Sunday, October 10, 2010

The spirit of the Declaration of Independence

by Lurker

Barak: Willing to vote for loyalty oath only if changes accepted
Defense Minister Barak has announced that if the cabinet does not adopt his proposed changes to the amended Citizenship Law on Sunday, he will vote against the new loyalty oath.
...
Barak, unlike most of the other Labor MKs, has expressed support for the proposed oath of loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic" state but has asked that the language of the oath be altered to include the phrase "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence."
I have absolutely no problem with the additional phrase that Barak wants; to the contrary, I enthusiastically support it. Lieberman and the other supporters of the bill should put it in exactly as Barak demands. For one thing, I think they'd be foolish not to do so: If Barak is bluffing, then this is the perfect way to call him on it; and if he isn't bluffing, then Barak's support will provide a refutation of the claim that this is a "right-wing" law. But there is a more fundamental reason for supporting Barak's demand.

Regarding the "spirit of the Declaration of Independence", it is worth noting the following interesting points:
  • The Israeli Declaration of Independence presents the books of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible), together with the history of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, as central elements underlying our right to live in the the land and to establish a state in it.
  • The DoI declares that our establishment of the State of Israel was carried out on the basis of our trust in the "Rock of Israel" [צור ישראל].
  • Contrary to widespread misperception, the DoI does not characterize Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state", but simply as a "Jewish state". The word "democratic" or "democracy" does not appear even once in the entire document. (Check for yourself if you don't believe me.) I once got into an argument with an opinionated leftist about this: When I asserted that the DoI doesn't even mention democracy, he said that I was being "ridiculous", since "everyone knows" that it does, and that I was spouting "right-wing historical revisionism". I responded by immediately bringing up a copy of the text on the web, and challenging him to show me a single occurrence of the word. After failing to do so, he slunk off muttering sheepishly.
(People whose knowlege of Israeli history extends beyond the blind repetion of currently popular ideas and buzzwords will have no problem understanding why "democracy" is not mentioned in the 1948 document: David Ben-Gurion and his Labor Zionist movement were primarily socialists, not democrats. Their core ideology centered around socialist aims such as redistribution of capital, and empowering the "workers" with control over the means of production. For Ben-Gurion and his cohorts, democracy was a distracting side issue at best, and a pesky impediment to their political aims at worst. Israel's modern love affair with what Israelis euphemistically call "democracy" did not come into existence until decades later, when socialist ideology in Israel was crumbling into oblivion.)

Lest anyone misunderstand me, I (as opposed to Ben-Gurion and his ilk) am most certainly an avid supporter of democracy -- true democracy, not the watered-down version practiced in Israel that is polluted with politically-correct leftist totalitarianism. And precisely because Israeli democracy is so watered-down and polluted, I am very concerned about the insidious efforts by Israel's radical leftist media and Supreme Court to use "democracy" as a purported basis for eliminating the Jewish character of the State of Israel. And this is exactly why I am so pleased by Ehud Barak's proposed amendment: By stipulating that immigrants should swear their loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" in the "spirit" of a document that describes Israel as a "Jewish state" only, without even mentioning "democracy", Barak's version of the law gives clear precedence to the state's Jewish character over its "democratic" one. (Probably not what Barak intended, but true nonetheless.)

So if Ehud Barak wants to stipulate that the oath of loyalty to the State of Israel should be "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence", then I am definitely 100% in favor. That is the very spirit that I support and believe in.



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25 comments:

Ben said...

That's true. But the old Elon-(A.)Barak debates centered on the fact that the DoI also says the following:
מדינת ישראל ... תקיים שויון זכויות חברתי ומדיני גמור לכל אזרחיה בלי הבדל דת, גזע ומין
What might happen in the end is that those who are naturalized via the Law of Return will also have to take the oath and as a result the only people blocked from citizenship will be religious Jews with principles. The people the law intends to screen will just lie.

Moish

Lurker said...

Ben/Moish: ...the only people blocked from citizenship will be religious Jews with principles.

If I understand you correctly, you're implying that "religious Jews with principles" would necessarily oppose the idea of equal social and political rights for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. I certainly don't agree with that assumption. Or am I misunderstanding your point?

Ben said...

I mean only that many religious Jews have a principle of not taking oaths.

JoeSettler said...

The courts accept "affirmations", such as what religious Jews do in the army's swearing in ceremonies.

