Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Dovbear reacts to my previous post with a comment of such breathtaking stupidity that I can't resist suggesting that he stick to topics he knows something about -- even at the risk of opening a yawning gap in his daily routine. In his original post he wrote:

If it's a democracy, it isn't a Jewish state. And if it's a Jewish state, it can't, with a straight-face, offer full-equality to non-Jews.

After some reflection he altered the post to:
Israel can't have it's cake and eat it, too. If it wants to be a better democracy, this means becoming less of a Jewish state. And vice versa.

The amended version is perhaps not breathtaking, only stupid.

The offer of "full equality for all citizens, collective rights for minorities (Arabs) in exchange for recognition that Israel is a Jewish State" was made by Israel's leading constitutional scholar, Prof. Ruth Gavison, who also headed the Israel Civil Liberties Union for many years.

The thought that the more Israel is Jewish the less it is democratic will also be news to the reactionary who penned the following:

"מדינה יהודית" היא אפוא מדינתו של העם היהודי; זוהי זכותו הטבעית של העם
היהודי להיות ככל עם ועם העומד ברשות עצמו במדינתו הריבונית..."מדינה יהודית" היא
מדינה שההיסטוריה שלה שלובה ושזורה בהיסטוריה של העם היהודי, ששפתה עברית, שעיקרי
חגיה משקפים את תקומתה הלאומית..."מדינה יהודית" היא מדינה המטפחת תרבות יהודית,
חינוך יהודי ואהבת העם היהודי. "מדינה יהודית" היא "הגשמת שאיפת הדורות לגאולת
ישראל". "מדינה יהודית" היא מדינה שערכי החירות, הצדק, היושר והשלום של מורשת ישראל
הם ערכיה. "מדינה יהודית" היא מדינה שערכיה שאובים ממסורתה הדתית, שהתנ"ך הוא
הבסיסי בספריה ונביאי ישראל הם יסוד מוסריותה. "מדינה יהודית" היא מדינה שהמשפט
העברי ממלא בה תפקיד חשוב, שענייני נישואין וגירושין של יהודים מוכרעים על-פי דין
תורה. "מדינה יהודית" היא מדינה שבה ערכיה של תורת ישראל, ערכיה של מורשת היהדות
וערכיה של ההלכה היהודית הם מערכיה הבסיסיים".

I'm too lazy to translate. For those who didn't recognize that quote, it's by Aharon Barak (Parshanut, p. 332)

Dovbear's comment is quaintly provincial in that it is rooted in a trend of thought that is both recent and localized, namely, that the raison d'etre of every democracy must be to simply enforce rights. The notion that a nation may actually have particular values or cultural traditions that it wishes to preserve while guaranteeing civil rights -- the overwhelmingly dominant understanding of democracy wherever and whenever it has flourished -- is apparently incomprehensible to a small number of self-absorbed urban academic Jews in a handful of blue states in the U.S. Some of their cohorts have not yet emigrated from Israel.

For Israel to be a Jewish state means, inter alia, that
- it encourages the preservation of Jewish culture (there is no such law currently)
- it's official language is Hebrew (today Hebrew and Arabic have equal status)
- Shabbos and yomim tovim are the official days of rest
- Jews are given the right to immigrate and obtain citizenship (similar laws appear in the constitutions of Poland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Macadonia and others)
- kashrus is kept in public dining rooms in official state institutions (there is no such law currently)
- state symbols are rooted in Jewish cultural traditions (check out the Swiss flag)
- the public square reflects consensus values (which in Israel's case includes certain Jewish values)

None of the above stand in contradiction to democracy. With specific regard to the last point, if Israel were not subjected to the tyranny of a self-appointing radical court that strikes down every reasonable compromise reached by the legislature on religion and state in the public square, it would be more democratic and more Jewish.

P.S. I've just returned to Israel and, as is perhaps evident, that's put me in great spirits. Some of you might be happy to hear that I've brought along a fine bottle of Jefferson's Reserve.


Blogger DovBear said...

I am so happy I left the original sentance where you could find it. Next time, I'll be less scrupulous.

Pummeling me with a sentance I, myself, corrected is not playing fair - especially when you concede that the corrected sentance "is perhaps not breathtaking."

The rest of your comment is gibberish. You haven't addressed my central point. Instead you've skated around it. So once again: How can Israel offer "full-rights" to a non-Jewish minority, while also insisting that it is a Jewish state?

Perserving "particular values or cultural traditions" is all well and good, but "equal rights" means worrying about the "particular values or cultural traditions" of the minority, too. Otherwise, you don't have equality.

Incidently, it's pretty horrendous that Poland, Bulgaria and Switzerland (Switzerland!) are the countries you think have something to teach the Jews about good behavior toward minority populations

5:01 AM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Finally, you might want to explain why, as you wrote in the original post, "the cat is out of the bag."

Rejecting Israel's back-of-the-bus offer is a perfectly rational action.

5:09 AM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...


I think that you have both found a shiny new Chavrusa.

11:21 AM  
Blogger DovBear said...

mayvin yavinDon't disapoint me Ben. I know you can grasp the point this makes.

1:24 AM  

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