Israel is a “Jewish and Democratic State”. What does it mean?

By Ted Belman

Martin Sherman in his seminal post, Distorting the Declaration, after noting that the protestors support the following David Horovitz’s, claim,

Our Declaration of Independence promises that the State of Israel ‘will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…’”

argued, that while this is true, it was misleading. He wrote and proved, “the focus of Israel’s Declaration of Independence is overwhelmingly on Jewish sovereignty and political independence in the ancestral Jewish homeland—not on liberal democratic governance” as the protestors would have you believe.

Rabbi Alan Silverstein, attended this year’s World Zionist Congress and heard debates between proponents and opponents of the proposed changes in the Israeli judicial system in which the meaning of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, was often at issue. Thereafter, he wrote, “The legal significance of Israel’s Declaration of Independence”.

“The word “democracy” was explicitly not included. Why? Ben-Gurion and his key deputy, Moshe Shertok (later, Sharett), were determined to obtain diplomatic recognition by the United States and the Soviet Union. Yet Soviet and American definitions of “democratic” were at odds; liberal democracy as conceived in the United States was very different from the communist version. As a compromise, Ben-Gurion turned to Judaism’s biblical heritage. In September 1948, he offered his point of view: “As for western democracy, I’m for Jewish democracy. ‘Western’ doesn’t suffice. Being a Jew is…also a matter of morals, ethics…. The value of life and human freedom are, for us, more deeply embedded thanks to the biblical prophets more than western democracy…. I would like our future to be founded in prophetic ethics.” The scroll said the society of the new state would be “as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.”

In 1992 the Basic Law Human Dignity and Liberty was passed in the Knesset. Four years later, Freedom of Occupation [Career] Basic Law  was passed.

Barak affirmed that this formula “totally transformed the status of the Declaration [of Independence]. Not only did that document now enjoy legal validity, but the rights in it were not merely ‘legal rights’ as in other laws, but ‘constitutional rights.’”

Both legal rights and constitutional rights both require a Knesset majority to pass or amend them. So to my mind, that’s the equalizer.

That law defined Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state. UNGA Res 181 called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state in Mandatory Palestine. Thus, the UN had extended its formal imprimatur to the notion of a Jewish state.

But the question arises, are these two values complementary or contradictory? I suggest the latter is the case and being a Jewish State should take precedence. The Declaration demands it. The High Court thinks otherwise.

In 2018, the Basic Law: The Nation State of the Jewish People was passed. It was and remains very controversial because it ignored the democracy side of the debate.

The High Court denied all petitions against it by a majority of 10 of 11 Justices. Esther Hayut, the court’s President held:

“This basic law is but one chapter in our constitution taking shape and it does not negate Israel’s character as a democratic state.”

According to Haaretz ,

“the High Court ruled that there are no grounds for intervening regarding the law, but added that its provisions must be interpreted in light of Israel’s other basic laws, in particular the basic laws on the Knesset, on human dignity and liberty and on freedom of occupation, which specifically address the dual character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Thus she is saying the State can be Jewish so long as it doesn’t infringe on it being democratic. I would have it the other way around.

Several types of “rights” were to be protected by the Declaration, “National and historic” rights were granted only to Jews to enable them to once again become masters of their own fate.

In other words, “Jewish and democratic” are not equal values. The latter should not have the ability to diminish the former. Aside from that, I am all in favour of equal rights.

Remember the fight over the “Nation State Law”. The left wants Israel to be a state of all its citizens. The right wants it to be the state of the Jews. The Arabs must accept this limitation of their rights. Likewise the High Court.

This position is set out in my 2005 article, “It Pays to be Jewish”.  In it, I paraphrase  Paul Eidelberg’s important book titled “Jewish Statesmanship”.  He wrote,

“Contrary to the expectations of Jewish politicians and intellectuals who, out of fear of anti-Semitism, mindlessly portray Israel as a democracy so as to endow it (and themselves) with legitimacy and respectability, it is precisely this lack of Jewish national authenticity, this adulation of decayed democratic values, that underlies the international contempt for Israel.”

He characterizes this contemporary democracy as upholding “indiscriminate egalitarianism and unrestrained libertarianism.” Israel’s embrace, without question, of this form of contemporary democracy has led to Arab Israelis who are PLO surrogates, and thus, enemies of Israel, being elected to the Knesset. It also leads, among other things, to the PLO being permitted their own press in Jerusalem, where they mightily contribute to anti-Israel propaganda and incitement. In other words, this slavish adherence to these contemporary democratic values threatens not only the character of the Jewish state, but its very existence.

