Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, November 30, 2009. With a note of thanks to Eleonora Shifrin, Executive Director of the Foundation for Constitutional Democracy, for prompting me to analyze the dilemma discussed in this report.
Israel has been suffering from a democratic form of statism—fascism with a human face. Let me explain via the great philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, who said “The Jews are the first people that refused to worship the State.” This suggests that the Jews are the first people to recognize a “Higher Law,” one that transcends the laws of the State. Israel today has abandoned this tradition.
The idea of a law that transcends the acts of parliaments and kings inspired America’s Founding Fathers: it justified their revolution against Britain in 1776. Christian America is therefore spiritually indebted to the Jewish people—to say nothing of Jews like Haim Solomon who helped finance that revolution. Let’s be more specific.
America’s Declaration of Independence affirms that the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” constitute the ultimate standard of whether laws enacted by the State are just or unjust, hence whether the State merits obedience. The Declaration speaks of “government by the consent of the governed.” Consent is a rational as well as a volitional concept, as clearly implied when we speak of a young person reaching the age of consent. It follows that the Declaration envisions a rational form of popular government. Not all popular governments are rational. Here you can read more about today in Israel news.
That the Declaration says all men are created equal only means that men are equal in their natural rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It does not mean that one man’s opinion of what is just or unjust is as valid as another’s. God is neither a moral relativist nor a normless Democrat. The term “democracy” is not even mentioned in the Declaration.
Now, having studied the teachings of America’s Founding Fathers and of various 18th century university presidents, I have concluded that America became a great Christian nation because it was founded very much on Jewish principles. Alas, I cannot say this of the present State of Israel, which was founded on non-Jewish principles, including the non-Jewish principle that the State is the highest law—a principle associated with statism. It is no accident that whereas the American Declaration of Independence includes such words as “God,” the “Supreme Judge,” and “Divine Providence,” no such language is found in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence. Let’s be clear about this.
In Judaism Politics, rulers are subordinate to the laws of the Torah. The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashana 1:3a) teaches that God Himself is bound to observe the laws of the Torah. In Israel today the state is sovereign. This statism is evident in the 1948 Israeli statute: “No act of legislation shall diminish the rights of the State, or impose upon it any obligation, unless explicitly stated” (Law and Administration Ordinance, Section 42, Explanatory Note.) This statist law verges on fascism, except that Israel rejects a single party state. We have in Israel a democratic form of fascism consistent with the east European tendency of top-down leadership.
This democratic fascism was manifested in the Expulsion Law of October 2004. That law was enacted by a democratically elected Likud government which implemented Labor’s “unilateral disengagement” policy—a policy rejected by a vast majority of the voters in the January 2003 election as well as by Israel’s highest defense officials. That law was not based on reason. The people were right; their Likud government was wrong. And to its ever-lasting shame, that Likud government ordered Israeli soldiers and police to expel 10,000 law-abiding and productive Jews from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria.
Politically and morally speaking, that Likud government was illegitimate. Its devious prime minister betrayed the will of the people. And now another Likud government is ready to yield Judea and Samaria. Only now Israel’s leading charlatan would have the people believe that the Palestinian Arabs, given economic prosperity, will trash their Quran and metamorphose into bourgeois democrats.
Note that Netanyahu’s decision to endorse an Arab-Islamic state in Judea and Samaria was taken without public or Knesset debate. Charming democracy! That 300,000 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria may suffer the same fate as the Jews expelled from Gaza—well, that’s an affair of State, decided by Israel’s statist prime minister, who, as a cabinet minister, voted for the expulsion of all Jews from Gaza.
Assuming that Israeli soldiers will be used to expel the Jews residing in Judea and Samaria, what will be the consequences of this State-ordered expulsion?
Here I will not dwell on the traumatic impact on the Jewish victims and the ruinous impact on the nation’s economy. Nor will I discuss the divisive and demoralizing impact of the expulsion on the people of Israel as a whole, on their confidence in the government and in Israel’s future. I therefore leave to others to speculate how the expulsion will affect aliyah, the rate of emigration, the Jewish birthrate, the demographic balance between Jews and Arabs and how this will affect the demographic balance in the Knesset as well as in the government’s cabinet.
I want to focus on an existential dilemma. Suppose that the rabbis, for reasons based on Jewish law, exhort soldiers to disobey orders to expel the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, and that a significant percentage of soldiers—whether religious or not—ignore expulsion orders.
Let us admit that this insubordination could undermine the discipline required of any effective army and therefore endanger the existence of the State. But let us also admit, merely for the reasons already indicated, that the expulsion of 300,000 Jews from Judea and Samaria could also endanger the State’s existence. I believe any candid observer—Jewish or not—would see here an existential dilemma of the first magnitude.
This dilemma was latent in the secular founding of the State of Israel. As I have often pointed out, the very concept of the “Jewish State” is an oxymoron. The “state” is the highest authority as to what is just or unjust, lawful or unlawful, whence it follows that Jewish law is subordinate to the laws of the State. In other words, there is no “Higher Law” than the laws of the State—and this, as noted, intersects fascist doctrine.
Strange as it may seem, semi-fascist doctrine was unwittingly adopted by the less-than-wise or far-seeing founders of the so-called Jewish State when they enacted the unJewish law that “No act of legislation shall diminish the rights of the State, or impose upon it any obligation, unless explicitly stated.”
Now, as I have often shown, the State of Israel qualifies as a democratically elected dictatorship, and for many reasons. Chief among them is that members of the Knesset are not individually accountable to the voters in constituency elections—the practice of almost all of the 88 countries classified as democracies. It is this fact that enabled 23 Likud MKs to violate with impunity their pledge to the nation by passing the Expulsion Law. I have also shown that this party is tainted with treason.
I know that what I am saying will strike many people as offensive and even subversive. But this is no time for milk-and-toast political analysis. Israel is on the verge of self-destruction thanks not only to its corrupt system of government, but also to the cowardice, egotism, and anti-Torah mentality of its ruling elites—religious or not.
I dare say that this State has become the greatest enemy of the Jewish people, notwithstanding what one may say of its accomplishments. Its servility and appeasement of Israel’s enemies stand in striking contrast to the poorly equipped Americans of 1776, who rebelled not merely against this or that law but rather against a system of government whose laws violated the laws of nature and of nature’s God. One does not have to be Jewish to recognize that a government that expels law-abiding citizens from their homes violates their God-given rights and forfeits its legitimacy and claim to obedience.
The people of Israel should therefore establish a new government, one that upholds their natural rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. There is no point in toppling the Netanyahu government unless it is replaced by one that respects the Torah, because no government that deems itself superior to the laws of God can overcome Israel’s existential dilemma, which today is approaching its end.