“To Restore Jerusalem as the City of Truth”
By Prof Paul Eidelberg
Is Israel a Democratic State?
Virtually everyone persists in calling Israel a “democracy,” including critics of the peace process. Apart from such criticism, the critics do little more than lament this or that government’s “betrayal of democracy.” Heaven forbid they should candidly state that Israel is not and never has been a democracy.
- · Whoever heard of a democracy that not only lacks a Constitution (like England) but whose legislators (unlike England’s) represent political parties rather than constituents or citizens?
· Whoever heard of a democracy whose Prime Minister can disregard the law with impunity?
· Whoever heard of a democracy whose Government can make agreements with foreign entities—indeed, with terrorist organizations—without public or parliamentary debate, as occurred in Oslo, Wye, and Annapolis?
· Whoever heard of a democracy—or of a monarchy for that matter!—whose Prime Minister can sign away the land of his people, even to a criminal organization specified as such in the penal code of his country?
· Whoever heard of a democracy whose Government, under the facade of “administrative detention,” can incarcerate citizens for months at time without trial and without even informing them of the charges?
· Whoever heard of a democracy whose prime minister can release thousands of terrorists, including some convicted of murder? Thus: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert.
Is Israel A Jewish State?
Can a “State” founded and long dominated by atheists be Jewish? Can a “State” be Jewish whose citizens and legislators need not be Jewish? (The Japanese would laugh at the idea.) Can a State be intrinsically Jewish when its President or Prime Minister may, by law, be a Muslim? Alternatively, can a State be intrinsically Jewish when its legislators reject a proposal that would limit such offices to Jews?
To be sure, 80 percent of Israel’s population is Jewish. Nevertheless, in this “Jewish” State (as a colleague of mine once pointed out) certain Knesset Members have made statements about Judaism and Jews that in Germany—in Germany!—would get them kicked out of parliament and perhaps into prison.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that the term “Judaism” has been erased from Soldiers Code of Ethics—thanks to Israel’s first native-born Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that his successor, Shimon Peres, applied for Israel’s membership in the Arab League.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that the ultra-religious SHAS Party joined the 1992 ultra-secular Labor-Meretz Government and thereby made possible the Oslo Accords of 1993.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abandoned Hebron, the burial place of the Patriarchs and surrendered 42% of Judea and Samaria to Yasser Arafat.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that the Zionist National Religious Party supported a treaty with Jordan whereby Israel relinquished 330 sq. kilometers of Jewish land.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that the ultra-religious United Torah Judaism Party joined the 2004 Sharon Government and thereby facilitated the expulsion of 8,000 Jews from Gaza.
· So Jewish is this Jewish State that the Degel HaTorah faction of United Torah Judaism would be willing to cede parts of Jerusalem for “peace.”
Judaism Versus “Democracy”
It seems that many Jews, including Orthodox Rabbis, can earn no honor or respect unless they show that Judaism is perfectly consistent with democracy. These apologists reduce Judaism to a juggler’s bag out of which anything can be produced on demand. Meanwhile, they gloss over the decayed state of democracy and its destructive consequences for Israel. We are confronted here by gross ignorance and complacency as well as by intellectual dishonesty and irresponsibility. Let us have the fresh air of truth.
As everyone knows, “democracy” literally means the “rule of the people” or popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty reduces to the rule of the majority, a principle that can be found in Judaism (Exodus 23:2) but subordinated to other principles such as the Ten Commandments. Suppose, however, Israel’s Muslim citizens were to become a majority of the country’s population. They could then dominate the Knesset and transform Israel into an Islamic state. This may be consistent with democracy, but hardly with Judaism.
To be sure, majority rule does not exhaust the principles of democracy. There is also the principle of freedom. Democratic freedom yields pluralism. Pluralism requires a broad-based agreement that democracy is not a body of substantive ends but a “process”—the “rules of the game”—by which individuals pursue their private interests and “lifestyles.” Hence, democracy does not entail any particular ethnic or religious character. This is why there are no ethnic or religious qualifications for voting or holding office in Western-styled democracies.
In contrast, Judaism is a religious nationality, an all-embracing way of life. In addition to endogamous marriage laws and ethical precepts, Judaism has its own holy days, its own system of education, its own literature. And because Judaism is a religious nationality, only Jews can hold public office in an authentic Jewish polity. All this is quite foreign to Western democratic thought and practice.
The “Peace Process”
There is no point in burdening the reader on this issue: only fools and scoundrels dither about the “peace process.” Accordingly, to restore Jerusalem as the City of Truth, Israel will need
Authentic Jewish Leadership
Authentic Jewish leadership requires Jews who have received a Torah education. Unlike a merely religious education, a Torah education entails the unity of thought and action. Moreover, and as Maimonides and the Vilna Gaon understood, knowledge of the Torah is incomplete if not supplemented by veridical secular knowledge, especially in the sciences.
A Torah-educated Prime Minister fortified by veridical secular knowledge would obviously be far superior to his secular predecessors, none of whom has had the wisdom and courage to safeguard the Jewish People, let alone restore their dignity, which resides in the depth and breadth of their heritage.
First, such a Prime Minister would be guided by the Halachic principle that no government may impose any new law or official on the People of Israel without their consent. (See Berachot 55a.)
Second, a Torah-educated Prime Minister schooled in veridical secular knowledge would have a potentially larger constituency than his secular counterpart. Studies indicate that 50 percent of the Jews in Israel believe in the divine origin of the Torah, a percentage that will increase given recent scientific studies on the subject. Approximately 25 percent are observant and another 40-45 percent are more or less traditional. In addition, Jews with strong Jewish roots are well represented in the Israel Defense Forces, the country’s academic institutions, the professional sectors of the economy, and in the settlement of the Land; and these Jews have family relations and influential friends in the Diaspora. With this supportive background of talent and sense of Jewish awareness, conditions are now ripe for the assumption of national leadership by an authentic Torah statesman.
Third, such a statesman would never commit the criminal folly of arming 40,000 Arab terrorists—an act that utterly violates Halacha.
Fourth, a Torah statesman, unlike many secular politicians and intellectuals, would not be tainted and emasculated by moral egalitarianism, a doctrine that undermine wholehearted dedication to Israel’s cause vis-à-vis the Arab-Islamic world. Because Torah Jews regard their Patriarchs, Prophets and Sages as exemplars of wisdom and righteousness, they are more apt to disdain Arab or Islamic despots and be the more disinclined than secularists to appease them.
Fifth, a Torah-animated Prime Minister would be far more honored in the White House. Indeed, whereas Israel’s secular Prime Ministers invariably use the bogeyman of American pressure as an excuse for their own timidity and ineptitude, a Torah statesman would be more fearful of God than of Washington.
Finally, Israel needs an authentic Jewish leader to spearhead a Jewish Constitution (such as I have elsewhere drafted). With such a Constitution, Israel would have a structure of laws and institutions that would foster the solidarity of the Jewish People and contribute to the rejuvenation of their noble heritage. Israel, confident in the justice of its cause and guided by its world-historical purpose, would overawe its enemies and again become the light of mankind. Jerusalem would be restored as the City of Truth.