Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Iyar 5759, May 5 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
We Support Democracy

We wish to say it clearly: we support the democratic system of government. We think that it is a good, effective system of governance that has proven itself good for the Jews and good for humanity in the more than two centuries that it has been used in the West.

The chareidi community is often accused of being against democracy, but this is not true. We are said to want a theocracy, and this is somewhat true, but that desire is of a purely theoretic nature and does not affect our politics. We firmly maintain that we are thoroughly in golus, and that it is not our responsibility to end this state through any material means. The only steps that we take to end our exile are in studying Torah and keeping Hashem's mitzvos. It is up to Hashem to take whatever political or other steps need to be taken to end our exile when we deserve it and/or when He decides that it is time for the Redemption. For our current political activities, we are very happy with democracy.

The Jewish community has fared well under modern democratic systems. We have been left alone to practice our religion and we have been able flourish both materially and spiritually. Anyone with even a minimal familiarity with the happenings of our long golus knows that the security that we have enjoyed in modern stable democratic regimes is unprecedented. Though there were good times in the past, things were always subject to change at the death of the ruler, or even from a change of heart in the reigning power.

This is not to say that democracy and antisemitism are incompatible -- unfortunately there are antisemites and other haters who take advantage of democratic opportunities to foster their programs, such as Le Pen in France. Yet the checks and balances, and especially the protection for minorities that is so integral to the democratic system, seem to have ruled out the evil excesses of the past.

The criticisms that we make of the institutions of Israeli democracy are all substantive and based on generally accepted -- and democratic -- principles. For example, in the area in which we have recently been most hysterically accused of undermining democratic principles and the rule of law, we have not been criticizing the Israeli High Court per se, as an institution, but only the conduct and principles of its current president. Rather than address the real issues that we raise about unbridled, unaccountable and unelected judicial power, we are dismissed or vilified as a threat to democracy and the rule of law in Israel.

We argue that aggressively "extending" the rule of law into areas that are essentially political or deeply personal undermines the rule of law and the democratic institutions of Israel. For example, when the High Court arrogates to itself the right to decide whether and when to close a local street - - that undermines the respect that people have for the Israeli court system. We do not say that defending the Israeli political system is a priority of ours (especially since there are so many others who are so concerned about that), but it is not inconsistent for us to defend the system when it breaks down in a way that threatens us.

We do not participate in the political process in order to destroy it. We accept the theory and accept the ground rules. We believe and expect that there will come a time when Hashem will be the King of all the world, but it is laughable to suggest that we send our representatives to the Knesset as a step in that direction.

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