10 Adar 5759 February 26, 1999 Issue number 206
Three IDF officers were killed Monday night when terrorists ambushed and attacked a paratroopers unit in Lebanon. The names of the three: Maj. Eitan Balahsan, 30, of Ramot Naftali in the Galilee - the commander of the paratroopers commando unit; Lt. Liraz Tito, 21, of Petach Tikvah; and Lt. David Granit, 22, from Ofrah in Binyamin. Another two soldiers are in moderate condition, and four more were lightly wounded. A small group of Hizbullah terrorists surprised the force, and opened fire from very short range. The commander and the engineering officer of the unit were killed immediately. A battle broke out during which the third Israeli officer was killed. O.C. Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi reported Tuesday that the enemy enjoyed a strong advantage of surprise, and that the helicopters played a courageous and decisive role in ending the battle and evacuating the wounded. The public debate over the proper strategy to take in Lebanon and whether to withdraw has again arisen. Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Uzi Landau said today that we must stop thinking about how to withdraw from Lebanon, and plan instead how to exact a steep price from those who harm us. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said yesterday, "We are continually testing alternatives... I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking that there is an immediate solution. We will definitely find a way to leave Lebanon, but only in a way that will allow us to protect our northern border. We will not abandon the northern communities!" He praised the spirit and determination of the soldiers in Lebanon, and said that he expects Syria to be ready to enter into negotiations on the situation "with no prior dictates" some time after the elections. (Arutz 7 Feb 23,24)
Arutz-7 Is Legal!
Arutz-7 is now a licensed radio station! The Knesset voted 40-29 Tuesday to grant immediate recognition to any station that has been in continuous operation for the past five years. A radio station associated with the Shas party is also included in the bill. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein exerted heavy pressure against the bill throughout the day. Opposition MKs submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court against the legality of the new law less than two hours after the vote. Station executives say that they have received numerous legal opinions affirming that there is no legal basis for disqualifying the proposed bill. They claim that political, not legal, motivations are behind the objections of the State Attorney's office. Yaakov Katz (Katzele), Executive-Director of Arutz-7, said today that the station is making preparations to implement the decision. "We are still checking all the details," he said, adding that he wished to thank Rabbis Ovadiah Yosef, Mordechai Eliyahu, and Avraham Shapira, as well as a long list of Knesset Members and others whose support helped bring about the passage of the bill. (Arutz 7 Feb 23)
A forum of three Supreme Court justices will hear petitions to disqualify the Knesset bill. The two appeals - by MK Eitan Cabel (Labor), and MKs Yossi Sarid and Chaim Oron (Meretz) - will be heard next Monday. At this point, it remains unclear as to who will defend the new law, as the State Attorney's office - whose function it is to defend government laws - refuses to do so. Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh), Arutz-7's Executive Director, said today, "The fact that the Attorney-General is not planning to represent our position puts us in a very difficult spot. We are raising money to retain the best lawyers in the country in order to ensure that the Court does not nullify this Knesset law. Hopefully this is merely the last hurdle that must be overcome before Arutz-7 can finally serve its hundreds of thousands of listeners without interference." Hebrew University law professor Eliav Shochetman today discussed the legal aspects of Monday's bill formally legalizing the operations of Arutz-7. Responding to the claim of Attorney-General Elyakim Rubenstein that the law is basically "illegal," Shochetman stated, "One of the fundamentals of Israeli law is that the Knesset, as the country's sovereign legislative body, has the authority to enact a law such as this. In fact, in one of the Court's previous decisions, Justice Berenson wrote: 'The Knesset is the sovereign authority in matters of legislation, both in respect to the given law's topic and contents. Everyone agrees that the courts cannot undermine the decisions of the sovereign legislature.' Former Chief Justice Landau made a similar statement on another occasion." When asked whether the Supreme Court is likely to annul a law passed by the Knesset, the professor cited the following statement of Chief Justice Aharon Barak from several years ago: "It is improper for us to stray from our accepted judicial tradition, by which the Court does not annul a Knesset law that does not contradict any clause of Israel's Basic Laws. If we do so, we would appear in the public perception to be departing from the accepted consensus as to the definition of the role and authority of judges in Israeli society." Shochetman deduced from this statement that "although it is technically possible for the court to annul a Knesset law, this is not the practice given the division of powers and responsibilities between the courts and the Knesset. Justice Chaim Cohen, who is renowned for his consistent protection of human rights in Israeli law, has stated that the Knesset's law-making powers preclude the Court from canceling even an apparently discriminatory law. So we see that, using the principles of the Supreme Court itself, there is no basis for uprooting the Arutz-7 law. I've read the opinions of numerous Supreme Court judges, past and present, and I haven't found one that says differently."