Instead, he argues that Israel’s statesmen should emphasize Israel’s raison d’etre, as a Jewish State, and that this necessitates that democracy must be assimilated to Judaism. It means that an authentic Jewish Commonwealth should embrace the supremacy of Torah and not of democracy.”

Prof. Paul Eidelberg was a recognized expert on the American Constitution and made Aliyah in 1976.

In a similar vein, I call for a Bill of Jewish Rights which should include:

  1. The right of return for Jews, amended as desired,
  2. The banning of all promotion of the Palestinian Narrative including the Naqba
  3. The banning of all terrorist organizations along with the criminalization of membership in them.
  4. The criminalization of all calls for Israel’s destruction.
  5. The criminalization of all antisemitic statements and pictures
  6. The criminalization of antisemitic sermons
  7. Cancellation of the law permitting Arabs to move to Israel pursuant to the family reunification law
  8. The legal right to live in exclusively Jewish communities which have less than 1000 members or other number agreed to.
  9. The right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

There are different kinds of “democracy”. The Basic Law doesn’t define it. Aharon Barak and the protestors want it to be a liberal democracy like in the US.  But there is no basis for this other than the Basic Law on Human Dignity which the High Court holds dear. But Basic Laws can be amended by a 61 vote majority if not by a simple majority.

The battle over which takes precedence cannot be avoided.

This Knesset has the ability to amend the law so that being a Jewish state takes precedence over being a democratic state.  Better to do so before the battle commences.

September 2, 2023 | 35 Comments »

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  1. Hip Hip Hooray folks-

    I just saw in Arutz 7 David Singer’s usual article about the Hashknife Ranch. In it he was bemoaning the fact that Abbas, Abdullah and El-Sisi have unequivocally rejected his baby .”The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine”……….
    I think he’s sitting shiva. believe me ..’.I feel his pain’….

  2. Basic Law On Human Dignity And Liberty allows Medical mandates, Lockdowns, Mask madness, and loss of Bodily Autonomy? Can Israel do whatever it wants for National Security Industry, Pandemic Population Control Industry, Climate Change Industry? Oh, Don’t forget to have the right license for your career and 50 hours of driving lessons for your driver’s license on roads where people drive cars like a weapon.

  3. If Ted wanted people to be able to comment in Hebrew he could have his techie do the following:

    To display Hebrew in WordPress, you need to12:
    Go to “” and then navigate to the “WordPress in Your Language” page.
    Download the zip file of the “Hebrew language folder” on your computer.
    Create a new folder called “/languages” in the “/wp-content” directory of your blog.
    Look for the line that says, “define (‘WPLANG’, ‘ ‘);” and edit it.
    Save the file and upload it to your server.
    Alternatively, you can display Hebrew in WordPress by using a language switcher plugin3.

  4. @Sebastien

    You can write Hebrew letters in WordPress just as you can make the smiley face, for example here is Aleph:
    which is the sybol ‘&’ followed by the symbol ‘#’ followed by the numbers 1488 followed by a semicolon. But this string only codes for a single Aleph.

    So to generate a single word, which is a series of letters, using such coding would require a series of such strings, and even then it would be written left to right rather than right to left, so you would have to reverse the order to have it spelled the correct way. Then to make a sentence…well it gets evermore complicated.

    Consequently, while it can be done using such HTML coding, the impossibly complicated nature of all this renders the potential rather useless beyond a few characters or words, to be honest.

    I believe that there is a process to permit Hebrew on the WordPress software, but that is well above my knowledge, to be honest.


  5. SEB-

    I think the question marks should revolve around your present state of sanity since you are becoming so very old…..!!

    That you are “the kid on the block” shows in that you always have so much to say.

  6. @Edgar, Peloni

    ???? ??? ????… ??? ??? ???? ???? ????. ?? ??? ??????, ????, ???? ?? ???????????. ??? ??, ?? ???? ???????? ????? ???? ??? ??? ?? ????????? ???????.
    ?? ???, ???, ????, ?? ????? ?????? “????” ???? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??? ??????, ??? ?????, ?? ??? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ????? ???? ????.

    {??? ??? ???, ??? ????? ??????, ??? ???? ???? ???? ???? ???? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??????, ????? ?????? ?? “??????”.
    ??? ?????????? ???? ??, ??? ??? ????? ??????? ???? ????? “??? ?????”…?????? ?? “?????” ????? “?????”…

    ???… ??? ?????? ?? ????? ???????? ?????? ???? ??????. ???? ?? ??????.}

    ?? ???, ??? ?? ???? ??? ??? ????? ?????? ??? ???????.
    ?? ??? ??, ???? ????? ???? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?????????? ???? ??.

