By Prof. Paul Eidelberg
The great philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead said, “The Jews are the first people that refused to worship the State.” This suggests that the Jews are the first people to recognize a “Higher Law,” one that transcends the laws of the State.
The idea of a Higher Law, one that transcends the acts of parliaments and kings inspired America’s Founding Fathers and justified their Revolution against Britain in 1776. Christian America is therefore spiritually indebted to the Jewish people.
America’s Declaration of Independence affirms that the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” constitute the ultimate standard of whether laws enacted by the State are just or unjust, hence whether the State merits obedience.
The Declaration speaks of “government by the consent of the governed.” Consent is a rational as well as a volitional concept: we speak of a young person reaching the age of consent. The Declaration thus envisions a rational form of popular government. Not all popular governments are rational.
That the Declaration says all men are created equal only means that men are equal in their natural rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It does not mean that one man’s opinion of what is just or unjust is as valid as another’s. God is neither a moral relativist nor a normless Democrat. The term “democracy” is not mentioned in the Declaration.
The teachings of the Founding Fathers and of various eighteenth-century university presidents indicate that America became a great Christian nation because it was founded very much on Jewish principles. Alas, I cannot say this of the present State of Israel, which was founded on non-Jewish principles, including the non-Jewish principle that the State is the highest law—the meaning of Statism. It’s no accident that whereas America’s Declaration of Independence mentions “God,” the “Supreme Judge,” and “Divine Providence,” no such language is found in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence. Let’s be clear about this.
In Judaism, rulers are subordinate to the laws of the Torah. The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashana 1:3a) teaches that God Himself is bound to observe the laws of the Torah. In Israel today the State is sovereign. This Statism is evident in a 1948 Israel statute: “No act of legislation shall diminish the rights of the State, or impose upon it any obligation, unless explicitly stated” (Law and Administration Ordinance, Section 42, Explanatory Note.) This statist law verges on fascism, except that Israel rejects a single party state. We have in Israel the veneer of democracy—periodic multiparty elections. However, what is really operative here is the east European tendency of top-down leadership, no institutional checks and balances, and no political accountability. Welcome to the Islamic Middle East!
Proof? Ponder Israel’s Expulsion Law of October 2004. That law was enacted by a Government headed by the Likud Party which brazenly implemented Labor’s “unilateral disengagement” policy—a policy rejected by a vast majority of the voters in the January 2003 election as well as by Israel’s highest defense officials. That law was not based on reason. The people were right; their Likud Government was wrong—indeed, perfidious. And to its ever-lasting shame, that democratically elected government ordered Israeli soldiers and police to expel 10,000 law-abiding Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria, destroyed their homes, their schools and synagogues, their factories and vineyards—flourishing communities (which I visited and will never forget). This destruction was a blatant display of statism, to put it mildly.
Politically and morally speaking, that Likud Government was illegitimate. Its devious prime minister betrayed the will of the people. And now another Likud government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, is ready to yield Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Arabs. Only now Israel’s leading charlatan would have the people believe that these Arabs, given economic prosperity, will trash their Quran and metamorphose into bourgeois democrats!
Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to endorse an Arab state in Judea and Samaria was taken without public or Knesset debate—quite a democracy! The 300,000 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are now threatened by the fate suffered by the Jews expelled from Gaza. Assuming soldiers will be used to expel these Jews, what will be the consequences of this ethnic cleansing?
I will not dwell on the traumatic impact on the Jewish victims or on the ruinous consequences for the nation’s economy. Nor will I discuss the demoralization of the people of Israel, their confidence in Israel’s future. I leave to others to discuss how the expulsion will affect aliyah, the rate of emigration, the Jewish birthrate, the demographic balance between Jews and Arabs in the country as well as in the Knesset and the Government.
I want to focus on an existential dilemma. Suppose Israel’s rabbis, for reasons based on Jewish law, exhort soldiers to disobey orders to expel the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria; and suppose a significant percentage of soldiers—religious or not—ignore the expulsion orders. Let’s admit that this insubordination could undermine the discipline required of any effective army and therefore endanger the existence of the State. But let us also admit, for reasons already indicated, that the mass expulsion Jews from Judea and Samaria could also endanger the State’s existence. Evident here is an existential dilemma of the first magnitude.
This dilemma was latent in the secular founding of the Jewish State. As I have often pointed out, the very concept of the “Jewish State” is an oxymoron. The “state” is the highest authority as to what is just or unjust, lawful or unlawful; whence it follows that Jewish law is subordinate to the laws of the State. In other words, there is no “Higher Law” than the laws of the State. Some would say this is fascist doctrine, but let’s call it only “Statism.” Yes, but this is a reflection on the wisdom of the founders of this State, who, note well, enacted the unJewish law that “No act of legislation shall diminish the rights of the State, or impose upon it any obligation, unless explicitly stated.”
Yes, countless people are confused about this State. The primary cause of this confusion is the myth of Israeli democracy. Israel’s ruling elites—politicians and judges, academics and journalists—have a vested interest in perpetuating this myth, for as I have often said, this myth is precisely what endows the Government with legitimacy and the ruling class with respectability.
I will mention only one of several anti-democratic characteristics of Israel’s political system: members of the Knesset are not individually accountable to the voters in constituency elections—the practice of almost all of the 88 countries classified as democracies. It is this fact that enabled 23 Likud MKs to violate with impunity their pledge to the nation by passing the Expulsion Law. Gaza is now ruled by Iran’s proxy, Hamas. Those who enacted and implemented that expulsion law are arguably guilty of treason.
I realize that what I am saying will strike many people as offensive if not subversive. But this is no time for milk-and-toast political analysis or “political correctness, “the tendency even of acute pundits. Despite its amazing prosperity, Israel has been destroying itself, thanks to its corrupt system of government and feckless and unfaithful ruling class.
This State has thus become the enemy of the Jewish people. The pusillanimity and self-aggrandizement of its ruling class stand in striking contrast to the poorly equipped Americans of 1776, who rebelled not merely against a particular law of the British parliament, but against a system of government that violated the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. One does not have to be Jewish to recognize that a government that expels law-abiding citizens from their homes violates their God-given rights and forfeits its legitimacy.
The people of Israel must therefore take steps to establish a new form of government, one that upholds their God-given rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. There is no point in toppling the Netanyahu Government unless it is replaced by one that respects the Torah, because no government that deems itself superior to the laws of God can overcome Israel’s existential dilemma.
If it be said this is no time for “regime change,” I answer: Time can be made by men when they attune themselves to Time’s Creator.