The Foundation for Constitutional Democracy

19-Jun-2008

Theocracy Versus Judaism: How the Jews of Israel Have Been Deceived and Disempowered (III)

Filed under: Democratic MethodsDomestic PolicyJudaismRepresentation — eidelberg @ 1:03 am

Part three of a series. View Part one. View Part two.

B. Neither God Nor the People Rule Israel

In Judaism there is no ruling class. In a truly Jewish community, who rules is based primarily on intellectual and moral character. Indeed, the most authentic form of Jewish leadership is that of the teacher, whose power is not political but intellectual and moral.

The fact that education in Israel is required of all members of the community precludes rigid class divisions. Conversely, Torah education is the great unifying force of the Jewish people, a people that honors scholars more than kings. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out, in a mature Jewish community the center of gravity lies not in any ruling class but in the body of the people. It is hardly an exaggeration to say, therefore, that the leaders of a Jewish community act consistently with the Torah when they make themselves superfluous!

See to it that the peasant behind the plough, the herdsman with his cattle, the weaver at his loom can be your judges and masters, the critics of your conduct and teaching; then at the same time will they be your pupils and friends, they will willingly and joyfully follow your teachings and regulations; they will understand and appreciate the spirit in which you speak and by which you are guided.[1]

With such a people, says Hirsch, “let a Rabbi try to give one decision in opposition to the Torah, and the humblest Jewish apprentice will refuse obedience …” He will “rebuke the Rabbi for his error or forgetfulness of his duty.” He will “remind him that among Jews it is not clerical robes or government decrees that confer authority; that the word of the most celebrated Rabbi carries weight only so long as it accords with the law, and is null and void if it conflicts with the law sanctioned in Israel.” [2]

Because the Torah belongs to the people as a whole, no institution of government can impose any regulations or any officials on a Jewish community without first obtaining its consent. The Sages teach: “We must not appoint a leader over the community without first consulting it” (Berachot 55a). This applies to legislation. The Babylonian Talmud states: “No legislation should be imposed on the public unless the majority can conform to it” (Avoda Zara 36a). The Jerusalem Talmud puts it this way: “… any legislation enacted by a court but not accepted by the majority of the public is no law” (Avoda Zara 2:8).

It follows that (1) before enacting legislation, the legislator must investigate whether it is acceptable to a majority of the public, and (2) if, after the law is enacted, it appears that a majority of the public do not accept it, the legislation is legally ineffective. This is not majoritarianism. Under Jewish law “the minority, even those who for lack of means do not contribute [to the public treasury], can compel the majority to carry out everything which is a legal obligation of the community.”[3] Considerations of justice trumps majority rule.

Nevertheless, the Talmudic laws cited in the previous paragraph suggest the general principle of government by the consent of the governed, something lacking in today’s reputedly democratic State of Israel—and not only because of its fairly obvious judicial tyranny. Not obvious, even to students of government, is Israel’s well-concealed political tyranny. This invisible tyranny is the result of a bizarre parliamentary electoral system hardly understood by the people of Israel, a system that secures the power, privileges, and political longevity of Israel’s political elites. Here we must pause to examine Israel’s parliamentary system the better to appreciate how much its Secular Guardians have stripped the Jewish people of the power they would enjoy under a Torah government.

Israel’s invisible tyranny stems from a simple fact: the entire country constitutes a single electoral district. Constituency or regional or multi-district elections with open as opposed to fixed slates do not exist in Israel, contrary to the practice of all but one country classified as a democracy—88 in number, of which 26 are smaller in size and population than Israel.

Given Israel’s single nationwide electoral district, parties win Knesset seats according to Proportional Representation. A low electoral threshold (currently 2%) produces a profusion of parties. Inasmuch as no party has ever come close to winning a majority of seats in the Knesset, a coalition of five, six, or more parties is necessary to form a Government. Since each coalition party has its own agenda or priorities, the Government invariably lacks a coherent political ideology and program to which a majority of the public has given its consent.

This gives Israel’s prime minister enormous domestic power—far more than a President of the United States. A prime minister of Israel can pursue a policy rejected by an overwhelming majority of the public in a national election, as Ariel Sharon did in December 2003 when he adopted the opposition Labor Party’s policy of “unilateral disengagement.” This he could do because his Cabinet, whose members campaigned against that policy in the January 2003 election, could not muster a majority to vote against him without toppling the Government, something almost unheard of in Israel’s history. Operative in Israel, therefore—and this is virtually unknown to the public—is prime ministerial government, a euphemism for dictatorship![4]

(To be continued in Part Four, Section C)


[1] Samson Raphael Hirsch, Judaism Eternal (London: Soncino Press, 1956), II, 134.

[2] Ibid., II, 133.

[3] Ibid., p. 103.

[4] It should be noted that no Labor- or Likud-led government has ever been toppled by a vote of no confidence, and this applies, as of this writing, to Kadima. This is symptomatic of prime ministerial government.