A Democracy Fix for Israel

By Haberman, Clyde | Moment, September-October 2008 | Go to article overview

A Democracy Fix for Israel


Haberman, Clyde, Moment


The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace At Last

By Bernard Avishai

Harcourt, Inc.

2008, $26.00, pp. 290

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

If Israel may be said to possess original sin, it is the founders' decision to forgo a written constitution. That is a central theme of The Hebrew Republic, Bernard Avishai's latest dissection of what ails the country he has long viewed with both affection and despair. How different things might have been, Avishai says. After Israel came into being in 1948, it was supposed to have a constitution guaranteeing basic rights and affirming "the principle of the complete equality of all citizens." But David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, had more pressing concerns, not the least of which was appeasing Orthodox Jewish political parties looking for special status. He needed them to build a working coalition. A written constitution? A nice idea, Ben-Gurion decided, but future generations could deal with it.

Only they didn't. An Israeli constitution seems destined to be like the arrival of the Messiah: ever in the future. In the meantime, Ben-Gurion's "surrender," to use Avishai's word, has become "a recurrent legal ricochet."

Israel, though unquestionably a democratic state as well as a Jewish state, can hardly be described as a bastion of equal rights. Israeli Arabs are second-class citizens. They cannot readily own land or buy apartments in the big cities. Institutions like the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, which seemed destined for extinction with the creation of the state, remain formidable reinforcers of discriminatory practices. Israel's Arabs are much poorer than its Jews. Their towns are short-changed when the government hands out money for schools, health programs, housing, roads and bridges. Thanks to the Law of Return, a Jew who has spent his entire life in Brooklyn may make aliyah and immediately enjoy more rights and privileges than an Arab whose family has been on the land for generations.

Then, too, there is effective discrimination against secular Jews, who cannot be married, divorced or even buried in the manner they may wish. Orthodox rabbis have a monopoly over these and other rituals; it's their way or the highway. That also goes for arguably the most fundamental issue of all: defining who is a Jew. Avishai reminds us that the people who live in Israel are not officially recognized as Israelis. They are recorded by the government as being not Israeli nationals but rather members of a particular religious or ethnic group.

Avishai's solution is to replace the Jewish state with his Hebrew republic. Israel would become a country of all its citizens, an egalitarian society comparable to any country in the European Union. It would have a formal constitution with a Bill of Rights, similar to what had been anticipated in 1948. The Law of Return would disappear. Religion and state would be kept separate, ending rabbinical control over defining Jewish identity and Jewish values. "In a Hebrew republic," Avishai writes, "rabbis would have to compete for minds and hearts with, say, poets."

This is the enlightened republic that the early Zionists envisioned, he says. It doesn't mean that Israel would lose its essential Jewish character. That would endure, he says. Jews would simply lose the privileged treatment they now claim as a birthright. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Democracy Fix for Israel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.