Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Israel, Judaism and Democracy - Does it Exist Today? No. Can they Coexist? Yes

The Situation in Israel today is very sad. The democratic process has been bulldozed by the current Prime Minister and Israelis and Jews worldwide don't even care!

Not only do they not care, many actually even support his undemocratic actions because they have been convinced that it is for the best.

Whether his plan is for the best or not is irrelevant. A democratic process is one a democratic country and leadership is supposed to follow regardless of the intentions of this or that plan.

Or am I wrong?

Would all you Jews (American/Israeli) who support Sharon's expulsion plan support President Bush (or any American President) if he signed a bill into law that would have no party support, no majority for it in the Senate or the Congress, but only various public opinion polls to support his plan? Would that fly in the States? Would the press remain silent?

Reading the world and Jewish press you would think that I'm wrong, that bulldozing the democratic process is ok - considering hardly any publication is questioning the undemocratic actions of Sharon and his government.

Hum, whatever happened to the press being the gaurdian of democracy?

Democracy lovers should be having a very hard time morally accepting the events that have taken place in the State of Israel lately. Sharon's Gaza expulsion plan is in the planning stages, not becuase of democracy and the democratic process, but in spite of it.

Don't expect simple citizens like me to sit quietly while the fate of thousands of Jews who live in the Gaza strip, specifically, and the fate of the millions of Jews who live in the rest of Israel, are tied to the strong-armed, anti-democratic tactics of a leader without a supportive party or government.

Maybe it's me, but either the steps Prime Minister Sharon has taken the past few years (going against his party's institutional decisions - against establishing another Arab State West of the Jordan and against the Gaza expulsion plan - and using termination as a weapon to pressure government ministers to vote a certain way etc.) are undemocratic and therefore unbecoming a democratic society......

or Israel has a democratic governance model that must be changed.... yesterday!

I have had enough of democratically elected Israeli leaders "sic" who do whatever they want in power even when it totally goes against their election platforms, against the mandates given them by their voters upon being elected and against the party platform!

I will not sit quietly anymore while our country and our rights are bulldozed by an undemocratic process and undemocratic leaders, definately not when they take undemocratic action of expulsion against my fellow Jews in Gush Katif. (And why should we believing Jews accept the undemocratic action of expulsion of Jews from their homes, while left wing Israelis do not accept the action of expelling Arabs from their homes. Only transfer of Jews is moral but transfer of Arabs is immoral? Or today's understanding of morality is all screwed up!)

Will you?


The government practices of the Oslo decade have placed the whole debate of Israel, Judaism and Democracy in a whole new light.

Read the following article for an insightful pespective on the issue.

Democratic Because it's Jewish

By Moshe Feiglin

The motto, "a Jewish and democratic State", has become meaningless.
Aharon Barak,
with an abundance of tortuous explanations, has drained its Jewish
aspect of
significance and has in fact declared that what (in his opinion) is
democratic is Jewish.

The Haredim and the national religious Jews who are trying to face the
issue are going
wrong in the opposite direction. They are giving up democracy (as it
were) in favor of
Judaism. In other words, they are accepting the interpretation of the
head of the
Supreme Court and are in fact saying that if democracy means the end of
they want no part of it. Give us a king, who will enforce the wishes of
the Almighty.

Belief-based people who adopt this approach are falling into the trap
twice. The first
time, because they are abandoning the most basic principle in Judaism –
freedom. The
second time, because they are giving up the sole brake that can halt
Israel's current
slide into violent totalitarianism, a process that we are now

To be a Jew is to be a free man. The Jewish people brought the message
of liberty to
the entire world. All human progress from slavery to a flesh and body
king, towards
human liberty, starting with the English Magna Charta, continuing with
the American
constitution, and ending with the French Revolution – Judaism formed
the source of
inspiration for them all, as they publicly declared.

The division of authority, the recognition that the king is not the
source of authority
but the representative of the sovereignty, and that he is subject to
constant criticism by
the parallel institutions of clarifications and direction (Sanhedrin,
kehuna), and that all
of them – the king, the institutions, and the people, are equally
subject to the same
rules, are the fundamental elements of the modern free regime, or in
other words, the
foundations of democracy.

