Prof. Paul Eidelberg
Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s has stated that a Jewish and democratic state is contradictory. He is correct so far as he goes, but he does not go far enough. For democracy is not only inconsistent with Judaism; it is also inconsistent with Justice, as I shall now explain by distinguishing between “normless” democracy–the only democracy Lapid knows–and “normative” democracy, whose primary virtue is Justice.
Justice is the central theme of Plato’s greatest dialogue, the Republic. The key figure of the Republic is of course Socrates. Socrates was a poor man. Poor men tend to be partisans of democracy. Why? Because democracies usually equate justice with equality. Democracies therefore give the poor the same rights as the rich. Not that Socrates was a partisan of oligarchy. But he saw that democratic equality benefits ignoramuses and villains—and there is no shortage of such people in Israel, even though this besieged country is far superior to any other nation on planet earth! But we were speaking of Socrates.
Socrates was a philosopher, a seeker of truth. Hence he was skeptical about democracy, whose egalitarianism made no distinction between the wise and the unwise, the virtuous and the vicious. Even disloyal individuals may vote in a democracy, as they do in Israel. Can this be truly just?
The answer to this question is so obvious that it is not discussed in the Republic. Even though Athens was a democracy, none of the various definitions of justice discussed in that most subtle and profound dialogue entails the indiscriminate egalitarianism found in contemporary democratic societies, where individuals of hostile beliefs and values enjoy equal political rights—suffice to mention Arab citizens of Israel’s who hate this country and openly support its enemies with impunity. This is “justice,” Israeli style, and we look in vain for a politician or an academic or even a journalist who dares question the injustice of this “Jewish” state of affairs.
Although members of the Athenian assembly were chosen by lot—the most democratic of all systems—still, to be eligible for the lot certain qualifications were required. First, one had to be an Athenian, meaning a person more or less identified with Athenian culture. Second, one had to have performed military service and/or be a tax-payer. In short, one had to be a patriotic or law-abiding citizen and not a mere consumer of “entitlements” so typical of contemporary democracies.
Now, of the various definitions of justice discussed in the Republic, only one conforms to these rational qualifications, namely, that justice means “giving to each his due.” This is a matter of proportionate equality, not of arithmetic (or indiscriminate) equality. The latter yields the democratic principle of one adult/one vote, which renders a person’s intellectual and moral character irrelevant. This is why democracies are ruled not by the wise and the virtuous but by mediocrities, if not worse. Which means that democracy is not the best regime; indeed, it may not even be a truly just regime.
Socrates led Athenian youth to this subversive conclusion. He willingly paid the penalty for undermining their loyalty to Athens in the process of liberating them from their Athenian, i.e. democratic, prejudices. Democratic Athens sentenced him to death.
Well, we don’t give hemlock to philosophers anymore; we ignore them. And no wonder: Philosophy, understood as a passionate love of truth, is dead. Still, what would the “gadfly” of Athens do were he in Israel today? He would surely inquire about justice. Sooner or later some Israeli would say justice is “giving to each his due.” Socrates would probably lead him to a more refined definition, perhaps something like the following:
Justice is giving equal things (such as rights and honors) to equals, and unequal things to unequals in proportion to their inequality, i.e., in proportion to their merit (as is done in classrooms), or in proportion to their contribution to the common good.
Any sensible Israeli—let’s leave Yair Lapid aside—would then see that to give Arabs, who strive for Israel’s demise, the equal political rights of Jews, who struggle for Israel’s welfare, is not consistent with justice—though famously democratic. He would then conclude that if justice is to prevail in Israel, its Arab inhabitants must either be disenfranchised or undergo a profound political and religious metamorphosis.
If Socrates led Israelis to this conclusion he would probably be condemned by Israel’s political and intellectual elites and indicted for “racism” or “incitement.” True, he might point out during his trial that Israeli Arabs are exempt form military service; that they engage in massive tax evasion; that they aid terrorists and commit terrorist acts; hence that it is unjust to endow such disloyal Arabs with the equal rights of Jews.
All this would probably be of no avail at Socrates’ trial. He would almost certainly be convicted and imprisoned, and any appeal to Israel’s egalitarian Supreme Court would be futile. This is quite a commentary on Israel’s political and judicial elites, from whose lips the honeyed word “Democracy” is ever dripping but hardly a word about Justice. There is not a single public figure in Israel that has the courage as well as the wit to tell the truth about the manifest injustice of giving the vote to this country’s hostile Arab inhabitants.
Now we are prepared to go to the root of things. What needs to be said, and what no one dares say in Israel, is that this country was founded injn 1948 on a monumental injustice: giving to Jews and Arabs–to loyal and disloyal inhabitants of Israel–the equal right to vote in this supposed to be Jewish State.
Not Peace but Justice is the true and most fundamental issue in Israel today. In Israel, however, justice has been reduced to a leveling equality, which is why the sense of justice has been murdered in this country. This is why the killers of so many Jews in this country go unpunished. This is why Arabs who have murdered Jews have been released by Israeli governments. This is why various Israeli politicians have clasped the bloodstained hands of Yasser Arafat or of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.
You will not go to the root of things by explaining their behavior in terms of their desire for “peace.” You will not truly explain their surrender of land for which Jews have so long yearned for, fought for, and bled for, in terms of “American pressure.” No, the suffering and humiliation of Israel today is the inevitable result of the monstrous injustice prescribed in the very Proclamation of the Establishment of the State, that all inhabitants of this State—Jews and Arabs alike—would receive equal political rights. This is not justice but the negation of justice and even of common sense.
This negation has made children of Israel’s rulers. It has made fools of Israel’s intellectuals. It has driven this country to suicidal madness—the prey of Arabs armed by mindless Israelis posing as adults—really adolescents whose bodies have been stretched and molded. All this is described in Isaiah 3:4; 5:20; 28:7, 15-18; 29:9, 14; 44:25. Stupidity aside, it was injustice that led to the Oslo “peace process” and its 15,000 Jewish casualties!
Until Israel’s Government pursues Justice—for starters, by declaring Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria—neither politics nor political analysis will save Israel from recurring disasters resulting from the IDOL of Normless Democracy to which Yair Lapid burns incense.