Is Israel Jewish and Democratic? By Moshe Feiglin
The Knesset is in an uproar right now over the Jewish State Bill. The bill simply states that Israel is the national home of the Jewish People, while also affording full rights to citizens of other religions. The Left vehemently opposes this bill, calling it ‘undemocratic’.
The true litmus test of the democratic leanings and liberalism of the Knesset Members, however, is not the Jewish State Bill. It is the “Israel Hayom” bill, passed last week in the Knesset. An MK who votes in favor of closing a newspaper that doesn’t fit his/her political views is not safeguarding democracy. Amazingly, those very same small dictators are now crying crocodile tears over the loss of democracy. “Israel is Jewish and democratic,” declares Justice Minister Tzippy Livni and promptly turns to the Attorney General and the ‘Rule of Law’ gang to once again block Israel’s solid Jewish majority from actualizing its values in the state that it established.
Is Israel indeed Jewish and democratic? A state whose parliament closes newspapers is not a democratic state. A state in which 93% of the land reserves belong to the State – is not democratic. A state in which the army drives thousands of citizens from their homes is not a democratic state. A state that employs administrative detention is not democratic. A state in which the Education Minister – not the parents – is responsible for the education of the children – is not a democratic state. A state in which a small, non-representative judicial clique nullifies Knesset laws is not a democratic state. A state in which the army runs its own public radio station, while the public needs a license to broadcast is not a democratic state. A state in which firearms are confiscated from loyal citizens but are stockpiled in all the hostile villages is not democratic. And the list goes on…
On the other hand, a state established to realize the national aspirations of one nation, which meticulously safeguards the human rights of all other nationals loyal to the existence of the nation-state of those who established it – is certainly democratic. Furthermore, it is that state’s prerogative and duty to safeguard the ‘golden egg’ that will keep the ‘family business’ in the family’s hands – and out of the hands of irresponsible descendants who may suddenly decide to sell it.
Israel wants to be democratic. We can even say that Israel is more democratic than its neighbors. But we are still a long way from the Jewish state of liberty that we have dreamed of.
The word “democracy” does not appear at all in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. That is because democracy is not a goal; democracy is a method. “Democracy is the worst form of government,” said Winston Churchill, “except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” I also do not know of a better method with which to implement liberty. As such, I am more democratic than all those currently howling against the Jewish State Bill.
“We declare today the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel,” Ben Gurion announced. I once asked a group of cadets visiting the Knesset what exactly Ben Gurion said when he declared Israel’s independence. Many of them seriously thought that Ben Gurion said “Jewish and democratic.”
That, of course, is preposterous. Not one of the dreamers and pioneers, the new immigrants and fighters, the builders and planters who returned to our holy Land after 2000 years of exile did so in order to establish another democratic state. If that had been their goal, they could have gone to America or Australia. Most of the Jewish emigrants, by the way, did exactly that. Those who came to Israel wanted a Jewish State. The absolute majority preferred the democratic method as a means to rule the Jewish State. But to place the essence and the means to achieve it on the same plane is demagoguery – cunningly designed to confuse the public and hijack the Jewish State from the Jewish majority.
More than anyone else, the person who heralded the “Jewish democratic” revolution was former Chief Justice Aharon Barak. When Barak was asked what, in his opinion, is a Jewish state, he simply explained that whatever is democratic is Jewish. In other words, in Israel’s High Court, Israel became democratic and democratic. When former president Peres resigned, he had no qualms about saying, “For me, the State of Israel is the state of all its citizens.”
To sum it all up, my dear democrats: Democracy is the last thing that interests you. Your intention is to erode Israel’s Jewish identity and you do so by means of what you call ‘democracy.’ The Jewish State Bill does no harm at all to democracy. On the contrary; it preserves the values of the majority and does not allow a small minority to act against its will. But the Jewish State Bill somewhat curbs your quest to erase Israel’s Jewish identity. And that is what makes you so livid.