Israel’s Flawed Democracy

“If a Jewish state were established in Palestine, it might become the center of a new culture.” [Herbert Samuel, Britain’s first High Commissioner in Palestine]

It was the same Samuel, who in 1914, during a conversation with Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, prophesied that, “If a Jewish state were established in Palestine, it might become the center of a new culture.” He could not have become more wrong, in that the founding fathers opted for parliamentary democracy rather than representative democracy. A system which renders citizens disenfranchise status rather than a voice in decision making or true representation.

Lior Akerman, a former brigadier-general, who served as a division head in the Shin Bet [ Israel Security Agency ], writing in the Jerusalem Post of May 15, 2014 under the title of “Is Israel a True Democracy?” does a fine description of how the country’s failures occur as a parliamentary democracy, but nowhere mentions the words “representative democracy” as a cure. He also states that what he does know but fails to point out that neither the Russians nor those who emigrated from Arab countries as being oblivious to the very meaning of democracy; but what of the recent émigrés from Anglo countries who appear more as tourists.

Akerman clearly outlines the basic flaws of Israel’s existing pathetic system of government. “The police is underfunded ———growing corruption among government leaders——–Political leaders are not democratically elected by the people, and the latter has become completely apathetic—” At the end of the day, government and judiciary are manipulated by political party leaders and corruption. In other words, accountability is largely absent.

As an update on current day atrocities, practically a lone voice speaks out – one Gerald McGlothlin, an American author and publicist promoting pro-Israel speakers worldwide. His piece on Israel’s contemporary travails appeared in Arutz 7 on 19/03/2019, entitled ” Israeli Court ouster of Ben-Ari paves way for future Draconian rulings.”

McGlothlin points to the incongruity of allowing radical anti-Zionist Arab parties Balad and the United Arab List on the ballot while banning Kahane-supporter Michael Ben-Ari. He states further that these approved parties support terrorism and desire the end of the Jewish state. Recognizing that Dr. Ben-Ari is a former Knesset member of good standing whose views haven’t changed, McGlothlin questions why was Ben-Ari, a former Knesset member of good standing, only three weeks before elections ousted away. He presumes it to be for making comments critical of Arabs and committing the “unpardonable sin” of “daring” to post on Facebook that Israel must oppose terrorism.

Earlier in the year on 26/02/2019, David Rubin, writing in Arutz 7, also questioned the use of the word “racism”, a charge not to be bandied about lightly, “but in the case of Kahane “applied without qualifications.” Rubin is a former Mayor of Shiloh and the author of a new book, “Trump and the Jews”. He is also the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his 3 year old son were wounded in a terrorist attack.

Rubin discusses what he terms, the tactical “Union of Right-Wing Parties”, which combine the 3 lists of the Bayit Yehudi [Jewish Home], National Union and Otzma Yehudit [Jewish Power] parties, to assure that right wing representation is bolstered during the April 9th elections. Rubin explains that Otzma Yehudit is based on the teachings of Rabbi Kahane, which has aroused the harsh criticism of some liberal rabbis, mostly Reform, in America. Apparently, Rabbi Kahane’s “racist” ideology is due to an open attack on him resulted from his public campaign decades ago against intermarriage between Arab men and Jewish women; and his open call to encourage the emigration of Arabs from Israel.

Hence. in the current election season, the message of the detractors is a vote for “racism”. But, asks David Rubin, was Rabbi Kahane a racist? He was most certainly a controversial figure, as is President Trump. but this does not make either of them racists. Rubin argues this assertion, as follows:

[a] Kahane complained against the demographic threat posed by a growing and hostile Muslim population in Israel, encouraging their immigration. His calls for the non-granting of automatic citizenship to a growing hostile population differed little from the great rabbinical sage, the Rambam [Rabbi Moshe Ben-Maimon ].
[b] Helping Jewish women to escape from Arab villages in an endeavor to break the chains of marriage to Muslim men, has also cast an image of “racism” in Kahane, although this effort hardly differed from that of yet another Jewish leader, Rabbi Eben Ezra. The latter, led the return of Jews from Babylonian exile and had been vehement in speaking about rampant intermarriage “in his time.”
[c] Furthering Jewish continuity, is hardly racism, as charged by liberal American institutions and Rabbis.”It also had to do with the survival of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Those of us who are old enough, remember Rabbi Kahane’s debates with Dr Mohamed Mechti , a prominent Palestinian politician. To this day, internet videos are available of them. They demonstrate Kahane’s knowledge and poor judgment, as in the case of Trump. His sincerity was beyond question, often stating, “I don’t hate Arabs, I love Jews.” He was most certainly not deserving of the ill treatment imposed on him, by Israel’s less than functioning judiciary.

This is readily demonstrated by the contrast in treatment of MK Hanin Zoabi. The latter, a controversial veteran Arab lawmaker, who called for the dissolution of the state of Israel and sailed on the Mavi Marmara in a bid to break Israel’s security blockade of Gaza, and for this only received a 6 month suspension. The foul mouthed individual given to making obvious traitorous remarks rather often was never treated as such.