    Google Translate actually did turn it into Hebrew but WordPress turned the Hebrew into question marks* when I copied and posted it to Israpundit.

    Hey, Peloni: Is there a way to make Hebrew come out as Hebrew on an Israeli WordPress site?


    Not that answering a question with a question isn’t a distinctively Jewish (or Korean) thing to do. 😀

  7. SEB-

    Your reference to my posting in Hebrew is intriguing. Please do me the favour and, with your expert digging, re-issue my last post in Hebrew.
    I’m looking forward to seeing it -although not holding my breath.

    I stand by my comment below.

  8. @Felix That one’s easy. more and more right wing pundits have been using the term, “liberated territories.” Everybody gets that. People who want to avoid confrontation off the bat, say, “disputed territories.” That’s “disputed” as in the phrase, “I dispute your claim to have the right to rob and murder me.” 😀

  9. But the biggest damage comes from the term “occupied territories”. The BBC journalists get off on this all the time and the Jews have been so busy that they have not answered this simple assertion (which historically is a lie) but since this lie is repeated the rebuttal also has to be repeated. This Netanyahu does not have the ability to do. His mind is too filled with complexity. But propaganda is based yes indeed always on truth but not complexity. The simple point is the British removed 78 % gave that to all the Arabs, gave the rest to the Jews
    Nota Bene no occupied territories.


    Simple answer

    No complexity needed or advised

  10. @Edgar You may be right about everybody in Israel getting it. Tell you what; next time you post a comment in Hebrew, do it that way.

  11. SEB-

    You may be right….but I think you’re wrong. Everyone in Israel for instance will know what the references are. Also any readers interested in the subject will undoubtedly look up the readily available meanings .
    However you, for instance don’t explain that the term “peleset” was dubbed on the Sea Peoples by the Egyptians , under Rameses if I recall my reading of many years ago.

    {Apropos nothing, and just for the sake of chatting, I recall that a couple of centuries earlier the invaders then were the Chabiru, whom many associate with “The Hebrews”.
    I am ambivalent about this as I believe that the Hebrews called themselves” B’nai Yisrael” …and the word for “Hebrews” was “Ivrim”…

    BUT…they are pictures with outer garments strongly resembling talisim. striped with tassels.}

    However, I see nothing particularly complicated in what I posted.
    Nor do you, and I’d bet money that our Israpundit members don’t either.

  12. @Edgar Problem is nobody else will know who you are referring to without a long historical lecture. if you just want to preach to the choir, no problem. Your average person has never heard of Judea and Samaria and has no idea where that might be, much less YESHA. “West Bank” they know. You’ll have to explain every word you use at great length before you get to the point! You have to start from where people are the way the pals did when they changed the discourse.

    I wonder how many Jews know?

  13. SEB-

    Your brief meander through history was interesting but of no practical use for this topic. We all know it anyway.,

    The answer is so obvious that you don’t see ii-although you know i as well as I do.
    You ask “why don’t (other Arab states) they let them into their countries. etc etc”

    The simple, correct answer is the same as always.

    BECAUSE they are endemically born to hate Jews and now Israelis, so keep the “palestinians” as a festering sore to harry Israel. Like a “Mantra.

    (Gaza Arabs are mostly from Egypt, there are about 35 families that have El-Misri as surnames, and many others with Egyptian markers in their names.)
    When I mentioned “YESHA ARABS” I referred to those in Judea,Samaria and Gaza,,, Israel’s enemies on the ground.
    {YE=Yehuda…SH=Shomron… A=Aza or Gaza)

    Remember not so long ago, before “oil” the Arabs were regarded as barbaric savages with absolutely NO political or any other kind of international power., who confined their squabbling to intertribal raids and warfare. Now they are “cock of the walk”, and act just like the jumped-up new rich of other countries. And their Quaran demands that the dirtiest Arab beggar is head and shoulders above the very best of any other religious group. Regardless of facts.
    They are still in the process of civilising, using the worst of democracy combined with the savagery of their own “culture”. Their civil reasoning is only “skin-deep”.

    The “Golden Age” of the “Arabs” in Spain, often quoted, was because they were Moors and Berbers, a different people completely from Arabs, (but with a very small Arab mixture) and they had the collaboration of Jews.

    Jews and Arabs are like oil (olive) and water. Regardless of occasional friendships between individuals, which very often ended with Jewish entrails laid bare to the horrified families.

