Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Rabbi Steven PruzanskyCourtesy

Sadly, it has come to this.

The State of Israel has long self-identified as a “Jewish and democratic” state - the order usually depends on one’s spiritual and national priorities - but the anarchist left has shattered both definitions.

The anarchists do not want Israel as a Jewish state, except if we define Judaism in the blandest, most inconsequential way. It is not the Judaism of God, Torah, Mitzvot, holiness, objective morality, constant striving, self-improvement and a light onto the nations. It is a religion of - as best as I can surmise - being nice, non-judgmental, placing human reason above God, and feeling uncommanded to do anything. Certainly being nice is a Jewish value, but if that’s all there is, for that no one had to flee the Inquisition, burned at the stake, murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices or be banished to the Gulag. That philosophy can easily fit into several of the world’s religions so there would be no need to fight and struggle for a Jewish state whose territory is claimed by others and is a persistent target of much of the world’s enmity.

In fact, if that is all there is to Judaism, it is unclear why it is so important that Israel be a haven for persecuted Jews across the world. If that is all there is to Judaism, why is it so important that Jews survive? We don’t really bring much to the global table and the marketplace of ideas. To the anarchist left, the “Jewishness” of the state is window-dressing. I challenge them to explain why a Jewish state is necessary or why it matters whether Jews survive. (Indeed, I challenge them to identify themselves! The media has been content to identify the protest leaders as “they” without explicating the pronoun. Who are “they”?)

The proof of their hypocrisy is not just in the relentless effort to de-Judaize the state, weaken observance and study of Torah, undermine the traditional family and vitiate the moral notions that we brought to mankind through the Torah. The proof of the hypocrisy is manifestly apparent in the recent demand that Shabbat be desecrated by repair work on the railways because closing the Ayalon Highway on a weekday would “endanger lives.” How hollow and facile does that assertion seem now. Apparently, the Ayalon can be closed - presumably endangering lives - for political protests, which must supersede Shabbat observance. Perhaps the railway authorities can coordinate with the protesters and do their construction in the future on weekdays when the Ayalon is closed for protests. What stunning hypocrisy.

Obviously, the anarchist left does not want a Jewish state (which they have alternatively threatened to leave or sabotage if they don’t get their way). It is patently clear that they also do not want a democracy. They do not respect the results of elections. The people’s choices do not matter. They prefer that important decisions of state be made by one unelected person (the Attorney General) who derives her power from an elite cadre of other unelected officials, the Supreme Court. That might be a legitimate form of government and it might even be effective in certain societies but we should stop deluding ourselves that it is a democracy. It is not.

In a democracy, political change is effected through the ballot box. In a democracy, the people govern through a majority and in an enlightened democracy, the majority rules and minority rights are protected - minority rights that promote and do not undermine the national purpose.

A democracy is premised on the consent of the governed as is determined through elections. Political change that is effected through riots, protests, demonstrations, violence and threats of civil war is a hallmark of banana republics, not of democracies. We are witnessing the murder of Israel’s democracy at the hands of people who think they are saving it. Hence, their inability to conduct any meaningful dialogue with advocates of judicial reform.

Several things should be stated clearly.:

Halting the legislative process will not slow it down until cooler heads prevail; it will kill it. It will not happen. Slowing it down is a smokescreen, a cliche, an obvious deception. The judicial reform movement will be dead on arrival, There will be no negotiations because the opposition will have stumbled onto an effective political strategy in its desire to undo the results of the last election. And a key reason why this government was elected and formed will have been vitiated. It will be yet another failure of a right wing government - a failure of leadership of Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud. A new generation of leaders who are committed and steadfast will have to be nurtured. Perhaps the corrupted judicial system could then finish Netanyahu’s damn trials, one way or another, instead of dragging them on endlessly, endlessly, endlessly. And if he has to leave office? Well, isn’t that what most of these protests are about anyway - not so much who comprises a judicial selection committee but how quickest to eject Netanyahu from office? And if he allows it to happen, he really is unfit to serve.

There are silver linings in this catastrophe. Our society - our children, our citizens, and our leaders - is being taught that violence pays. Violence works. Our soldiers are being taught that refusal of orders and service is an effective approach to social and political change. So - If people are bothered by Shabbat desecration by railroad workers - or for that matter, anyone driving on the Ayalon on Shabbat - let tens of thousands of Jews block the railways and the highway. If a future left-wing government wants to evict Jews from our homeland or create a Palestinian state, let 100,000 committed nationalist Jews block intersections, storm the Knesset, and shut down the society. Tank the economy. “Let me die with the Philistines.” Let thousands of soldiers refuse orders. They can arrest one or ten people. They can’t arrest 10,000 people, because then the American government will express its concern over Israel’s instability and call for a halt in the deportation of Jews. Sure.

The secret to the Right's stopping the destruction of settlements, the surrender of land and the establishment of a Palestinian state has now been revealed. Violence. Threats. Protests. Insubordination. And shamelessness. These are useful implements to have in our toolbox, wholly inappropriate in a Jewish and democratic state, but, oh well.

We are learning as a nation that any minority can threaten civil war, attack soldiers and police officers, and be granted their every wish. Elections don’t matter and voting is a waste of time. Let Esther Hayut and Gali Baharav-Miara make all the decisions. No one voted for them but they have arrogated to themselves dictatorial powers and have the strength of the mob behind them. That is all they really need in a state that is neither Jewish nor democratic. The protesters are passionate and may even be sincere - but they are anti-democrats.

Yeshayahu prophesied that part of the process of Redemption is ridding ourselves of corrupt leaders and judges who will be thieves, bribe-takers and perverters of justice.

We have to purge ourselves of the dross. The process of redemption will be the restoration of the “judges as of old and the counselors as at the beginning” (1:26). He spoke of the ideal Jewish state that would come into existence. He didn’t mention anything about a democracy but, then again, neither does Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Yes, read it. It characterizes the nascent state of Israel as a “Jewish state” (Medinah Yehudit) several times and it doesn’t mention the word “democracy” even once.

Perhaps the leftist, anarchist mob is onto something. But here is more good news. True, it is pathetic that after 75 years it seems that we no longer have the capacity to govern ourselves in a dignified, coherent and mutually tolerant way. But we can pray that the abject, embarrassing failure of the leadership class - the politicians and judges - and its displacement by the mob signals, and is a harbinger of, the coming of Moshiach, who, among other things, can save us from ourselves. Perhaps the time is ripe, in Nisan, the month of redemption. May we - all of Israel - be worthy of the moment.