It would seem as if the Israeli government has need of a great lesson from Marcus Tullius Cicero:

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But, it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.”

On May 2, 2016, a fellow TOI blogger, Kenneth Cohen, penned ” The Precedent of Rabbi Meir Kahane”, a remarkable study in the face of criminality and absolute ignorance. He recalls being present when Rabbi Kahane answered phone calls from listeners to his radio show. “The callers ranged from great admirers of the rabbi’s views to those who felt the rabbi was the most horrible racist imaginable” Cohen informs us that Rabbi Kahane fielded all of the questions in a dignified manner and explained that for two reasons he was not a racist.

In the first instance, he acknowledged that he would welcome any Arab to the Jewish faith if he sincerely wished to convert to the Jewish faith and abide by Jewish law. And in the case of the second reason,” any Arab who was willing to pledge his allegiance to the State of Israel and abide by the seven Noahide Laws”, was not only welcome to stay” but he would also be entitled to own land in Israel”. He would be considered a “Ger Toshav,” or resident convert as described in the Torah.

Interestingly, Kahane rationalized that a true racist would never ever allow an individual from a group he hated to join his ranks. He questioned the position of a Jew who wished to join the Klu Klux Klan ever be accepted by them if he demonstrated sincerity. Once again, the rabbi insisted that he was not a racist and did not hate Arabs, but loved Jews.

Beyond his assassination in 1990, “he remained an enigma.” Cohen remarked that there were still many who remembered Rabbi Kahane in a positive light and that his numerous books continued to be read and to inspire.

Cohen expresses difficulty in his attempts to analyze why Rabbi Kahane “did things as he did.” There were those who suggested that he became disappointed when his hero, Menachem Begin entered into a peace treaty with Egypt and giving away the entire Sinai in the name of peace. This, possibly caused him to reject diplomacy. According to Cohen, Rabbi Kahane often expressed himself provocatively without explaining himself. He was inclined to say what he felt and could be very insulting towards those he disagreed with. Kenneth Cohen understood that by antagonizing people, did not help the rabbi’s cause, but apparently, he did not mind the image he was creating for himself.

After moving to Israel in 1985, Cohen had a meeting with Rabbi Kahane. He pleaded with him to revise his approach , since he was not being “perceived as a Torah scholar, but as a racist.” Obviously, it was not easy to make his point since he was more than 20 years younger than the rabbi who felt confident that he was acting correctly. Surprisingly, the rabbi invited him to accompany him on a short speaking tour to San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Cohen’s role on the trip was to introduce him with the purpose of portraying him in a more positive light. He drew attention to the rabbi’s secular degrees and how all he did was in accordance with Torah principles. Despite there being those who expressed appreciation in learning about another view of Rabbi Kahane, Kenneth Cohen felt that his efforts failed. The rabbi informed him of an importance in keeping his “macho” image for his voters in the Machane Yehuda marketplace!! [Trump again]

Cohen makes a valid observation by considering the combination the threat of Rabbi Kehane’s popularity and his bluntness being where the flaws of society were attacked head on, resulting in his banning from the Knesset. However. if it was in fact his “racist” views, he asks why was Rechavam Ze’evi Ghandi allowed to form a party based on “transferring Arabs out of Israel?”Is the lesson one of the importance of “being well-mannered and being able to express one’s views in a sophisticated, respectful manner.”

Kenneth Cohen’s boom line conclusion is that of a true scholar and highly credible human being. He sees the banning of the Kach party as the establishment of a precedent. For how else can one explain . If the views expressed by that political party, who:
[a] did not call for the annihilation of a people, and
[b] did not celebrate when innocent people were brutally murdered, and
[c] were willing to coexist as long as there was respect for the law of the land, and yet, they
[d] were considered racist,
it only follows that the same should be true for others sharing such views.

He posits that, if there is any justice in this country, then “the Kahane decision should be viewed as a precedent for future cases.”

Further, If Arab parties or their political leaders refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist and encourage terrorism”, isn’t it a no-brainer that these individuals and parties should also be banned?” We cannot allow such a double standard and miscarriage of justice.” Shamefully, in too many cases, justice is in short supply in Israel.

Kenneth Cohen’s paper is so well written that it is extremely difficult not to quote large segments in its entirety.

“Whether you liked Rabbi Meir Kahane or not, he was incredibly devoted to the Jewish people. If one reads his biography, painstakingly put together by his devoted wife, Libby, one sees the sacrifices he made because he wanted to see Israel strong. The one thing that could still be done, in the name of decency and consistency, is to use his case as the yardstick in handling those wishing to weaken and destroy us. A precedent is a precedent”.

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Kenneth Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the past twelve years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. With this background, he volunteers the following:

“I was privileged to have a relationship with Rabbi Kahane as a colleague and friend. In the early 80s, I was one of a few rabbis who invited the rabbi to speak in their congregations. He was my Shabbat guest on two different occasions and I had the opportunity to get to know the man from up close. He was a great Torah scholar with a great sense of humor.”

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About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.
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