  14. Avigdor2 True, but they’re there now and a distinct group among Arabs and among Muslims so how do you refer to them so people know who you mean? Edgar proposed, “Yesha Arabs” at one point, but what about the Gaza Arabs and all the others in other countries who identify and band together as members of the same group? “PLO” Arabs has been suggested, but what about Hamas and Islamic Jihad? For practical purposes, names are just substitutes for pointing. White chocolate has no cocoa in it but is still shelved with the chocolates and you still ask for white chocolate though culinary experts would demur because it’s basically just sugar and lecithin.

    But, so what? They have no legitimate claim to
    The land whatever they are calling themselves this week.

    The Left likes to play with words. Things are what they are. What’s in a name? A “Palestinian “ by any other name would still be a “pleshet” which, if I remember correctly, is the Hebrew origin of Philistine, from which “Palestine” was derived by the Romans and it means, “invader.”

    Ironically, I recall Marx made this same point once in a debate about language with Proudhon – another antisemite – the father of Modern Anarchism, unless you count William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft’s, the founder of modern feminism’s husband, Mary Shelley, author
    Of Frankenstein’s father, and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet’s husband.
    who founded Philosophical Anarchism at the time of the French Revolution, thought in England.. But, I digress.

    If they are just Muslims and Arabs, why do all the other Muslims and Arabs refuse to let them back in to their countries, while paying lip service to their phoney-baloney “national” aspirations. How do they know to single them out if they are not a distinct group, albeit of recent manufacture.

    (Ever see the photo of a “Palestinian” Arab holding up the key to the house he supposedly lost in 1948 only the
    company that made the key wouldn’t come in to being until decades later?) 😀

    Why not just refer to them as the quote unquote Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs or Arab Palestinians since Israeli Jews are Jewish Palestinians if the short-lived mandate is the point of reference? Seems to me that covers all bases.

    I remember, that the pals in Brooklyn actually had a club house that said “Arab Palestinians” in the 80s.

    That might be best since it raises the question, “Gee, as opposed to what other kind of Palestinian in the mind of the listener.

    I just call them the pals cause haven’t they been such great pals to us, the duplicitous murdering bastards? Just ask jihadist terrrorist agent in Congress , Ilhan Omar. 😀

    Israel could learn a few things from hypocritical China vis a vis the Huighurs who had an Islamic secessionist movement with terrorists , or Stalin vis a vis Ukraine and the likewise pro-Nazi Tatars of Crimea if you ask me, but it won’t. (Sigh) and the killings of Jews continue.

  15. Sebastien

    A good find. Would hope to follow this.

    The land was bought from absentee landlords

    “Joseph Weitz (“the Father of Israel’s Forests”), purchased Arab lands pre-WWII from absentee landlords with funds collected from the Jewish diaspora in a slotted “little blue box”. ”

    And the tenants living awful lives had no say

    But their lot was to get better because the Jews had NOT changed their nature, they remained a loving people. Forests were good and need care.

  16. Edgar you are very correct

    “no one notices , cares or follows suit.”

    A gasp of realism. A dollop of badly needed truth.

    I have long opposed this particular language *the left/the right*

    Jared Israel and Francisco Gil White both highly studied on Israel were vehemently opposed as well

    EVEN Martin Sherman so sound a man wrote a whole article one day denouncing it as ultra harmful. But same old story he lapsed

    Ted Belman never conceded one inch and is among the worst of many offenders

    Why does this happen? Because the people come on to rant. They’re doing nothing. So they rant away and that keeps them happy…kind of

  17. @tbelman
    I agree about
    The legal right to live in exclusively Jewish communities which have less than 1000 members or other number agreed to.

    However I’d set number much higher.

  18. @Avigdor2
    you say “unlike Vivarto”.

    No it is not unlike Vivarto, because I 100% support your proposal to band the word “Palestinian”, “West-Bank” and “East-Jerusalem” from all official Israeli statements.

  19. @Avigdor2
    I would take Israeli citizenship from anyone who define himself as Palestinian.

    “Palestinian” is a historical lie. A bunch of colonists pretending to be the native people of our land.

    The word “Jew” also sucks because it does not point to our land.
    The word “ISRAELITE” is the best.
    It relates our nation to our country.

    Just like the word French relates the Frenchman to France, and the word Dane relates the native Dane to his country Denmark, same with Swedes, Irishmen, Scots, Germans, etc.

    Do not confuse ISRAELITE with ISRAELI.
    The last unfortunately also includes citizens who are not Israelites, but Arabs and more.
    Also Israelite refers also to the members of our nation living in exile.

