The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

04-Jan-2007

The State Versus the Torah

Filed under: Domestic PolicyElectorate/DemographicsJudaism — eidelberg @ 11:34 pm

There is a fundamental conflict between the sovereign state and the Torah. This should be obvious to any rabbi—certainly any Orthodox rabbi.

Probing deeper, rabbis should be the first to realize that any Knesset Member or any judge who holds that the law of the State is the highest law is uttering, in principle, a fascist doctrine. The principle has actually been enunciated by the Knesset: “No act of legislation shall diminish the rights of the State, or impose upon it any obligation, unless explicitly stated.” (Law and Administration Ordinance, 1948, Section 42, Explanatory Note.) The sovereignty of the State is clear, and this is the basic reason why the State, in utter disregard of the Torah, expelled 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif and northern Samaria.

Every honest rabbi knows that those who control the machinery of the State disdain Torah-Judaism. Not only did the Supreme Court legalize the State’s expulsion of Jews from Gaza by ruling that Gaza, as well as Judea and Samaria, constitute “belligerent occupied territory”. The court has also rendered decisions that undermine Shabbat, dignify homosexuality and same-sex marriage—decisions that trample on basic Jewish ideas and values; laws which alone have preserved the separateness, identity, and moral integrity of the Jewish people.

Nevertheless, the religious parties in the Knesset have facilitated the formation of, and/or consorted with, governments which have pursued or condoned these anti-Jewish policies. Is it any wonder that religious parties are held in contempt by secularists? One has to wonder whether their dissolution would not, in the long run, be conducive to the cause of the Torah. But let me anticipate two objections which religious Jews may advance.

First, “What can we religious citizens accomplish if we don’t engage in politics?” Which means: “What can we do without power?” It can be argued, however, that it is precisely because politics is nothing more than an egoistic struggle for power that it can solve no basic Jewish problems. (Of course, politicians conceal their egoism by using such euphemisms as the “common good,” “peace,” and “democracy.” But only the benighted are deceived by these soporifics.)

Second, it will be objected that the dissolution of religious parties will deprive yeshivot of essential public funds. But it is not clear that such funds would not be forthcoming without the religious parties. After all, the secular parties would still have to compete for religious voters, who constitute an increasing percentage of the electorate.

That percentage will increase more rapidly once the bad example of religious parties ceases to alienate secularists, so many of whom, in their hearts, want to be more observant. It cannot be said too often that despite Labor’s stranglehold on the news and education media, an overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jewish population identify with the Jewish heritage, hence with the Torah. One study indicates that roughly 50% of Jews who regard themselves as “secularists” do not oppose religious legislation!

So, how do we get a government that represents believing Jews—a large majority of Israel’s Jewish population? Bearing in mind that the sovereign State is not going to disappear overnight, let’s begin with institutional reforms that diminishes the power of the State and increases the power of the people. Accordingly:

First, we must show that the present State of Israel is not truly democratic, that by compelling citizens to vote for fixed party lists rather than individual candidates, the State enables politicians to ignore the people with impunity. This was made crystal clear when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon adopted Labor’s “unilateral disengagement” plan, rejected by 70% of the voters in the January 2003 election.

Second, we must democratize the Knesset by making MKs individually accountable to the people in regional elections.

Third, we must democratize the Supreme Court by requiring the Knesset to confirm judicial appointments.

Fourth, we must spread Torah education to encourage the ba’alei tshuva movement as well as aliya. These two objectives can be hastened by showing how multiculturalism is undermining the national character of England, France, and the United States.

Fifth, Jews should form self-help organizations and make their communities more independent of the State. Electing Knesset members on the basis of regional elections will decentralize the political power of the State, promote local self-government, enlarge the reservoir of Jewish talent and leadership, and thus promote Torah principles and values.