In light of the above, Shochetman said that he is "puzzled" by Attorney-General Rubenstein's refusal to defend the new law against petitions that have been submitted to the Supreme Court. Prof. Shochetman then discussed the effect of the new law on pending indictments against Arutz-7: "First of all, from legal opinions issued during the era of Abie Nathan's 'Voice of Peace' radio broadcasts, we find senior Justice Department officials - including former Attorney-General Yoram Bar-Sela - who stated clearly that no legal charges can be filed against an unlicensed station that broadcasts outside of Israeli territorial waters. So it's hard to say that yesterday's vote was necessary in order to make Arutz-7 'legal.' But even if we presume, for the moment, that there was a violation of the law in the course of the station's operation, the fourth clause of the 1994 Penal Code unequivocally states that once a law is passed legalizing a previously-illegal behavior, 'the criminal responsibility for the act ceases to exist. The legal proceedings against the offender shall be halted, and in the case of a conviction, any implementation of the sentence shall be stopped immediately.' Given the explicit nature of this clause, I am absolutely bewildered by the various legal commentators who said today on Israeli radio that the courts may still press on with the current charges against the station." Prof. Shochetman noted that there are "countless precedents" in Israeli law for the retroactive legalization of previously criminal behavior. As an example, he noted a post-Oslo 1993 Knesset decision nullifying Paragraph 4(h) of the Criminal Code which forbade any formal contacts with the PLO. Yoel Tzur, Technical Director of Arutz-7, said that the ship will not be brought to shore until various technical details - such as frequencies, location of transmitters, and the like - are arranged with the Communications Ministry. MK Yossi Sarid said that the Arutz-7 law yesterday was "a typical move of the settlers - always clashing with the law." Condemnation of the Knesset decision paving the way for a license for Arutz-7 has been heard from yet another quarter: the Palestinian Authority. Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb Erekat says that the decision is dangerous and "encourages acts of terror against the PA." He said the PA would ask the U.S. to pressure Israel to cancel the decision. (Arutz 7 Feb 24)
New Jewish Neighborhood in Eastern Jerusalem
The "Settlers of Zion" association, under the sponsorship of MK Rabbi Benny Elon and the Beit Orot yeshiva in eastern Jerusalem, has recently acquired six new homes in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood of the city. Members of the association moved into the buildings, not far from the American Consulate, last week. A large part of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood there was owned by Jews in the past, but was abandoned during the War of Independence. Unmarried students are temporarily living in the homes - which were legally acquired in video-taped transactions - and families and married couples are scheduled to move in very soon. The Palestinian Authority did not react to the neighborhoods' old-new residents, as opposed to previous similar cases. (Arutz 7 Feb 24)
Nationalist-Camp Unity Efforts Show Progress
Significant progress has been made in the efforts to unite the right-wing camp. Leaders of the Moledet, Herut, and Tekumah parties met again Tuesday, and agreed that their common party platform will not make mention of Moledet's "transfer of Yesha Arabs" concept. The top two spots on the list will likely be Benny Begin (Herut) and Rehavam Ze'evi (Moledet), but the rest of the list will not be determined until Chanan Porat announces whether he will join the united front. Porat, who was essentially voted out of the next Knesset by the NRP Central Committee Sunday, said that he would not be able to ignore the calls of right-wing rabbis and leaders to leave the NRP and join the Herut-Moledet-Tekumah list. Aharon Domb, Secretary-General of the Yesha Council, called upon the National Religious Party to find a solution that will enable it to "continue to wave the banner of Eretz Yisrael." He said today that he wishes to warn the NRP that if a change is not made in the current party list, "there is a great danger that it will lose much of its support among its traditional voting public." Domb said that he is not giving specific suggestions, but "in the current constellation, there would be nothing more natural than for Chanan Porat [in the 11th position on the party list] and Tzvi Hendel [in the 7th spot, which is no longer necessarily considered a realistic slot] to migrate to the developing nationalist-camp front... I myself may have great trouble voting for the NRP in the current situation." (Arutz 7 Feb 24)
