming majoritarianism because they create a social and political space where minority interests can be voiced. The next session, dealing with the role of minorities in ethno-democracies, touched upon the secularization process in Israel and Turkey and stressed that the process of secularization does not necessarily create a secular or liberal society in terms of values and world view. In addition, the importance of dealing with the past through the experiences of the Kurdish and Armenian minorities in Turkey and the Palestinian citizens of Israel in advancing the internal reconciliation process was stressed. The last two sessions of the workshop dealt with the economic and legal systems. The economic session tried to answer whether economic growth serves the privileged few or the whole population. The session on the legal system focused on the failed constitutional reform process in Turkey; it also dealt with the importance of truth commissions and the role of the .Supreme Court in Israel
.Overall, a comparative discussion on majoritarian democracy showed how certain processes are similar in Turkey and Israel and created a common platform for dialogue
The proceedings of the workshop are in the file attached below (English begins on page 72).