The issue of equality

For more than a generation, the liberal media, academia and Supreme Court have the chutzpah to believe they have a monopoly  on defining equality and social justice.

Dr. Chaim Charles Cohen

OpEds Ramon International Airport in the Timna Valley, southern Israel
Ramon International Airport in the Timna Valley, southern Israel

The need to defend the Nationality Law in a forthright, educated manner

The Nationality Law is a very good, very important and very just constitutional law. It very much deserves to be clearly defended and explained in a forthright, educated manner in the media and in our ongoing public discourse. However, my impression is that our conservative-religious Right community has not done a sufficient job of defending and explaining the Nationality Law since its passage. The Left dominated media has used every last bit of its power to attack and criticize the law, and we have yet to organize and launch an appropriate counter offensive. For example, we have correctly repeated the argument, that “Israel is a Jewish/democratic state that belongs for mostly to the Jewish People”. But I have yet to read and hear an educated retort to the Left’s claim that the law is discriminatory and does not treat minority groups in an egalitarian manner. To maintain the support of the Israelis voters in the political Center we must explain in a clearer and more principled manner the Nationality Law’s , approach to egalitarianism and   social justice. This is the purpose of this article of this article. We must rise to the occasion. We have nothing about which to be confused or apologetic

Defending the Nationality Law is a very important political mission.

I beg the reader’s forgiveness for engaging in a bit of political philosophy in order to explain the Nationality Laws concept of egalitarianism and social justice. I know that political philosophy is usually a non-starter for op eds and blogs. Readers usually stop reading after three lines. But dear readers, this time please make the effort. Without a little bit of political philosophy we cannot properly defend our very Important Nationality Law in the educated manner it deserves. I hope that this piece will help you not only to argue that the Law is socially just, but also to understand and truly believe that the Law is socially just. Properly defending the Nationality Law is probably one of our movement’s most important political missions at this time

My argument: The Nationality Law correctly changes national priorities, but does not harm individual equality

This is my argument. One, all individual Israeli citizens have today, in principle, equal, identical standing before our country’s civil law. The Nationality Law does not change this in any way.

Two, all individual Israeli citizens have, in principle, equal, identical standing before our country’s criminal law. The Nationality Law does not change this in any way.

Three, however, when it comes to the question according to which criteria the elected government should use to determine goals of social policy and development, the Nationality Law encourages  the government to employ criteria based on a conservative concept of social justice, rather than the present liberal concept of social justice pushed by the present Supreme Court. As will be son explained, conservative social philosophy teaches a different concept of equality and social justice than that of liberal social philosophy.

The Nationality Law ends the Left’s chutzpadic ‘monopoly’ on defining what constitutes equality and social justice

Before I explain the law, I want to explain its historic importance. For more than a generation, the liberal media, academia and Supreme Court feel that they have a chutzpadic monopoly  on defining what is equality and social justice.

The Nationality Law is our ‘Declaration of Independence” from the intellectually unbearable claim that the academic Left’s ‘totalitarian’ claim to be the sole, legitimate determiner of what constitutes equality and social justice. The Nationality Law, by a democratic ,majority vote of the people’s representatives’ assert that conservative social values should have (at least) equal legitimacy and authority to those of liberal social values in determining which governmental policies should be pursued in order  to develop a healthy, just Israeli society. The Knesset, through the constitutional Nationality Law, has finally given conservative social values ‘their day in the sun’. I would call this a victory for democracy, and the establishing of ‘equality’ between the differing conservative and liberal definitions social justice.

Clarification One: The Nationality Law in no way changes the fact that all Israeli citizens, in their status as private individuals, have equal status before the civil law

In principle, all Israeli citizens pay the same fines on speeding tickets, pay according to a single tax code, build according to a single building code, and contribute to Social Security according to a similar scale. There are no special civil laws for ‘minorities’ such as Arabs, the ultra Orthodox, Reform Jews, and homosexuals. (Of course in reality social and political factors create differences in how identical civil laws are applied in different communities, but that is a sociological, and not legal, topic for discussion).  The Nationality Law in no ways disturbs the equality of citizens before the civil law.

Clarification Two: The Nationality Law in no way changes the fact that all Israeli citizens, in the domain of their private lives and private property, have equal status before the criminal law.

This means that there is no criminalization of any type of life style pursued in the privacy of one’s home. (Despite what the liberal media may have brainwashed you to believe) all Israelis have equal freedom to pursue their particular life style in their private domain. Criminalization of homosexuality was ended over forty years ago. In Israel today a gay person is equally free to live how he wants, partner up with  who he wants, and even import a surrogate baby. Conservative/Reform Jews can build as many synagogues as they want,  and receive as much financial help from America as they can rise.

Arabs and haredi Jews are free to teach their religious heritage in any fundamentalist way they want, teach their own particular version of recent Israeli history, and practice their religion as want, including under 18 marriages and (in practice) polygamy. Many countries still criminalize private behavior, Israel does not. All private lifestyles are equal before the law.

Clarification Three:  However, ‘equality’ is an irrelevant concept when judging governmental social policy. Governments determine social policy on the basis of competing social political agendas. Inevitably one sector’s gain is another sector’s loss

This is the key argument of the article. A government has the responsibility to decide how to divide up and employ the nation’s resources so as to develop a more socially just and healthy society. This means determining national social priorities on the basis of competing political social values. Inevitably one sector’s gain will be one sector’s loss. Setting governmental policy means preferring the needs of one social sector over the other.  