Mordechai: Palestinians Promised Me No Terror Attacks
Yitzchak Mordechai told an American group Monday, "I worked with the Palestinians to achieve a secret agreement so there would be no terror attacks before elections." He explained today that the Palestinians understood that such attacks would be used to Netanyahu's political advantage. The Associated Press reported that Mordechai later clarified his comments, saying that he reached an "understanding" rather than an "agreement" that it was important for Palestinians to try to combat terror. The AP reported that Palestinian officials had no immediate comment. (Arutz 7 Feb 23)
Hero Succumbs to Terrorist Wounds
Moti Bar-Sheshet, an Israeli commando who was critically wounded seven years ago in a clash with terrorists, died from his wounds last Friday. Bar- Sheshet was injured in a clash in Khan Yunis, Gaza, and received a medal of honor from the O.C. Southern Command. (Arutz 7 Feb 21)
Remarks by Arab MK to Be Investigated
Deputy Minister Michael Eitan called upon the Labor Party Sunday to join him in a campaign to investigate whether MK Azmi Bishara's National Democratic Alliance party should be outlawed for its anti-Israel character. At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Communications Minister Limor Livnat referred to Bishara's recent remarks in praise of Hizbullah, and to reports that his party's platform rejects the Jewish character of the State and supports the negation of the Law of Return. The Attorney-General said that he will investigate the matter. (Arutz 7 Feb 21)
Palestinian Incitement Continues
Palestinian Media Watch, under the direction of Itamar Marcus, has released another sampling of recent anti-Semitic incitement in the Palestinian press. These include an article in the daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida from Jan. 18, 1999, which states:
"In the meantime, Israel adds additional massacres to the heritage of heavy bloodshed... Many among the historians and social science researchers delve into the interpretation of the Jewish "Israeli" psyche, and the [interpretation] of the Torah texts, in connection with the historical persecution complex and the massacres of others. However, the reality is that the massacres are a clear, political act in the blood filled history of the Zionist entity* This is not a policy of a party, faction, stream or person. This is a continuing, non-stop system, which has not changed, will not change, and which was never given up on, whether the power lay with those called 'extremists' of the 'right wing' from the Likud party and the religious streams, or with those who are classified as 'moderates' of the Labor party crowd and the streams which are affiliated with the left. Massacre is the basis of the State of Israel... is the core of their beliefs...Israel will never willingly stop the acts of massacre* This [stopping] is rejected from an Israeli point of view and whoever approves [it] will merit the same fate as Rabin. There is no forgetting. There is no forgiving*" [by Tallal Slaman, Editor of 'Alsapir' Lebanese newspaper] A sermon by Sheikh Yussef Abu Snineh, broadcast over Voice of Palestine Radio on Jan. 15, 1999, included the following:
"There is no difference between the names and nicknames, and there is no difference or advantage in the increase of the Israeli parties. The Labor or the Likud, doves or hawks, or the Third Way, or the Right. They all serve the Israeli society and Zionist ideology which is based on the occupation of the land of Palestine, the expansion of the settlements and the 'Judaization' of the city of Jerusalem. They all are different sides of the same coin whose name is the Zionist occupation. The truth that the Muslims, East and West, must know is that our struggle over Palestine is an ideological struggle between Islam and the enemies of Islam... How long will this shame go on, how long the disgrace, oh Muslims. Has not the time arrived for the Islamic nations to rise and throw off their being controlled states and to liberate themselves of the shackles of Imperialism?" (Arutz 7 Feb 19)
