Friday, November 11, 2016

A Country that is Jewish Nationalistic and Democratic, or: Stamping Out Democracy with an “Enlightened” Foot

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

“Separate yourself from me. If you go to the left I will go to the right, and if you go to the right I will go left” [Bereishit 13:9].

Replace “Judaism” by “Nationalism”

Everybody is familiar with the term, “A Jewish and Democratic State,” but in actual fact the “democratic” element takes over, while the “Jewish” side limps along in the background without any practical significance. The greatest stronghold of Israeli democracy is in the justice system. The knight in shining armor of this edifice, the former President of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, gutted the meaning of the “Jewish” element as compared to the “democratic” side, disassociated it from Jewish halacha and tradition, and made the word “Jewish” subservient to the concept of “democracy.” In his point of view, Jewish traditions should be taken into account only if they can be used to strengthen the democratic character of the country (see “Iyunei Mishpat” 24). For example, the purpose of the “morality of the prophets” in fighting corruption and bribery is considered to be an expression of the “Jewish state.” Evidently this is not so for the concept of Shabbat! The learned judge’s disciples on the high court are required to continue on the path which he conquered (in more ways than one). It seems that not one of them would support Jewish elements in making laws and in the behavior required by the authorities which do not completely correspond to the ideas of democracy.

For some time I have been considering a proposal to replace the term “Jewish and Democratic State” by a different and better term – A Nationalistic and Democratic State.

I leave it to academic experts and those skilled in the political and legal sciences to determine if such a term exists among any of the other nations in the world. One thing I can definitely say: If a declaration that Israel is a “Nationalistic and Democratic State” would have been included in the Basic Law of Respect for Man and his Freedom and the Basic Law of Freedom of Business instead of the existing declarations about a “Jewish and Democratic State,” we would have been able long ago to finish passing the “Law of Jewish Nationality,” which at present is stuck while waiting for a coalition majority that is not afraid of the Israeli Supreme Court and the United States President. If we were known as a “ Nationalistic and Democratic State,” we would long ago have been able to rescind the citizenship of those who support and praise terrorists, and maybe even Jews who try to undermine the nationalistic aspects of the State of Israel – both within our land and in international organizations.

A Democratic Minister and a Court President with a Vested Interest

In a transition that is not so sharp, let us move on to the controversy that has recently arisen between the Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, and the President of the Supreme Court, Miriam Naor. The subject would seem to be of a technical nature – what should be the required majority in the appointment committee out of nine members, three of whom are judges, to choose a new judge in the Supreme Court? Until the year 2008 the requirement was a simple majority of five out of nine committee members. That year a new law was passed – one that is seen as patently antidemocratic – requiring a special majority of seven out of nine to choose a new judge. The Minister of Justice now supports passing a law that will bring the majority back to the original number of five, thereby preserving the bounds of real democracy, but this has been greeted by an unenlightened outbreak by people of the left who usually raise the banner of strict democracy. What seems to me most absurd is the strong and pistol-packing stance of the President of the Supreme Court, that bastion of democracy, against having a truly democratic decision in the committee! The reasons for the position of the President of the Court are plain for all to see, without any shame: The President of the Court demands a “blocking vote” that will allow a veto by existing judges over any candidate who is not their clone, although this is a blatantly undemocratic move in that it creates a “special majority.” After all, how can the “simple folks” who are members of the exalted committee be expected to understand the nuances of voting for new judges?

It must be admitted that there are political considerations involved in appointing judges, especially to the Supreme Court, on such issues as “right or left,” conservatism versus liberalism, nationalistic as opposed to universalist, and so on. There are also some people who claim that the Minister of Justice erred in her mathematical calculations, since even with the new law the three judges on the committee can make a deal with the two representatives of the Israel Bar Association, while the Minister and only two Knesset Members will lose the vote. In any case, such calculations are legitimate for political figures, but when the President of the Supreme Court sees it proper to fight tooth and nail against democratic values (the simple majority in an appointment committee) it is a clear case of trampling democratic values with an “enlightened” foot.

* * * * * *

In a fast search that I conducted using the Bar Ilan responsa data base, I found that in every verse in the Tanach the right appears before the left (how could it be otherwise?). The verse quoted at the beginning of this article is no exception, in that “I will go to the right” appears before “I will go to the left.” In the end, I found only one exception to this rule: “ His left hand will be under my head, and his right hand will embrace me” [Shir Hashirim 2:6]. Can any of my readers suggest an explanation for this?

No comments: