August 26, 2011

'Theocracies outlasted democracies' -Obadiah Shoher

Churchill was wrong saying that democracy is the worst of all political systems
except for every other which was ever tried. We can counter with Keynes’
quote, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” Every system, including every
political system, is always exploited, loopholes found in its checks and
balances, and the system is taken over by unscrupulous men and deteriorates.
That is equally true of clans, monarchies, feudalism—any form of government.
In historical terms, democracy is not even the most resilient system: for most
of human history, people were governed by paternalist clans. In every country
except the United States, monarchy has outlasted democracy, and even there
dynasties emerge, such as the Bushes.

So the real question is not what political system can exist eternally? None can.
The question is also not what political system outlasts all others? There is
nothing inherently wrong with societies changing their system of government. The
question is what political system conforms to our best goal  right now?

Our goal in Israel cannot just be safety, for we would never be safe in a sea of
Muslims. Even if we totally submit to them as dhimmi, Muslims are unlikely to
offer Jews the relative protection we enjoyed with them for centuries. Modern
Muslims are experiencing the death pangs of their failing civilization, or
rather their way of life, as they have failed to develop a civilization. They
are desperate, and desperation often makes people aggressive.

Our goal in Israel is a kind of Jewish state, vaguely defined as something
between the Left’s “state with a Jewish majority” and a religious Jewish
state. The “Jewish majority” definition is evidently unworkable: even before
Arabs reach a majority, they have already been proven to exert considerable
influence over Jewish lives. Israeli Arabs side with Jewish defeatists in the
Knesset, attack Jews and threaten riots throughout the country, and even judge
the Jews, especially the thousands of Jewish women who married the Arabs. Also,
the “Jewish majority” goal is actually a means: the majority is supposed to
vote the Jewish way.

What is a Jewish way? Like any other people except for religion. There is no
Jewish blood, culture, or cuisine worth fighting for. Jewish people are only
distinct in terms of religion. Now, many might think the prohibition against
using an elevator or turning on a light on Sabbath is silly, but there is no
argument that work is prohibited on the Sabbath. The Israeli state needs an
ideology, a raison d’etre, like any state, and only the Jewish religion offers
such ideology. When we fight the Arabs, it is evidently more inspiring to fight
for “cities of our God.” When we claim our right to the land, it is simple
enough to assert that God gave it to us—without dubious and humiliating
references to the UN resolutions. When we want to live without Arabs, we can
easily justify such policies by the religious commandment to expel the
aborigines. Judaism offers valuable suggestions on dealing with the Amalek from
Gaza, on cleansing the Temple Mount of the Aqsa abomination, for refusing to
give away the Promised Land.

Goals of divine service and comfortable life are not mutually exclusive. In
every country, people accept upon themselves certain prohibitions in order to
live comfortably. We don’t turn on loud music at 3 a.m. even if our mood is
great and we would love for every neighbor to know it. Comfortable social life
is, first of all, the realization that all your neighbors share your way of
doing things, if not your way of thinking. Comfort lies in knowing that your
neighbors are like you – and  they are likely to like you, and you like them.
You wouldn’t want your children to socialize with  the homosexuals  next door,
or learn from defeatists in school, or encounter missionaries on the streets.
I’m not a haredi, but always feel an almost physical wave of comfort upon
coming to their Mea Shearim or Bnei Brak neighborhoods. I know that I have more
in common with them than with the commies from the kibbutzim.
So the question is if we can  accept a degree of religiosity as a common
denominator for Jews? In very basic terms, the requirements are quite simple: we
don’t eat pork and rabbit, refrain from going to the office on Shabbat, keep
short fasts and go to synagogues once in a while, and refuse to give up the
Promised Land to Arabs within or without. In my experience, just about all the
secular persons who started observing commandments in their most basic form
eventually accepted upon themselves the Yoke of Heaven. Such progress is,
however, voluntary. Society doesn’t look into your home fridge, but it would
also not tolerate Tel Aviv restaurants serving pork. No one checks to see if you
have read the Kiddush on Shabbat, but at least you’re expected to refrain from
driving on Shabbat; you can drive on Sunday, which would also be a weekend
holiday. Believe me, after a year of not driving on Shabbat you will start
reading Kiddush, too, if only to justify your not driving. The society where all
the people share basic religious values and act coherently would be
fantastically comfortable.
The Jewish law in Israel would make her a very strong society. Pressing a
religious society to give away the holy land is pointless. Our Arab enemies
would only remain outside the country, and they will know that Jews fight the
biblical way, so there is no point provoking us.

Jewish theocracy closely parallels original, unadulterated democracy. Early
democracies had an electoral barrier: not everyone could be elected, but only
the people whose age and status offered a good chance that they would lead
society wisely. So Jewish democracy is based upon Sanhedrin rather than the
Knesset. In practical terms, that means that only rabbis can be elected.
Messiah, of course, doesn’t belong to Shas, but even the Shas rabbis are much
more intelligent and decent than the average MK; rabbis are certainly preferable
to Meretz or the Arab MKs.
Religious parties exploit the system of government, but all the parties do
likewise and often squeeze much more public funds and for much more useless
purposes than religious Jews do. In a Jewish theocracy, the ruling rabbis would
be constrained by halacha, just like constitutional monarchies are constrained
by basic law. Jewish theocracy makes for a very decent society with a
laissez-faire economy with 10 or 20 percent non-military taxation.

What is the alternative to religious ideology? Zionism was the idea to bring
Jews to a state of their own; that idea is fulfilled and is not moot. Zionism as
seen by Herzl is irrelevant today. In post-Zionist Israel, conscription will
become increasingly unfashionable, something for the lower classes. This process
is known from the USSR and USA: military service, once an attraction and a
matter of pride, suddenly becomes unattractive. No amount of propaganda in
school can stem that development: Israeli children would soon laugh at the empty
militarism: stupid people fight the Arabs, and smart people do business with
them or conduct peace talks. The army would have to accommodate religious Jews,
and they will change the army and become actively involved in the state’s

Eventually, even such a state would deteriorate. Religiosity would become
unfashionable. The observance will become automated, and the sense of religious
identification will diminish. First-century Judea retained attributes of a
religious state while actually becoming an assimilationist hotspot. Its Temple,
built by the non-observant non-Jew King Herod, could not possibly attract the
Divine Presence. Judea was polluted—and controlled—by idol-worshiping
foreigners who erected their altars throughout the country. Jews were content
with shrinking the Land of Israel’s sanctity to Jerusalem, which was the only
city relatively free of paganism. The dissidents fled to Qumran. Judea was not
ruled according to Jewish law. The country’s destruction saved the Jews by
sending us to semi-isolated Diaspora communities rather then allowing Jews to
assimilate in their own country.

Theocracy and a Halachic state wouldn’t last forever, but would be the best
thing for now.

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