TV Talks More to Opposition
Israel's two television stations interview more opposition personalities than those from the coalition. So concludes a new report prepared by Gil Samsonov, Chairman of the Board of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. During the month of January, opposition party members appeared 5% more often than their coalition counterparts on public television's Channel 1, while interviews on Channel 2 (privately-run) featured 15% more opposition than coalition members. Channel One's leading interviewee in January was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but the next seven spots included only one of his political allies. (Arutz 7 Feb 19)
Temple Site Prayer
The Toronto Globe and Mail reported last week that Israel is considering allowing Jewish "zealots" to pray on the Temple Mount. The possible change is in response to a plan by the Moslem Waqf to change the status quo there and move the office of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to the Mount, the site of the First and Second Temple. Yehuda Etzion, a leader of the Temple Mount Loyalists, told Arutz-7 today, "We have been working for such an announcement for a long time. It is too bad that it may be the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who may bring it about." (Arutz 7 Feb 19)
Until the Supreme Court is more representative of the population, justice cannot be fairly dispensed.
It is not democratic that unelected judges can reverse political decisions or appointments of an elected government. Nor is democracy served when the system of appointing judges perpetuates their political, ethnic and religious composition.
To assume that Supreme Court justices and the state attorney do not permit their ethnicity and political views to influence their actions or judgments is totally unreasonable. They do and would not be human if they didn't.
When Ashkenazi secular judges of left-wing political views are a permanent majority, not only Sephardi communities and Orthodox Jews, but also the huge segment of the Jewish population with right-wing views cannot receive justice from the courts.
The small minority of Supreme Court justices who hold right-wing views and/or are Sephardi or Orthodox provide the fig leaf required to disguise a system dominated by an elite eager to perpetuate and extend its essentially political power, which allows left-wing governments to implement their policies but often prevents right-wing governments from doing so.
Much the same applies to the state attorney. When the state attorney and most of her staff have left-wing views (as they usually have), they refrain from charging left-wing persons and Arabs with incitement against an elected right-wing government.
An excellent example occurred last April, when the Peace Now movement, barred from entering Hebron to protest a state-sponsored jubilee celebration, blocked the road to Hebron, halted traffic and clashed with police, injuring several policemen. The group knew its leaders would not be charged with incitement, though for similar offenses in protest against the Labor government's actions, two leaders of the right-wing Zo Artzenu movement were charged, convicted and sent to jail.
The Labor Party has always dismissed Likud appointees from important posts after regaining power and, just before the 1996 elections, Shimon Peres made several crucial political appointments, including that of State Attorney Edna Arbel and two very senior posts in the police criminal investigations department. There was no outcry in the media against the dismissals and no demand to leave these appointments to the government about to be elected. The Supreme Court did not intervene.
Yet in 1996, the Supreme Court, acting as the High Court of Justice, blocked the newly elected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from replacing his inherited Civil Service commissioner, Yitzhak Galnoor, until the latter's contract was up. (Ironically, Netanyahu's own appointee, Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, has forbidden the premier from making any political appointments before the election.)
Most Supreme Court justices may think that the appointments of a left-wing government are non-political and the appointments of a right-wing government are political. But most of the public cannot swallow this thesis, which does not generate respect for the Supreme Court.
