top of page
  • Shabbtai

The idiot’s question: can Israel be Jewish and democratic?

In justifying the United States’ refusal to veto the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria and Israeli building in Jerusalem, John Kerry, his boss, Barack Obama, and their spokespeople kept insisting that Jewish construction in these places was the chief stumbling block to peace between Israel and the Palestinians conceived as two states living side by side. In so doing they, like their sycophants in the media and the academy, not to mention too many Jews to number, also insisted they were saving Israel from itself. Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic, they claimed, and so it must decide between these options, the Jewish part of the country being equated with religious fanaticism, xenophobia, racism and prejudice and therefore inimical to democracy.

Such assertions are contrary to both fact and principle, but are a necessary part of the mindset of these ignorant and corrupt leaders and lackeys, comforting them in their kneejerk labeling of the current government as right wing and therefore reprehensible. That they feel free to fling such epithets about is indicative of the shallowness of their thought and their misunderstanding of democracy itself, but that has not stopped them in the past and will not, it seems, stop them in the future. Misnomers and slogans are the lazy man’s substitute for thought, and modern society seems to be producing them with accelerated intensity.

One could, of course, point to the fact that Palestinian Arab and Muslim objections to the Jewish state predated Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria after 1967. One could also point to the fact that every Arab state in the region has Islam embedded in its constitution, but no one has ever claimed that Jordan or Egypt must decide between being Muslim or democratic if it wishes to continue to exist. One could point to the legitimacy of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria as inscribed in the Oslo Accords to which the Palestinian Authority is a signatory. One could also point out that the laws of war give Israel every right to annex the entire area of Judea and Samaria, especially given the history of those disputed lands over the past hundred years. But that would be to gloss over the crucial question so often bandied about by idiots: can Israel be both Jewish and democratic?

It is the idiot’s question because Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. As such, Israel is every bit as Jewish as the United States is American, as France is French, and as Senegal is Senegalese. Whether those countries are democratic or not has nothing to do with the religious wellsprings of their people welded into a nation, and everything to do with the institutional arrangements that govern their political functioning. Israel is a democracy because there is separation of power at the top, because elections are held on a regular basis enabling the opposition to replace the government, because the government is constrained by a legal system that is independent of the legislature and the executive. But that is too much, apparently, for Barack Obama, John Kerry, Ben Rhodes, Thomas Friedman, Reform Jewry, Israeli pundits and many an Israeli political party to grasp.

Instead they start with slogans, chief of which is the division of the world into left and right, right being reprehensible and left being laudatory, regardless of the fact that the complexities of modern society require policies that have nothing to do with these categories. One presumes that left is good for these people, because left means inclusive, tolerant, and pluralist. Left is also good because it means an appreciation for irony, for the grey areas of life, for the possibility that every choice brings with it a downside. Yet if that were the case, Israel is indubitably good, for both life and literature in Israeli society are steeped in the embrace of left-wing culture. Israel accepts Sudanese refugees, many of them illegal, whom Egypt bars. Israel does not discriminate against homosexuals, whom every Muslim Middle East state outlaws and kills with impunity. Israel guarantees freedom of religion and respects the agreements it signed with the Jordanian Waqf, even though the latter uses them to bar Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and uttering silent prayers there. In Egypt, on the other hand, prosecutors recently dismissed the case against a Muslim mob that stripped an elderly Christian woman naked and paraded her through the streets as punishment for a reputed affair her son had with a Muslim woman. There are none so blind, the adage has it, as those who refuse to see.

