On the value of Democracy in the Jewish State
Ze'ev, since you support Democracy please write a post about why you feel Democracy is permissible within Halacha.
I must admit that I was rather surprised to receive such e-mail. Of late, the only post that I had written on this issue was one that was highly critical of Israel's Supreme Court for acting to strengthen the State of Israel's democratic character over it's Jewish character by its branding as racist the State of Israel's desire to strengthen 500 Jewish communities throughout the State as "National Priority Zones" while only doing so for 4 Arab communities. As such I am not entirely sure what the exact inspiration for the e-mail was.
That being said, I do believe that this is an important issue to address, although I do not believe that I am qualified to offer my own thoughts on this matter from a Halachic (Jewish Law) stand point, but rather from a Jewish thought perspective.
(If there is interest in my putting together a post on the issue of democracy a system of governance in the Jewish State of Israel form a Halachic perspective, I am willing to invest some time into researching it).
It seems, that for many in the State of Israel, particularly among the ruling elites that democracy has become the (unofficial) religion of the State of Israel. Not a day goes by without a call for the State of Israel to strengthen its democratic character and institutions, while one rarely hears such calls from the ruling elites to strengthen the State of Israel as a Jewish State (short of references of the need for there to be a Jewish demographic majority within the State of Israel - generally a buzzword for the destruction of additional communities and expulsion of thousands of more Jews from their homes).
Do not misunderstand me. I have nothing against democracy per se. I believe that as far as systems of government go, democracy has been proven to be among the better forms (if not the best), and the rights and values promoted within democratic societies throughout the world can be viewed as being generally positive. However, I question whether democracy (at least as it currently exists within the State of Israel, along with the values it promotes) is the best form of government for the Jewish State.
Democracy is not a value, in and of itself. Democracy is a system of government; a means to an end. Sadly, there are many (particularly within the State of Israel) who view democracy as being a value all its own, and an end in its own right. The Jewish People did not hope, yearn, dream, pray, struggle and sustain themselves over the last 2,000 years to return to Zion merely to be "the only democracy in the Middle East".
What sustained the Jewish People throughout their long exile was their belief that one day their prayers would be answered, and that they would merit to return to their ancient Homeland - the Land of Israel, where they would be able to live as proud, strong and sovereign Jews, as "one nation in the Land" where they would be able to create an exemplary society; one that would serve as a "light unto the nations" - and thus sanctify the name of Hashem throughout the world.
Therefore, the litmus test for determining the ideal system of governance within the State of Israel, be it democracy or any other form of government, must be whether it strengthens Israel as a Jewish State. Within the Jewish State of Israel, the system of governance is itself not a value but a means to achieve a greater end, namely allowing the State of Israel to develop as a Jewish State; one that will serve as the natural conduit for the Jewish People to accomplish their unique mission and destiny in this world.
One need not look very far (geographically or historically speaking) to find proof that democracy does not always produce positive ends. One need only look at our next-door neighbor, the "Palestinians" who just recently democratically elected Hamas, an organization that calls for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. (If one looks a little further back, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party were democratically elected to power in the 1933 elections in Germany - and sadly, we know what followed from that election.)
As such, the oft-used phrase that describes Israel as being "a Jewish and democratic State" makes absolutely no sense. How is it possible to equate the means - in this case, democracy, with the end - namely, Israel's existence as a Jewish State?
It is this confusion - the confusion over who we are and what we are aspiring to achieve here in the Land (& State) of Israel that has led to many of the challenges that we face today. When a people is unsure of its direction or mission in this world, it loses its reason (and will) to exist, and sadly, this can be seen very clearly today, as we continue to retreat in the face of our enemies while questioning our right to the very Land to which for 2,000 years we dreamed of returning without ever doubting our moral, historic and religious right to establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.
(In general, if any of you have questions or suggestions for future posts, please do not hesitate to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will do my best to incorporate your suggestions.)