Court President Aharon Barak has just taken upon himself to order the retrial of five Arabs convicted of the murder of Danny Katz 15 years ago, though he must have known that a retrial after such a period might prove impossible and his decision may cause the murderers to be released without it. Some of these murderers apologized to the parents of Danny Katz (an unlikely act had they been innocent) and had previously been convicted for the murder of Dafna Carmon. Meanwhile, her colleagues consider Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner fit to remain in her post though she was caught by police driving at 120 kph on the highway, and had no qualms about accepting the policeman's decision not to give her a ticket when he saw who she was. These examples do not prove respect for the law or for equality under the law. None of us should start trembling in fear of offending a judge regardless of what the judge has done; this, too, does not accord with my concept of a free country.
The attempts by certain political elements and their journalist supporters to portray our Supreme Court justices and the state attorney as demi-gods who must not be criticized should be seen for what they are: attempts to blind the general public to the fact that these demi-gods, far from being a bastion of democracy, offend against a basic principle of democracy - equality before the law. So the sooner we have a Supreme Court where Left and Right, Sephardim, Orthodox Jews and Arabs are represented according to their proportion within the population, the sooner will we have a Supreme Court capable of dispensing justice equitably.
But we may expect the political beneficiaries of the status quo to oppose such a reform vehemently in the name of "democracy" and "human rights."
(Jerusalem Post Feb 24)
The writer heads the Jerusalem Institute for Western Defense
How Clinton's advisers push him into involvement in Israeli politics.
President Bill Clinton was surprised to see our candidates for prime minister talking together in Amman. According to the reports he had received from his "experts," the relations between the political rivals in Israel were so tense that they weren't talking at all. And there they were, chatting at Hussein's funeral.
Clinton was probably equally surprised when, at that same event, a political rival of Yitzhak Shamir's promised the president to arrange an encounter between the two.
The meeting never happened because the funeral precession got under way, but it is hoped that Clinton realized that behind their political divisions, Israeli politicians have friendly relationships. Moreover, one should not exaggerate their differences in order to convince the president to prefer one party over another in the forthcoming Israeli elections.
Had Clinton taken time off from his impeachment worries and checked up on some other of his advisers' reports, he would have discovered for himself that, despite those reports, the Israeli announcement of the Palestinians' release of terrorists that helped plan the murders of American citizens was not intended to embarrass him. Israel didn't intend to add another headache to his relations with Congress, which is very sensitive on the question of terrorist attacks on American citizens.
The US officials stubbornly insisted that the terrorists freed from Palestinian Authority jails didn't murder Americans. But even Osama bin Laden didn't murder Americans with his own hands either, he only sent out his flunkies to commit the murders that he had planned.
US officials defended the PA's release of these murderers, mistakenly believing that by appeasing the Palestinians they can persuade Yasser Arafat not to make a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state on May 4. These officials went so far as to invite a high-level Palestinian delegation to Washington for talks on the settlement with Israel, without considering the fact that Israel can't conduct parallel talks because of the upcoming elections. But the Israeli government needn't regret that it isn't being asked to discuss implementation of the Wye Memorandum or the final settlement, since the elections in Israel were brought forward because the coalition broke down after Wye.
And the Israeli public doesn't have to panic at hints from Washington that relations between Jerusalem and Washington have cooled and the PA is pushing Israel out of its special position in American assessments.
The fact is, that the US continues to vote in the UN against Palestinian initiatives intended to harm Israel and the strategic cooperation between Israel and the US is deepening; only this week, a high-level Israeli delegation visited Washington for practical discussions on this cooperation. American defense minister William Cohen is expected in Israel shortly for a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Arens.
It's true that the US is not currently conducting talks with Israel in the Wye framework, but this is at Israel's own request. Israel has made no public announcement to this effect, but there is no doubt that it is interested in a moratorium on further withdrawals during the election campaign.