However, the term democracy has been made meaningless by the extremist
Left that
has compared the democratic method to its values. Aharon Barak's test
of a "civilized
person" is an outstanding example of the way in which the concept of
democracy is
distorted. It is not surprising that many people currently tend to
throw out the baby
with the bathwater. The term democracy may well have become so
distorted that it
can it can no longer be used, just as happened to the term "Israeli" in
its original
meaning. It may well be preferable to return to the term "liberty", but
it would be a
grave error to abandon the real values forming the basis of the term.

It is not easy to understand the meaning of democracy. Hundreds of
definitions have
been given, and all kinds of people (including mass murderers) have
drawn legitimacy
from the term for their own needs. (examples are the People's Democracy
of China, or
the democratic elections held by Arafat's murder gangs.) However,
before trying to
understand why the belief-based public is the sole chance for democracy
in Israel, or,
if you wish, why Israel can be democratic only as a Jewish State, and
why, if it
abandons its Jewish character, it inevitably acquires totalitarian
characteristics, let us
examine Israeli reality.

It is difficult to call the first days of the State of Israel
democracy. Ben-Gurion's
regime after the establishment of the state was very centralized, the
opposition was
persecuted with the aid of close cooperation between the defense
establishment and
the ruling party, and great courage and an independent income were
required to
oppose the regime.

Let us therefore focus on the four decades that have elapsed since the
Six Day War (in
which the Herut party first entered Eshkol's unity government). It can
be said that
during this period Israel began really progressing towards a regime
based on the
fundamentals of democracy. Since 1967 we have been relatively

However, it is easy to point to two occasions during this period in
which Israeli
democracy retreated towards dictatorship in the guise of democracy.

The separation fence between a free state and a totalitarian one has no
color, nor can it
be felt. It can only be discovered using the sense of smell. And just
like any stench,
those lying inside it don't feel it. There have been numerous examples
in the 20th
Century of free societies that crossed the fence without noticing it,
and continued to
believe that they were free and advanced, even when the atmosphere of
freedom was
replaced by the stench of dictatorship.

As we have said, this fence has been crossed twice since the Six Day
War. The first
person to lie on it was Yitzhak Rabin, and the second, Ariel Sharon, is
doing so now.

These leaders were not the first to wish to hand over parts of the
country to the enemy,
to destroy entire settlements and drive out their residents. The first
to do so was
Menahem Begin, to his everlasting ignominy. But Begin didn't do this
terrible deed
while crossing the fence. He possessed public legitimacy for his
action. The majority
of the nation, hypnotized by Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, supported him.
Begin didn't
change the rules of the game and fit them to his needs, but acted in
accordance with
them. His opponents were opposed to the retreat, but not to Begin.
They could not contest Begin's legitimacy as the elected democratic
prime minister.

Rabin and Sharon crossed the fence quite blatantly. The hypnotizing
spell of the first
Camp David Conference had faded away, and the public had already
developed the
intellectual antibodies needed to understand what it was really
getting. In order to
overcome the basic Jewish values, the fundamental loyalty to Eretz
Israel, and Jewish
identity, that again played a key role in the public consciousness,
Rabin at that time,
and Sharon now, had to cross the fence separating democracy and
between those people whom Rabin discounted, and his voters, whom he had
there would be no talks with the PLO. His government was a minority
one, and he
achieved the majority necessary for these fateful steps by bribing
people such as
Segev and Goldfarb. In this way, with a fragile coalition, a leader of
a free state
initiated a major national decision that split the nation over
fundamental issues. Broad
popular protest was suppressed with great violence, and the media, as
in every
dictatorship, supported the regime. Only in this way could the Oslo
Process, whose
results are well known, be sold to Israeli society.

The current situation is far more serious. The intensity of the
controversy is
unchanged, but the hopes planted at the time of the Oslo process no
longer exist. But
the fence crossed by Sharon has exactly the same smell.

