A new study on civil liberties and political freedoms worldwide by Washington think tank Freedom House found that Israel is the only “free” country in the entire Middle East, outpacing its Arab neighbors by wide margins.
On a scale of 100, Israel’s score is 80, miles ahead of other Mideast nations, including those classified as “partly free” – Turkey (38), Jordan (37) and Kuwait (36) – and those which the report terms “not free”, with scores ranging into the negatives: Iraq (27), Iran (17), Saudi Arabia (10) and Syria (-1), which ranks dead last out of the 195 countries assessed.
Indeed, the report labels the Middle East region as “one of the world’s two worst-performing regions” in terms of freedom.
The scores are based on political rights indicators and civil liberties indicators, among them a fair electoral process, political pluralism, and participation in government. Other principles of liberal democracies, outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, include freedom of belief and rule of law. Each country or territory is awarded points on 10 political rights indicators and 15 civil liberties indicators.
While Israel is by far the most “free” of the Middle East states – a fact that should come as little surprise, as the Jewish state is often referred to as the only democracy in the region – it scores slightly lower than most other Western states. European and North American countries all scored between 89 and 100.
Overall, the report found that freedom worldwide is on the decline for the 11th year in a row. Europe is showing “cracks in a pillar of global freedom”, the study found, resulting in the conclusion that “the continent can no longer be taken for granted as a bastion of democratic stability.”
Throughout the world, warned the report, “populist and nationalist forces [are] making significant gains in democratic states.”
However, Israel remains a bastion of freedom among ever-increasing chaos, war, and unrest in the Middle East.