The Israeli public doesn't need to panic at the leaked announcement of a growing cloud over the intimate relations with Washington because of the American-Palestinian talks, just as there was no need for panic at the prospect that Clinton's talk with Hafez Assad in Amman would damage Israel's status in the Middle East.
The Syrian media's exaggerated description of the chance meeting between the two leaders at Hussein's funeral started a panic in Jerusalem, as if Clinton and Assad had forged a breakthrough in relations between Washington and Damascus.
Not 24 hours later, everybody saw that instead of a breakthrough in relations there was a crisis, with the US threatening to recall its ambassador from Damascus in response to inflammatory declarations by Syrian war minister Mustafa Tlass against the US.
There is no reason to fear that the US might impose its own solution on Israel. Not because of the lessons on the limits of American force on local crises, but on principle. Clinton doesn't identify with the forceful language used by some of his staff towards Israel, which has been expressed in their leaks in order to influence Israeli elections.
The basic friendship between Israel and the US will be able to overcome these unnecessary provocations and veiled threats to punish Israel. David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin were forced to respond harshly to threats of punishment: Ben-Gurion told ambassador Ogden Reed: "We are not a satellite" and Begin told ambassador Samuel Lewis: "We are not vassals."
Today there is no longer any need for such sharp replies. We should just ignore the threats, which are not in keeping with Clinton's overall attitude towards Israel. (Jerusalem Post Feb 24)
It is customary to begin one's remarks by praising the host, and in the case of the Shalem Center that is quite easy. There are at least two critical innovations that the Shalem Center has introduced onto the Israeli scene. First, the long-standing taboo that only intellectuals who have risen through the accepted educational system can have any influence on Israeli society, has been broken. It has been proven that academic "outsiders" can have an effect. The second innovation of the center is not structural but substantive. Ideas which do not belong to one very specific side of the debate, are now being formulated and expressed in an academic manner no less respectable and no less stimulating intellectually. The center, its founders, directors, staff and supporters, deserve to be congratulated for the success, and I am happy to offer my accolades on this festive occasion. If there is any criticism at all of the center, it is only that not enough holy cows have been smitten. That the intellectual elites who believe they are the sole bearers of reason and human advancement, have not yet been shaken loose from their cocoon. I am assuming that will come in time.
It is only fitting then that upon celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Center has chosen to honor its founding chairman, Mr. Ronald Lauder. Those who know Ronald well, understand just how atypical he is of a Jewish leader. Ronald is a man of ideas rather than interests. Of principals rather than personalities. Of responsibility rather than respectability. The Jewish people are blessed to have him as a leader. Allow me to take this opportunity to wish Ronald much success in his new elected position as Chairman of the Presidents Conference of Major American Organizations.
The Jewish nation is a nation of paradox. We are a very insular people, yet we are also very open and all-inclusive at the same time. We claim to have a universal message, yet are avowedly opposed to proselytizing. We claim common pedigree , yet accept converts as equals. We are "a people which dwells alone and is not reckoned among the nations", yet our country sits at the nexus of three continents, and has effected and been effected by the world's great cultures and religions.
Modern Israel's claim to being both a Jewish and democratic state is then not out of character. It should come as no surprise, and should not be branded an impossible equation by anyone familiar with our history.
Just as the other paradoxes were debated over centuries of our history, it is not unreasonable to assume that the question regarding just how a Jewish and democratic state should function, will not be solved immediately either. It was not solved in the first half century since our rebirth, and it may not be solved in the second either. The very knowledge of that fact, might itself make for a calmer and more civil debate over the issue. The extremes on either side argue that there is no room for both. A State is either Jewish or democratic they claim. Whether or not that is the case on the level of absolutes, is for theorists to debate. On a practical and functional level, Israel is both Jewish and democratic and will continue to be. The reason for that is simple. That is the way the vast majority of the Jewish people want it, even if the precise formula for that symbiosis has yet to be defined.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with an "extreme" position on a matter such as this. A person is entitled to be completely convinced of the absolute rightfulness of his or her opinion. An extreme position is only problematic if it does not recognize the right of the next guy to be as equally sure of his opinion, even though it may be 180 degrees different. Israeli life then is a constant cultural search for the modus vivendi which allows every segment of society to remain personally committed to their perception of what Israel should be, and yet function properly through the greatest common denominators.
