Monday, October 11, 2010

Jewish And Democratic?

In response to the government's passage of the loyalty oath bill, The Jerusalem Post asked a number of people to write short responses, which they published today. This is mine; regular readers of this blog will not be surprised by it:

Does anyone really understand what “Jewish and democratic” means? Cultural Zionists from Ben-Gurion to Yehuda Amichai did. They assumed a democracy with a Jewish character would advance the Hebrew language, whose modern revival was the real Zionist revolution.

The Declaration of Independence assumed just such a Hebrew republic when it mandated that all citizens – from any “race” and “religion,” and irrespective of individual “conscience” – might contribute to a common life that was Jewish in the national sense, but did not presume to straighten the crooked timber.

Today, then, our everyday words contain the nuances of Jewish history and literatures (the state is not named Edom, after all) but leave space to welcome anyone willing to be acculturated, even Arab writers like Salam Masalcha, say. This approach to nationality is common throughout the democratic world, from the European Union to Quebec. No other conception of Jewish can be democratic because it makes a nonsense of equality.

Is this the “Jewish” Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman expects loyalty to? No. He wants a state in which Halacha, and its rabbinic courts, have civil responsibilities. He wants citizenship and other material privileges to be based on J-positive blood or conversion by Orthodox law.

He wants a state whose founding is justified and capital established, not by standards of international law, but congregational presumptions about divine will. He wants a state that purports to represent Jews everywhere, as if the majority of liberal American Jews do not blush for him.

Now, Neeman says all immigrants – not just Arabs – should take an oath to his totalitarian idea. I would not have when I first came – and would not now.

Also, my friend Carlo Strenger writes with particular cogency in Haaretz today: 

Israel is now facing a fateful question: will it remain a liberal democracy, or is it on the way to becoming a totalitarian ethnocracy? This is not a rhetorical question. Democracies do not turn into autocratic regimes from one day to the next; it mostly happens step by step. The ugly wave of anti-liberal legislation we are witnessing shows that Israel has embarked on a slippery slope; and we cannot know where it will end. The day may well come when Lieberman and Yishai will argue that critical articles about the government are disloyal to the state, and must be forbidden; and the day may come where the repeated attempts to shut off academics who do not show sufficient “loyalty” will succeed, and they will be fired or jailed.

5 comments:

David said...

"The day may well come when Lieberman and Yishai will argue that critical articles about the government are disloyal to the state, and must be forbidden; and the day may come where the repeated attempts to shut off academics who do not show sufficient “loyalty” will succeed, and they will be fired or jailed."

That day is today; well, no, actually, it occurred a while ago.

Y. Ben-David said...

The irony, Bernie, is that for all your committment to "democracy" you are constantly coming up with ideas of how to disenfranchise those who aren't part of your "progressive" clique. You know who I mean...the "primitive Judeans". Like your fantasy of having Obama come and impose a withdrawal on Israel against the will of the majority of the population (none of this has anything to do with the conditions of the Palestinians because the regime you want them to live under isn't and will not be democratic in the future).

Shoded Yam said...

"...The irony, Bernie, is that for all your committment to "democracy" you are constantly coming up with ideas of how to disenfranchise those who aren't part of your "progressive" clique."

You know who I mean...the "primitive Judeans"

Knock it off, nitwit. While I'm sure thats an image that your comfortable with, what with the attendant connotations of being guiless and innocent, nothing could be further from the truth, ya chantarish. On the contrary, its your cunning and sophistication which has allowed things to come this pass. Its all very convenient to credit Dr. Avishai with this projection, but in reality its the essence of the kahanist self-image and is an essential part of your public relations.

No, numb nuts. What is ironic, that if there is to be dienfranchisement, it will be brought on by the actions of people whose behaviour is a rotting stench in the noses of any decent human being. If anything people like Bernie, will, against my better judgement, ameliorate your comeuppance. I on the other hand, in the interest of the continued existence of Israel as a democracy, advocate liquidation of some of the more extreme kahanists and deporation and imprisonement for the rest of the "primitives" who don't want to get with the program.

Don't kid yourself. Israel will not, in the end, sacrafice Tel Aviv for Ariel and will not forsake David Grossman for Baruch Marzel. The Judaens have over-reached themselves and will be dealt with, and it looks like sooner rather than later.

Potter said...

Then Israeli's should have no problem with a Palestinian (totalitarian) ethnocracy ( an Islamist state) calling itself a "democracy" because it sounds good. Should that happen, if Jews invited to stay in that state ( and there is talk that they will be) should have to take commensurate loyalty oaths there should also be no problem.


from the Strenger article linked above- which is excellent:

It is a truly terrible tragedy: we Jews have suffered throughout history from repressive, authoritarian regimes that accused Jews of not being sufficiently German, French, Russian or Spanish. We Jews have experienced the blessing of the enlightenment ideals that allow Jews around the world to live dignified lives and participate in liberal democracies. And the Jewish state is about to gradually erase these values, enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

This is a moment for Netanyahu and I am afraid that he is not the man for this moment. It's really a moment of internal battle for Israeli's if indeed David Grossman, as S.Yam says, if so many many others, including Jews everywhere, would not be forsaken.

Grossman says in his short book "Death as a Way of Life" that there are only two sides those who want to live in peace and those who want war. He also said, in 1996 in an open letter: "Mr. Netanyahu, the moment of truth has arrived, like it or not."...

Grossman also said "Reality lies before you---read it."

That was 14 years ago.

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