There is no argument about the nature of the majority achieved by
Sharon. He lost in
the referendum and doesn't deny this. As long as he has the support of
the Left, he is
not obligated to observe any rules, not even those he himself fixed. He
no longer
attempts to bribe his ministers, but fires them. The human rights of
those planned to
be evicted no longer exist. Now, just as then, the media have been
recruited to support
the regime. "We shall not only evict you and destroy your homes" (in
the name of the
new democracy), "we shall also fix the rules governing how you will be
permitted to
resist, what language you may use, and perhaps even the thoughts you
will be
permitted to think… If you don't obey, you will be responsible for a
civil war…"

Not only the media but the courts and the Public Prosecutor's
department have been
recruited. The idea of trying to halt this madness through an appeal to
the High Court
of Justice, based on the law, "The dignity and freedom of man", is just

Israeli totalitarianism is now advancing, and all the media are in a
count-down to the
day when thousands of citizens will be called on to pack up their
belongings and move
to a new place, and every morning on the State radio Arieh Golan comes
up with a
new idea for implementing the new democracy, such as a unit of
deployed on the roofs and equipped with live ammunition. In such a
state of affairs it
will not be surprising if at some stage they start hanging people from
the lamp posts,
naturally in the name of the law for dignity and freedom of man, and in
order to
protect the values of civilized persons.

This sounds far-fetched?

How many Arab collaborators were hanged on the lamp posts as a
sacrifice for the
Oslo process? Not only the Left looked aside, but also the Right. The
High Court of
Justice did not intervene, but accepted Rabin's declaration that "this
is a political issue
and not a judicial one".

During the Rabin era the emperor thought he was dressed and attempted
to persuade
the nation of this. At least there was some kind of plan, and an
attempt was made to
create the impression of democracy. However, Sharon now knows that he
is naked,
but doesn't care. "The referendum was morally but not legally binding."
All this in the
name of the "rule of law". And I am the law.

This is a time to keep one's distance from the lamp posts.

Without noticing it, we have fallen into a situation of dictatorship
whose stench is
already making itself felt.

Let us now try and understand what democracy is, and why only a Jewish
State can be

The most important feature of democracy is the subservience of both the
ruler and the
ruled to the same set of rules. This has been clearly violated by both
Rabin and

There are several viewpoints of democracy and I shall only address two
of them: the
liberal and the community approaches.

The liberal tradition supports a single fundamental criterion, a
universal standpoint
that does not recognize a different culture, tradition, or values. It
believes in the values
of equality and freedom of the individual, where the state is intended
to serve the
individual only. The state has no purpose and does not represent the
values of its

The second viewpoint is the community one, according to which a person
recognition by society in order to achieve self awareness, and in this
way express his
opinion regarding the issues of morality and values. Consequently the
plays a decisive role, and through it the individual identifies with
his country. The
community and the state are assigned an important role in the
realization of the values
and identities of the citizens.

According to this interpretation, democracy is a method of government
permitting the
_expression of the basic values of the society. Every society whose
basic values are
those of freedom can and must be democratic, but it must fit the lid to
the pot, and
adopt its form of democracy to its nature and its unique values.
Those who understand democracy using this approach can also understand
that the
first democratic approach described, as adopted in Israel, must
inevitably lead to

The dispute regarding Eretz Israel is not about territory or security.
The issue of
national identity currently finds _expression through Eretz Israel.
Those who wish to
abandon parts of the country in fact want to sever the links with their
Jewish identity.

"The Jews defeated the Israelis", explained Shimon Peres in an
interview for Ha'aretz
after he lost to Netanyahu. The argument is between those holding on to
their Jewish
identity and those who wish to disengage from it and replace it with a
new Israeli one.

The process of disengagement is one of enforcing the new identity on
the vast
majority of the nation. Consequently it must inevitably lead to a
dictatorship, as is
actually happening. Only if Israel lives in harmony with its Jewish
identity, and tries
to serve this identity instead of fighting it, will it also be really

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