So why do Barack Obama, John Kerry and all their flunkeys line up consistently against Israel and persist in calling it right-wing when it is not? And the answer is: because they are not interested in facts, but in slogans. They are not interested in the real-life situations of people, but in the image of the world with which their own self-image is bound up. To call out the Palestinians for the thugs and liars they are only diminishes these idiots in their own eyes, for then they have no victims to champion and no oppressors to condemn. Far better and far easier for these intellectual sloths to set up a false dichotomy for Israel, a thriving democracy, and that way comfort themselves that they are on the right side of history, saving Israel from itself by urging it to commit national suicide. But then, of course, these idiots do much the same at home, glorifying every self-declared victim group, however regressive and vile its claims may be. What counts is not what these groups say or do, but simply the value they hold as brownie points their champions in democratic culture assign to themselves for supporting them. The ultimate victim, of course, will be democracy itself and all the left-wing values these idiots claim to champion. In Sweden, recently, a female Muslim law student took a professor to task for teaching John Stuart Mill, whose writings she found offensive. The university authorities called in the professor, but not the student. The professor was eventually acquitted of any offense, but not before being summoned to countless meetings by the university. Who will dare teach John Stuart Mill under such conditions?

A French styled philosopher, Michel Foucault, described modern power in terms of the panopticon, a building design first developed by Jeremy Bentham to increase the powers of surveillance of inmates by the penal authorities. For Foucault, this became emblematic of the way modern power worked, insinuating its tentacles into every nook and cranny of modern life, eventually leading citizens to believe in the liberating and benevolent influence of expert led, reforming governments that ultimately imprisoned them. Himself a homosexual who frequented the baths, Foucault even wrote a book on sexuality claiming there has been no liberation over the course of its modern evolution. The irony is that such mistaken theories have resulted in the education of a mindless generation of students, who have become experts themselves in eviscerating government of any chance at wisdom. The people have thereby become their own censors, surveying any supposed deviation from the correct left-wing line that coddles putative victims at the expense of a critical examination of issues. The Palestinians are the victim group par excellence, funded and defended the world over, from the Vatican to the UN, where their now dead terrorist leader once showed up brandishing a pistol. That the Palestinians practise none of the virtues of democracy is totally irrelevant to the people who champion them. Just as the fact that the Israelis do practise these virtues makes no different to the western democratic governments that castigate them.

What does count, however, is the way Israel fits in to the discourse these governments and their intellectual coteries spout. Key to this discourse is the image these people have of themselves, the benevolent clergy of the modern world that brings together an American president and an Argentinian Pope in their mutual love of the people who invented and refined the techniques of contemporary Islamic terrorism. The love they are at heart expressing is their own narcissism, exemplified in Obama’s castigating those who disagree with him as advocating policies that do not reflect “who we are.” Who we are, however, is not necessarily what our cultural elites presuppose, as Donald Trump’s electoral victory fortunately showed. Who we are is a convenient formula for speaking to the faithful, but it bespeaks a profound unease on the part of those who utter it. Those who use it betray their own identity crisis even as they fuel identity politics.

It is significant, in that respect, that both Obama and Kerry have identity issues. Obama spent his impressionable years outside the United States away from his mother with not one, but two fathers, both Muslim. He spent twenty years in a church listening to a Christian pastor spout black Muslim ideology. Early in his presidency he went to Cairo to give a speech apologizing for American misdeeds in the Muslim world and praising Islam in front of the Muslim Brotherhood he expressly invited and later supported during the so-called Arab Spring. John Kerry’s grandfather was a Hungarian Jew who converted to Catholicism. John Kerry’s brother, upon discovering his Jewish roots, converted back to Judaism. John Kerry remained a Catholic and married into one of America’s wealthiest families. Israel clearly has a special place in his heart, one from which, it would seem, he would like to distance himself as much as possible.

Obama and Kerry are not alone in this respect. Every Jew who subscribes to the assertion that Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic, who attacks the settlements in Judea and Samaria and holds both them and the governments that tolerate or encourage them responsible for the situation Israel endures expresses some sort of identity issue going back to their formative years. Given today’s world this situation is not surprising. Herzl himself was not immune from this dilemma. That the Jewish state should disappear to assuage it, however, is truly a tale told by an idiot.

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I have posted a new piece on the mess in Israel on substack. Here is the link. If you like it please subscribe and have your friends subscribe to my substack. It is free.

I have published a new piece on substack about Dara Horn's People Love Dead Jews and Joshua Cohen's The Netanyahu's. You can read it by following this link:

bottom of page