    The word “Jew” deprives us our national identity, it destroys our credibility.
    It is being perceived as a religious persuasion and religions are universal, they are not bound to a country.

    If 10 million of people in Congo decide to convert to “Judaism”, does that mean that they should be automatically considered citizens of Israel?

  20. AVIGDOR 2

    You’re wasting your time. The Dumbos will still refer to “Palestinians” just like the refer to YESHA as “The West Bank”.

    No pride, that feeling went away long go.

    I ALWAYS refer to the Arabs as TESHA Arabs, or Arab infiltrators

    Bu no one notices , cares or follows suit.

  21. Unlike Vlvarto, I would ban the use of the word “palestinian’ in all govt. media in Israel and in other friendly allied nations where possible. It is used by journalists and Arab propagandists alike historically incorrectly (Jews were for time also “Palestinian” for that matter), but its main purpose was robbing Jews of their connection to Eretz Yisroel. It was a brilliant tactic, but needs to be stopped even at this late date. The Palestine of the Mandate is gone and now a fictional nation to rally against the name Israel and replace the Jewish one in the ME. It should be standard practice to use “Arab” or “Muslim” in all cases requiring explicit reference to these existing and well defined groups (if indeed it is necessary. Maybe it will take more than this to accomplish, but let us try to use real appellations and not false ones. Do not accept the anti-Israel narrative invented to hurt the Jewish State.
    In the media, the practice has grown out of all proportion to exaggerate and distort public discourse. It’s time to stamp it out.

  22. Placed side by side with the article related to cendorship in the EU, Israel must be very careful regarding the formulation of laws. Every law which is disliked abroad receives an unwaranted amount of criticism combined with threats of dire consequences. The pot has been calling the kette Black for a long time now.
    Comparing Israel with any of it’s neighbors finds that it compares favorably with the freedoms allowed the non-Jewish population. The HC should be encouraged to apply the existing laws rather than trying to “reason” them out of existence. It is not their task to create new laws.

  23. I think the definition of “Jewish and Democratic” is a part of Jewish self-destructiveness.
    Jewish, or much better “Israelite” is much better definition.

    Just like Greece is Greek, whether it is democracy, or autocracy, or theocracy, or monarchy, or whatever it becomes at any given point of their history.

    Same with China, it is Chinese whether it is communist, or democratic, or fascist, or empire, or even if it is a colony, or possession of another country, it still remains China and is the country of Chinese people.

    Democracy just like any other form of government cannot define the country, only nationality does.
    And therefore being “Jewish” (or much better “Israelite” ) is strictly national distinction, nor religious.

  24. @Ted

    This Knesset has the ability to amend the law so that being a Jewish state takes precedence over being a democratic state. Better to do so before the battle commences.


    A particularly powerful synopsis leading towards an equally insightful conclusion. In fact, if there is to be a showdown with the High Court, rather than basing that battle upon a contest of a partial limitation of the Reasonableness clause only as it relates to political appointments, let us make the issue something more encompassing, something which is relevant and meaningful to the entire Israeli people – let the contest be centered about the answer to the question raised in the title of your post – “What is the meaning of “Jewish and Democratic””? By clarifying this matter beyond all ambiguity, it will draw the Court’s ire while likewise solidifying public support in favor of such a clarification. Should the Court be so bold as to act or not, the people will not support any correction which fenestrates the Jewish nation state into something less than Jewish, and likewise neither should the govt.

    Should the Knesset act as you suggest to legislate a clarification on this matter, it would require a direct and immediate response by the Court, while also necessarily unifying much of the public opposition behind the govt. The political victory would be dwarfed by the settlement achieved by the govt of securing the truth that Israel is the Jewish state for the Jewish people as it was originally intended by both the international community which recognized first the Jewish Homeland and later the Jewish state, as well as the Jews who transformed that recognition into the eminent Jewish nation-state which Israel stands today.

    A particularly brilliant suggestion, in fact.

  25. I agree with Dr. Sherman’s interpretation of the Israel Declaration of independence. I also agree with Ted’s proposals concerning laws that Israel should adopt. I would like to point out, however, that the promise of civil and religious rights to all citizens of the state, but national rights only to the Jews, only restates the nearly identical statements in the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo conference, and the mandate document promulgated by the United Nations. All of these documents promise civil and religious rights to all the inhabitants of “Palestine: but promise national rights only to “the Jewish people.” Thus in a way, when the Declaration discusses these matters, it is merely restating the committments already made to the Jews over the past 31 years.., as well as to the “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” National rights only to the Jewish people; civil and religious rights to all.