Lurker said...

Ben: I mean only that many religious Jews have a principle of not taking oaths.

I presume that thay will be permitted to "affirm" instead, following the precedent from judicial testimony.

MAOZ said...

Israeli democracy is to democracy as fool's gold is to gold.

Metternich said...

1. Democracy not so great.
The Arabs and their growing population are gaining the power to make Israel choose between being a democracy and a Jewish state. Israelis are not prepared for this. I think in the long run the best we can do is a democracy for Jews.

2. DOL not so great.
The DOL also founds Israel's legitimacy on the 1947 Partition Plan from the General Assembly. This is a strategic and legal error.

The League of Nations created Palestine as Homeland for Jews using the Palestine Mandate and the San Remo Convention of 1920. This is a much stronger basis for legitimacy under international law. Fortunately, I think, the DOL is not considered law.

Vox Populi said...

I think there's a big difference between the assertion that the DoI does not characterize Israel literally in as many words as "a Jewish and democratic state" and that the DoI does not describe the new state of Israel as democratic.

Clearly, ensuring "complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex", guaranteeing "freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture", being faithful to "the principles of the Charter of the United Nations" and inviting the Arab inhabitants "participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions" are declarations affirming a democratic system of governance.

Regarding the "Rock of Israel" I recall reading somewhere that the term in Hebrew is deliberately ambiguous, meaning G-d to the religious, and "the strength or might of Israel" to secular types.

In any case, I'm not sure what you gain by "conning" the Left into incorporating the DoI into the oath. Even if you believe that your interpretation is the right one, it will have little effect on a political system that overwhelmingly believes otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I think including the DOL as part of the oaht is good and important.

What I believe such an inclusion does, is it limits the ability of new definitions of "jewish" and "democracy" to twist the oath into a means of argument into denying certain people rights.

It is basically a protection against Charedistan. Which No Jew should want.

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

It has now been approved by the Cabinet, required only of non-Jewish immigrants.

This is a mistake for 3 reasons:

1) The shalom-achshav oleh who will not be made to swear to uphold the Jewish character of the state.

2) The Charedi oleh who will not be made to swear to uphold the principles of the doi.

3) A new wrangle over who counts as a Jew between Israeli and the Diaspora (i.e. will an Amercan Reform or Conservative convert have to take the oath or not.

By limiting the oath to non-Jews Israel thus exposes itself to a Jewish fifth column that would dissolve the state's Jewish character, a Jewish fifth column that is antagonistic to the very concept of the state, and thirdly, precisely the kind of antagonism with the Diaspora that is the NIF's bread and butter.

Require it of everyone.

Vox Populi said...

I'm not getting the whole point of this oath. How many non-Jewish immigrants to Israel are there? If one was worried about a hypothetical fifth column, wouldn't new Jewish immigrants provide a more substantial stream of trouble-makers? Additionally, I find it disturbing that the State wishes to put only non Jews in a default position of disloyalty.

Also, what are the ramification of this oath? I'm unfamiliar with the statutory scheme in question. If the immigrant later recants his oath, what happens? Is there some sort of retroactive flaw in his citizenship? If not, what's the point? Who will this oath stop?

>By limiting the oath to non-Jews Israel thus exposes itself to a Jewish fifth column that would dissolve the state's Jewish character, a Jewish fifth column that is antagonistic to the very concept of the state, and thirdly, precisely the kind of antagonism with the Diaspora that is the NIF's bread and butter.

For these reasons, I think it is generally unwise for the majority government to define unequivocally what the state must be, or not be, always and forever. You see the potential Peace Now immigrants as a potent well of fifth columnists. But why should you today get to demand that the State must be Jewish, if later immigrants and people decide to change that? The United States is a federal republic consisting of 50 states, several unincorporated territories organized economically in a relatively free-market system. But none of that is in the Oath of Allegiance. The only thing you pledge allegiance to is the country (no treason) and to the law (no law-breaking). New immigrants do not pledge allegiance to any political philosophy or particular ideology. If every new immigrant wants to abolish federalism, who cares? If they all want to repeal the First Amendment, then they should have that opportunity. That's how democracy works.

Anonymous said...

The oath doesn't apply (for now) to people who don't qualify for the law of return.

Requiring the oath for people who DO fall under the law of return, diminishes the power of the law of return.

All Jews, no matter what, are considered Israeli citizens... well after you take this oath that is.

