EITHER JUDAISM OR DEMOCRACY

Yosef Dayan

 

 

 

 

This is a chapter from Yosef Dayan’s book « Throne and Crown », aimed to promote the reinstatement of the Kingship in Israel. In this chapter the author quarrels those who maintain that Judaism can coexist with Democracy and opts for Zionism as the foundation for the imminent coming of the Kingship.

 

 

The statement that it is not Zionism that has failed, but rather democracy, is correct according to any just criterion as weilded by an honest person.  But we will devote a few lines to clarify the issue.

The aim of Zionism was to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.  Although there was a period when certain Zionists toyed with the idea of establishing the state in some unpopulated area, and they chose Uganda.  The end of this preposterous idea is widely known, and we won't waste words on it.  Another trend in Zionism wanted, for pragmatic reasons, to conceal the fact that the aim of Zionism was ultimately to establish a sovereign state.  Among themselves, they certainly knew what they were working for.

Upon its establishment, the essence of the young country was defined in a document that came to be known as "The Proclamation of Independence", and thus it was defined:

"Accordingly we, members of the people's council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right … hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the state of Israel."

Together with this formulation, Ben Gurion determined that the State of Israel shall "ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex".  And perhaps he did not exactly "determine", but rather declared it.  We may suspect that he did this for the sake of protocol.  One can base such a suspicion on the clause that precedes the one which deals with equality:  "It will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel."  After a while, Ben Gurion realized that he would be able to consolidate his rule if he gave the Arabs the right to vote, even though they had fought with all their strength against the establishment of the Jewish State.  Therefore, he did not hesitate to cancel the status of military rule that had been proclaimed in the areas in which the Arabs lived and enabled them to vote.  This is how a general statement became an existing fact.

At any rate, if we take this mixed-up document seriously, then the Proclamation of Israel's Independence has more references to kingship ("as envisaged by the prophets of Israel") than "democracy", which was not mentioned in it even once.

The contradiction between "the Jewish State" and "complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants" – which came to be termed, after a while, "the democratic State" – this contradiction has begun to bother more than a few people, whose eyes are still capable of seeing.  The country's institutions, and especially the courts, have made every effort to avoid a discussion of this issue, so they would not be obliged to take a stance.  The judges, all the judges, knew very well that these two definitions could not coexist.  By ignoring the issue they strove to let sleeping dogs lie.

But this will not go on forever.

Rabbi Meir Kahane was the first to call attention to this blatant contradiction and described the Proclamation of Independence as "schizophrenic".  His argument was amazingly logical: the definition "Jewish", which had been granted to the State, does not refer only to its character, but also to its regime.  If power is not in the hands of Jews – then the State is not Jewish.  Period.

The required minimum in order to ensure Jewish rule according to the democratic system by which every citizen has one vote, is a Jewish majority.  How can one ensure by law that the majority will always be Jewish?  And at the same time this law needs to be democratic!  It is impossible!

Kahane was committed that the State of Israel should always remain Jewish, and therefore, he was willing to waive democracy.  When he realized that no amount of immigration could ensure that the Arabs will always remain a minority – especially after the Six Day War, in which approximately one million Arabs were added to the area controlled by the State of Israel – he began to support the transfer of the Arabs to the Arab countries.  At first he called this an exchange of populations, but in the end he did not hesitate to term it deportation.  In fact, all the Zionist parties at the time and today as well support the ensuring of a Jewish majority.  But Kahane's terminology and his methods of operation caused the political system to designate him and his movement "racist".  He was prohibited from running to the Knesset on the basis of a law that was legislated specifically to disqualify him.

The "Kahane Law" states that a list of candidates will not participate in the elections to the Knesset if its purposes or its actions, whether explicitly or implicitly include one of the following:  1) Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish people;  2) Negation of the democratic nature of the State;  3) Incitement to racism.

The law itself, as it is formulated, is the most obvious proof that Rabbi Kahane's analysis was correct.  This law simultaneously determines two things that essentially contradict each other:  that the State will be the State of the Jewish people and that it will have a democratic character.

How can two opposite concepts coexist side by side?  They can't!But the Supreme Court, in its session as High Court of Justice, is capable of whitewashing the contradiction by making a hundred and fifty excuses.  One need only read the High Court Decision on Kahane's petition against his party's disqualification in order to understand the utter absurdity of it.