Zionism epitomized the greatest common denominator - Jewish Nationhood. And that is why it succeeded in accomplishing the unprecedented - the rebirth of a people following two thousand years of exile. Post-Zionism, the belief that Zionism's job is done, cannot but be accompanied by an attack on the idea of Jewish Nationhood as well. It does not matter whether post-Zionism led to the depreciation of Jewish Nationhood, or if the reduced value of Jewish Nationhood led to post-Zionism. That is a "what came first, the chicken or the egg" question. Practically speaking the signs of both are apparent.
Persistent efforts, by what was once only the extreme left, to cultivate an intellectual and social milieu within the Israeli national psyche have made there mark. Calls for the "dejudazation" of the country, or the redemption of Israel from "its judeocratic rags," as one Israeli author recently wrote in his contribution to "Azure", are no longer heard emanating only from the intellectual elite. Shimon Peres's book "The New Middle-East" has set the political tone in this regard. In it he calls for Israel to "step outside the national arena" and embrace an "ultranational identity" instead. He wants Jews to be "citizens of the world" and Israel to have "soft borders" because "markets are more important than countries."
In line with this way of thinking are the calls that Israel no longer be called a "Jewish State" but a "state of all its citizens" and that Israel's flag and national anthem to be changed to look and sound less Jewish.
For the same reason, the haste, almost enthusiasm, some show for giving up large parts of our homeland for nothing in return.
If post-Zionism has its way, if it is time to dissolve the Jewish nation, why is there a need for a State of Israel? What is the justification for it? Why the bother, the expense, the headache. The question is no joking matter. Many of Israel's neighbors still do not recognize her right to exist. Of those who do, almost without exception they have done so begrudgingly and would not be terribly disappointed if those who haven't would be successful in making her somehow disappear. When this reality is then coupled with a dissipating internal commitment to persist as Israel, as a Jewish state, is our future not being placed in jeopardy?
I believe though, that the post-Zionist theorists are out of touch with the majority of the Israeli people. Most Jews are not willing to give up on the idea that they are part of a distinct Jewish nation, are not post-Zionists, and hence see Israel as a Jewish a state, as it is democratic.
When I speak of a Jewish state, I do not speak of a Judaism of uniformity, nor of legislative coercion, nor of nowist dogmatism. How Judaism is to be lived in the Jewish state is not if it should be lived. The former is precisely what it is legitimate to debate among ourselves. More than legitimate it is desirable, for that has been the mainstay of the Jewish people's traditional dynamism and vitality. The idea of Jewish nationhood was put forward in its most elemental form in the Law of Return. In explaining the law to the Knesset in 1950, David Ben Gurion offered the following insight: This law [of Return] determines that it is not the state which grants the right to a Jew of the Diaspora to settle in the country. Rather, it is a right embedded in him as a Jew. . . .It is a right which precedes the State of Israel, and indeed it was that upon which the country was founded. The source of this right is the historic bond which was never broken between the people and the homeland, and the law of nations also recognized this bond in practical terms. . . .The Law of Return has nothing in common with regular laws of immigration, it is rather the law of continuum of Israeli history.
Let us stop for a moment and ask ourselves: How many of Ben Gurion's political heirs would repeat those words today? Few if any, I am afraid. And here is the tragedy. In my understanding of a Jewish state, the Law of Return would be taught to and studied by every school child. The words of Ben Gurion would be known to all. More than the words known, the importance behind them would be felt by everyone.