It takes away from the power of such a law. (But I still think it should be for everyone, since I want to have the pride of saying such an oath.)

Also, there are thousands of Thai workers who wish to become Israeli citizens.

Lurker said...

Vox Populi: ...I'm not sure what you gain by "conning" the Left into incorporating the DoI into the oath.

I didn't con anyone into anything. The idea of adding the phrase "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence" was never even suggested by anyone on the right. It was invented whole cloth by Ehud Barak, the chairman of the Labor Party. Honest.

Vox Populi said...

>I didn't con anyone into anything.

I did not mean to suggest that you had proposed the language, or that you were doing anything underhanded. "Con" was in scare quotes for a reason.

My question spoke to tactics. Say Ehud Barak, the Israeli left and most of the Israeli right, save anyone you convince, believe that incorporating the DOI into the oath makes it less onerous on Arabs and actually emphasizes the legal Jewish character of the state than the proposed oath. What does your side gain by agreeing to the language of the oath? You seem to think that such language actually supports a more nationalistic loyalty oath - but no one else sees it that way. So, if Barak et al "fell" for your idea and incorporated the DOI language, what are you going to do? Say 'ha ha, you're all right-wingers now?' 'Ha ha, Israel is really more a Jewish state than a democratic state?'

Vox Populi said...

>and actually emphasizes the legal Jewish character of the state *than the proposed oath

*less than

Vox Populi said...

The oath doesn't apply (for now) to people who don't qualify for the law of return.

Requiring the oath for people who DO fall under the law of return, diminishes the power of the law of return.

All Jews, no matter what, are considered Israeli citizens... well after you take this oath that is.


I think what you're saying is that the oath only applies to Jews who qualify under the Law of Return. My understanding is that it only applies to those unqualified under the law of return. The spouses of Arab Israelis, for example.

Anonymous said...

"I think what you're saying is that the oath only applies to Jews who qualify under the Law of Return. My understanding is that it only applies to those unqualified under the law of return. The spouses of Arab Israelis, for example"

No, I'm saying that the oath is for those who do not qualify.
Making the oath a requirement for those who do qualify, arguably diminishes the emotional power of the law of return.

Vox Populi said...

>Making the oath a requirement for those who do qualify, arguably diminishes the emotional power of the law of return.

So only Arabs have to be loyal? This is silly. Either we're afraid of fifth columnists or we're not. It's not like the Arabs are a politically influential bloc in Israel or as if there are many Arab immigrants to Israel in the first place. The real "fifth column threat" (obviously, I don't think such a thing exists, but arguendo) would be from the far more politically influential and numerous pool of Jewish immigrants. But it is precisely this group that does not have to take the oath, because they are considered automatically loyal. It's absurd.

Then combine this with the fact that an oath doesn't actually do anything. If I were an Arab committed to a jihad-by-stealth strategy, or dedicated to reforming the Jewish character of the state, I wouldn't let an oath stop me; I would just lie.

Anonymous said...

Vox: So the left is very very worried that Arabs will lie under oath?

I can't see why this is such a bid deal anyway - Tzachi HaNegbi lied under oath, and no one seems to care.

Vox Populi said...

>Vox: So the left is very very worried that Arabs will lie under oath?

I imagine the left is upset because the oath is a discriminatory policy, which becomes even starker when one realizes that it is a policy that has no realistic chance of accomplishing anything other than to be discriminatory.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

VP: The Left invented the very idea that Israel needs to be "Jewish and Democratic"

It can't work both ways -- they can't use the "Jewish and Democratic" policy as a proof for a "2 state solution" and in the same breath say that naturalized citizens shouldn't make an oath to adhere to the same policy.

JoeSettler said...

Jameel, don't give away the answers to the poll so easily.

Vox Populi said...

>The Left invented the very idea that Israel needs to be "Jewish and Democratic"

No, Aharon Barak and the Israeli left wanted to make sure the word/concept "democratic" would be statutorally included. I don't think their problem with Meir Kahane standing for election was that he was opposed to Judaism playing a role in the state. Rather, obviously, they wished to ensure that the democratic character would be just as prominently placed as the Jewish character. To interpret this to mean that it was the Left that wanted to make everyone recognize the Jewish aspect of the state is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

HAH. Vox doesn't get it.

Vox Populi said...

>Vox doesn't get it.

Explain, then. If I'm missing something, I'd like to know.

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