Later, in 1992, this contradictory formulation was incorporated into two laws, that are considered most important, and which were designated Basic Laws:  "Human Dignity and Liberty" and "Freedom of Occupation".  The preamble to these two laws states that they are intended to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The truth is that the rights these laws have come to anchor in legislation – are all – laws that refer to defending universal values such as freedom of speech and personal liberty.

A careful reading of the laws reveals immediately what they lack:  the right, or even the obligation of the State of Israel to anchor in legislation values that are not universal, but are essentially Jewish.

Because these laws speak explicitly and in great detail only of universal rights, the work of the judges of the Supreme Court has become even more difficult when they come to balance between these rights and specifically Jewish rights.

This new constitutional basis has made it impossible for the State of Israel to prohibit the sale of leavened bread during Passover, for instance, as was done in the past, because this action is in opposition to the freedom of occupation of those who sell the leavened bread, or pork – for instance.

But the real problem with these laws is – as Mr. Yoram Hazony notes correctly in his book "The Struggle Over Israel's Soul" – that it has been determined that the State of Israel can no longer be considered Jewish from the constitutional aspect.

This dramatic change stems from he fact that the State has been designated in these laws we are discussing as a "Jewish and democratic" State.  So far, everyone knew that Israel is a Jewish State, and that the expression "democratic" is a sort of lip service, which shouldn't be taken literally.  Everyone understood that its democratic nature would never cast a shadow over the Jewishness of the State.  This is how, one may surmise, the formulators of the laws regarded the preamble that included this schizophrenic sentence.  But when this was established in a Basic Law and no longer in the Kahane Law, which is of no consequence for the general public and therefore remained obscure – at that moment the law brought explosive issues to the fore in the courts and in academic spheres.  It was no longer possible to ignore the contradiction.  But the professors, the legislators and the judges – they could not be swayed!

Currently, it is difficult to speak of a "Jewish State" without arousing the impression that democracy has somehow been omitted from the reference, possibly because of some subversive intention, as democracy has been raised in Israel to the status of an all-inclusive holy ritual.

Thus, new definitions of the essence of a Jewish State have begun to be heard.  Assa Kasher, from the Department of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, the composer of the I.D.F.'s Code of Ethics, which could be appropriate for the Army of Fiji without making any changes, writes:

"'A Jewish State' in the full sense of the term, is the social tapestry in which the Jewish identities of its citizens are found".  Obviously, he doesn't refer to the question:  What would be the essence of the Jewish State if and when its demographic structure changes and the Arabs become the majority?  If he had responded to this question he would have come up with an equally brilliant formulation:  "'A Jewish State' in the full sense of the term, is the social tapestry in which the Jewish identities of its Arab citizens are to be found.  Now there's a splendid philosophical thought for you!

Haim Cohen, former judge in the Israel Supreme Court, has composed a document comprising 26 pages of nonsense, entitled "The Jewishness of the State of Israel".  In this document he argues that the Jewish character of the State of Israel is to be found mainly in these Basic Laws, enacted since 1992, because the "real values of Judaism are the universal values anchored in these Basic Laws".

Zvi Bernson, Israel Supreme Court judge, thinks that the term "Jewish State" is in itself no more than a historical accident, as it comes to differentiate between Israel and its Arab neighbors, but was not intended to actually confer a real Jewish character upon the State.

Another Supreme Court judge, Michael Heshin, has admitted that the terms "Jewish State" and "Jewish and democratic State" are becoming more and more vague, and that it is difficult to attribute a clear significance to them.  What is a Jewish State?  A close scrutiny, says Heshin, teaches us that this combination of terms has generated a plethora of interpretations, exegeses, and schools of thought, "and this will only become worse with the passage of time."

Although Heshin avoids revealing the sense he attributes to the term "Jewish" in the context of the character of the State, he certainly does provide his opinion on the sense of the term democracy.  He relates this to the destructive phrase that has currently become fashionable:  Israel as a State for all its citizens.  "And is there anyone who negates this definition?" asks the learned judge.