Once I've touched upon education in a Jewish state, there is more. Jewish history should be taught as the unique history of survival and influence against all odds, which it is. Jewish holidays and customs, the Torah and Jewish wisdom, learned and respected. Religious practice, left for individual decision and personal preference.
No less important in the study of Judaism, is the study of the basic democratic values that Judaism advances. Majority rule, minority rights, the rule of law and distributive justice, are but a few examples.
Having mentioned the rule of law, an aside is in order here. If there was no constitutional problem with the state being both Jewish and democratic for its first fifty years, there is no reason for that to change now. The legislative process must not be used to force religion, nor must it be used to dejudaize the State. Such issues should be left to the elected representatives of the people. Judicial activism is an issue debated among theorists of democratic government no less than by defenders of a Jewish state. Democracy is the best form of government humankind has developed. It must be cherished and defended. But it is not without flaws, and has not yet, we should all hope, reached its most perfected state of development. Democracy has certainly done well in advancing human freedoms, but it can be argued that it has not produced the sense of personal responsibility upon which a just society must be based.
The great Jewish psychologist, Victor Frankel, himself a survivor of the Holocaust, wrote that next to the "Statue of Liberty" the United States needs a "Statue of Responsibility." There cannot be liberty without civic and personal responsibility to defend it. How well he knew the diabolical results of people not taking responsibility for their actions. From Abraham's argument with G-d over justice in Sodom, through the giving of the commandments at Sinai immediately following the exodus from Egypt, to our epoch history of exile and redemption, Judaism teaches that liberty necessitates responsibility. Indeed Zionism, came to teach and put into practice, Judaism's insistence on personal as well as national responsibility. Israel was reborn on the basis of national responsibility, and that is how we have survived the past 50 turbulent and multi-challenging years. That is why the theory of "post-Zionism" has such ominous implications for the future. To abandon Zionism is to run from the challenges of the future, it is to abandon the responsibility we have to ourselves and the Jewish People.
Israel has a Statue of Responsibility, it is the Israel Defense Forces. It is a living statue. More than a symbol, it is an experience of responsibility that every Israeli takes with him or herself through life. Perhaps that is the key to convincing the Haredi community of the importance of army service. We need to change the terms of engagement in this regard. It is not "be equal", or "learning Torah is not important enough for an exemption". That has not worked and will not work in the future. Perhaps when put in the context of the traditional teaching and breeding Jewish responsibility army service will follow. Nor can it be done through legislation. Forcing perceived values through legislation is a double-edged sword. One day the legislation is of a secularist orientation and the next it is anti-secular.
A society in which responsibility is bred, is a society, in which special care and concern for the widow the orphan, the underprivileged, are not only state sponsored and enforced, but based also on unsolicited personal and communal obligation as prescribed by Judaism. Only a society which advocates freedom from responsibility, necessitates excessive interventionist government. Free market economics is not just good fiscal policy, it is part of a way of thinking about humanity. It belongs to a society which believes in the kind of liberty which is hallowed by responsibility.
There is one last point that I would like to make. It is a significant thought-provoking paradox, that at a time when conventional political thought has declared democracy eternally victorious, and the "end of history" at hand, Israel, the resurrected Jewish State, is the only democratic outpost in the region where recorded history began. This is not the first time that the Jewish people are arguing that the Mossiah has not yet arrived; that there is still room for human improvement and moral achievement; that the world can be made into a better place and that it is in our hands to do it. Whenever we doubt our chances for ultimate success, there is one additional paradox we ought to bear in mind. The more a nation is persecuted, and the longer its survival is threatened, the fewer the chances are of its survival. Similarly, the more a nation is driven from its land and the longer it is kept from it, the fewer the chances are of it returning. No nation was persecuted more than the Jewish Nation, and no nation was so completely exiled from its homeland and kept from it longer than the Jewish Nation.
Yet we are alive, and under the circumstances, doing quite well right here in the Land of Israel. Intent, on making it both a Jewish and universal center of, "Shalem", unity and peace.