Michael Boyden

No Representation without Taxation

The blocking of Route 4 by Haredim protesting yesterday against the prospect of their being forced to undergo military service is understandable.

The IDF is in many ways a melting pot in Israeli society, and there are those who fear that they will end up less religious. Others are anxious of the effect of serving in units together with women. There are also those who don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state before the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, the very existence of our country is anathema to them.

No amount of Knesset legislation or Supreme Court deliberations is going to change that.

The thought of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Haredim taking to the streets protesting against conscription in the same way as they turn out for the funerals of their religious leaders should be enough to make anyone shudder. No democratic state has the means to handle such a level of civil unrest.

However admirable are efforts to form Haredi military units such as the 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion, the Haredi service tracks in the IDF are home to only approximately 2,800 soldiers from ultra-Orthodox backgrounds. Most Haredim simply avoid military service.

The Gaza War following the infiltration of Hamas terrorists into Israel on October 7th is the longest war that Israel has had to fight since the War of Independence. The call on reservists to leave their families and jobs in order to defend our country has only served to emphasize the unfairness of a situation in which some serve while others are automatically exempted.

When the British ruled parts of north America, colonists protested against taxes imposed upon them from overseas with the slogan “No taxation without representation.” This led in time to the American Revolution through which they gained their independence.

Just as it is unreasonable to tax those who are unrepresented, it is equally arguable that those who are not prepared to take upon themselves their fair share of civic responsibilities have no right to representation.

Why should Haredim who refuse to defend their country have a say in its foreign policies, how much of its budget is allocated to the armed forces, and whether it goes to war?

Rather than trying to force unwilling Haredim to defend a country that some of them don’t even recognize, perhaps the only way forward is to deny them the right to vote. Such a policy might encourage their political apparatchiks to reconsider their views on conscription, and would also ensure that there were fewer of them to hold the balance of power when it comes to forming government coalitions.

There will be those who will argue that all people should have the right to vote in a democracy. However, it is a contract that also demands that every citizen bear his/her fair share of responsibility. Talmud students will be familiar with the Aramaic phrase ha b’ha talya – one is dependent upon the other.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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