But obviously, the most important outlook is that of the President of Israel's Supreme Court, Aharon Barak:  In his opinion, the sense of the term "Jewish" in the phrase "Jewish State" should be based on a very large measure of abstraction which we should apply to it, until it becomes totally identical with the term "democratic".

And Barak is consistent.  He progresses step by step – in accordance with his method:  He subjects Judaism to a recurrent process of abstraction and we can trust him to go on and on like this until Judaism loses any inherent sense and remains devoid of any meaning.  Then Judaism will truly be identical with democracy.

"The values of the State of Israel as a Jewish State are these universal values that are held in common by the elements that compose the democratic society", says Barak.

Amazing! Shabbat and Kashrut, ritual purification and the love of Zion, faith in the Creator of the World and the aspiration to Kingship – all these will be considered "Jewish values" only when they are accepted by Canada and Costa Rica, not to mention India and Pakistan, which are also democratic States.

But Barak's test of abstraction has shattered on the rocks of reality.  The President of the Supreme Court cannot make head or tails of the situation when Jewish aspirations and interests clash with "democratic" or "universal" values.  In order to extract himself from his dilemma Barak has invented a special criterion, which is capable of leaping over any obstacle.  Barak's criterion has been termed "the outlook of an enlightened person".  This outlook overpowers any other value, whether national, Jewish or traditional.

In view of the enormous power he has amassed (due, in large part, to the insignificant stature of all the other institutions of the Israeli establishment) it would be ridiculous to ask him who defines the "enlightened person"?  Who knows what his outlook is?

Barak himself, is the essential enlightened person.  And it is he who will define his outlook.  Such a tyrannical frame of mind is very dangerous, especially when it goes hand in hand with extraordinary political power.

We shall define this blatant absurdity again, but this time in the words of Barak himself:

The metaphor of "the enlightened society" focuses attention on a part of the public.  Attention is directed… to the educated and advanced part (of society).  And what differentiates the enlightened society from the rest of the public? … The enlightened society represents that community whose values are universal, and it belongs to the family of enlightened nations".

The reader may consider whether he himself belongs to that part of the public, that community whose values… etc.  Not one devout Jew will give a positive answer to Barak's criterion of the enlightened person.

But not only the arrogant judges are bereft of any vestiges of Judaism.  The writers also, those "members of the intellectual and spiritual elite" we have already mentioned, suffer from the same lack, but being free of any responsibility that should supposedly guide the judges, the writers have gone a long way towards severing the State of Israel from its Jewishness.  Thus writes Amos Oz:

"A State cannot be Jewish, just like a chair and a bus cannot be Jewish… the State is no more than an instrument.  Instruments are sometimes beneficial and sometimes they are faulty.  An instrument may be appropriate or unnecessary.  And this instrument should belong to all the citizens:  Jews, Muslims and Christians… The concept of a Jewish State could be a trap".

One must only know that the preference of democracy over Judaism was not, from their point of view, a preference of values.  It could not have been!

And why?

Because it is impossible to compare preferences between two elements each of which belongs to a different sphere.  It is illogical to do so.  Positing democracy (which is a system) opposite Judaism (which is an essence) is completely opposed to all the rules of science and rational thought.

So why do the judges, who pride themselves on being "enlightened", cast such a sharp sword into the heart of common sense?  And more so, why do they speak to us, to the "unenlightened part" of the public with such a conceited air of patronage?  Why do they do all they can to impose their crooked "supremacy of the law" and expect us to approve?

Conceptual folly has never sunk to such profound depths before!

How, then, can we explain their behavior?

The truth is that they did not prefer democracy over Judaism, and therefore they have not had a conceptual lapse.  All they wanted – initially – was to liberate themselves from the burden represented by Judaism.  They did not regard democracy as a serious contender against Judaism.  They regarded it as an excuse!  They found a method of government taken from the gentiles and embraced it.  But if it had not been democracy, they would have found something else to frustrate their Jewishness.  Even banana seeds would have fulfilled the functions they designated to democracy in their war against Judaism.  They would have extolled the virtues of banana seeds with the same diligence in which they explained the virtues of democracy.  Let them enjoy it!

Nevertheless, I humbly submit, I have news for them:Even after they throw their Jewishness out the window, they will not be accepted into the club of "enlightened nations".  Not they as individuals, and not us as a State.  That much is certain!