For example, if the government decides to allow the import of cheaper food products, or reduce tariffs, the consumer gains and the agricultural and manufacturing sectors lose. If the government decides to invest more in the defense budget, this is usually at the expense of the welfare and education budgets, harming the nation’s poorer sector. If the government decides to curb the use of carbon based fuels in order to prevent pollution, this benefits urban populations, and harms the workers of coal producing states. The American government allows public funds to be spent only on secular education, thus benefiting liberal secularist and harming those who feel that a religious education is imperative. All these governmental social policy choices choosing priorities  based on varying political-social values. The principle of equality is almost irrelevant.

The liberal Left and conservative-religious Right have competing understandings of egalitarianism and social justice

The liberal Left and conservative-religious Right approach this governmental task of setting priorities for the use of national resources with very different understandings of egalitarianism and social justice.

The political-social philosophy that determines the liberal Left’s social policies

For example, the liberal Left believes that the principles of egalitarianism and social justice require that the government pay the salaries of Reform and Conservative rabbis, and allow them to perform weddings, just as they do Orthodox rabbis. Similarly they believe that same gender parents should have the same legal right to surrogate parenting as do two gender parent families.

The liberal Left bases these social policies on a political-social philosophy that contends that 1) mankind cannot know a set of metaphysical or philosophical Absolute Truths that would objectively determine laws of morality. Our knowledge of morality is strictly Relative to person, historical time and place .2) Thus given the Relativism of all social truths, the liberal Left wants to grant the greatest amount of social freedom and autonomy to the individual conscience for determining the life style that seems most beneficial to each particular individual. 3) Similarly,  given the absence of spiritual Truths, the liberal Left concentrates on the materialistic, and gives priority to establishing a more egalitarian distribution of society’s materialistic –economic resources 4) Finally, given the Relativism of our social knowledge, the liberal Left believes it is socially beneficial to quickly adapt social norms concerning morality to the behavioral social changes caused by scientific and technological changes. In brief, the social philosophy of the liberal Left defines egalitarianism and social justice as a maximizing the here and now autonomous free choice of the individual

The political-social philosophy that determines the conservative-religious Right’s social policies

The political-social philosophy of the conservative-religious Right is diametrically opposed to that of the liberal Left, and thus  defines very differently what constitutes egalitarianism and social justice.

We hold that man cannot find true meaning and fulfillment to his life if his life is primarily based on an autonomous individuality and focused on the material and the sensual (for example, focused on gender and sexual identity). Liberal social values are creating today before our eyes a society characterized by moral nihilism, transient, non committed social relationships, social loneliness and alienation, shallow spirituality, and an exaggerated emphasis on sexuality and materialism (money/income)

In contrast, conservative social philosophy holds that man can only fulfill and redeem his life if he goes beyond his individual autonomy, and attaches himself in a committed manner to a transcendent spirituality (G-d), an Absolute law of morality, organized religion, his nation and ethnic group, a multi-generational two parent, two gender family, and an established, traditional community. In this vein, social norms should only slowly and carefully adapted to technological and social changes.

Given this social philosophy, the conservative-religious Right states that egalitarianism and social justice does not consist in maximizing individual autonomy, but rather establishing that 1) all citizens have equal standing before the criminal and civil law 2) all citizens are equally free to pursue whatever life style they want in their private domain, 3) and that the government gives priority to social policy that will create a healthy and socially just society by encouraging organized religion, national patriotism, multi-generational, two gender-two parent families, and traditional communities.

This policy thus meets our criteria of being egalitarian because all citizens are equal before the law, of being democratic because each citizen has equal life style freedom in his private domain, and of being socially just because it creates a society of individuals supported by the time proven institutions of traditional family and religion.

The history of the development of the State of Israel proves the imperativeness of the Nationality Law’s conservative understanding of egalitarianism and social justice

It is very simple. If the present philosophy and make up the Israeli Supreme Court had been dominant in 1948 we would not have the strong, flourishing Jewish state that we have today. Fortunately, the political principles that guided our Founding Fathers (and ALL Zionist parties) in 1948 are exactly those that are highlighted in today’s Nationality Law: that only   the Jewish People are entitled to self determination in the Land of Israel., and that government must give priority to the Jewish settlement of the Land. .

For example, the Law of Return states that the government must give priority to Jewish immigration. (Today’s Supreme Court would probably declare the Law of Return discriminatory and unconstitutional).Similarly,  the early governments confiscated Arab lands in order to create a pattern of Jewish settlement that would create more defensible borders for the new state. Similarly, government bodies encouraged a culture of Jewish and national patriotism so that we would have the motivation in body and soul to sacrifice for building the state. The government also widely encouraged the building of religious and ultraorthodox school systems (at the government’s expense).The result is that today at least 25% of the Jewish population is Sabbath observant (as compared to 2-5% in the Diaspora), and Israel has the highest fertility rate (and lowest intermarriage rate) in the Western Jewish world.

For the sake of Zion we must understand and promote our Nationality Law

In brief, a government (or Supreme Court) whose guiding principle is the liberal ideal of Israel as ‘state of all its citizens’ is almost literally burying Zionism and raising the white flag. Only an Israeli state that pro-actively promotes the Jewish character and Jewish development of our country will survive and flourish in an international environment that does not understand us, and is often hostile to us.

This is why our constitutional Nationality  Law is very socially just and very important. This is why all of us have to make effort to understand and promote our Nationality Law.