JERUSALEM — The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a contentious draft amendment to the country’s citizenship law that calls for non-Jews seeking to become citizens to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state.
Many problems with this law could be pointed out, but I just wrote the following letter to a multitude of members of the Knesset, to point one such problem of the many there surely are:
Hello. I would like to please express to you my opinion on the recent Citizenship Amendment. Perhaps one of you might find my argument meaningful, and pass it on to others.
I am originally from Silver Spring, MD, but I am a student learning in Jerusalem, and I fully plan on making `aliyah. I am Jewish - Orthodox, in fact, of the Maimonidean German Neo-Orthodox school (if that means anything to anyone) - but let us suppose for the sake of argument that I am not Jewish.
I would be forced to pledge loyalty to the state as a democracy, yes? But what if I rejected Thomas Hobbes, and instead rely on Johannes Althusius and John Locke? What if I rejected Jean Jacque Rousseau and instead relied on Edmund Burke and Frederic Bastiat? What if I rejected Karl Marx and instead relied on Abraham Kuyper? What if I rejected John Maynard Keynes and instead rely on Friedrich August Hayek and Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard? What if, having studied the history of theological-political federalism, I "hold these truths to be self-evident", and have my tongue dripping with words of interposition of inferior magistrates and nullification of laws that violate the foedus? What if I sided with Martin Luther King, Jr., and cited Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to uphold the belief that an unjust law is no law at all? What if I followed Heinrich Bullinger and rejected those princes who declare Wir sind das recht, Hoc volo, sic jubeo; sit pro ratione voluntas? (Heinrich Bullinger, The Decades, second decade, seventh sermon, "Of the Office of the Magistrate, Whether the Care of Religion Appertain to Him or No, and Whether He May Make Laws and Ordinances in Cases of Religion", Parker Society translation, pp. 339f.)
In other words, what if I rejected the statism of Hobbes that Israel so cherishes, the majoritarian democracy of Marx and Rousseau that Israel so celebrates? (Of course, in such a Rousseau-ian majoritarianism, a Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat, even though all animals are equal, it soon happens that some animals are more equal than others. But that's not the point. The original vision was that all men would be equal, and that the "General Will" would permit a tyranny of the majority. Thus, John Quincy Adams rightly rebuked Thomas Paine when the latter enthusiastically lauded the French Revolution; Paine declared that, "whatever a whole nation chooses to do, it has the right to do," and Adams replied, "Nations, no less than individuals, are subject to the eternal and immutable laws of justice and morality." Paine's "doctrine," said Adams, "annihilated the security of every man for his inalienable rights, and would lead in practice to a hideous despotism, concealed under the party-colored garments of democracy.")
Okay, fine, I am a Jew, and so when I make `aliyah, I will not be subject to this law, unless Neeman has his way. But what of a hypothetical non-Jew who thinks as I do? How are we to define "democracy"? What if he rejects Israeli despotic democracy and instead embraces the libertarian-republican democracy of Thomas Jefferson? Will he be denied citizenship? Or shall we follow in the steps of Rousseau's disciple, Robespierre?
I find this whole law so horrifying, precisely because it is so vague. What is this "democracy" that non-Jewish immigrants must pledge allegiance to? Will it be more precisely defined? For it is not more precisely defined, then it will constitute a carte blanche for the government to decide, ad-hoc, what it should mean, for each and every immigrant individually, perhaps depending on the size of the bribe he offers. To quote John Cotton, "This may serve to teach us the danger of allowing to any mortal man an inordinate measure of power to speak great things: to allow to any man uncontrollableness of speech; you see the desperate danger of it. Let all the world learn to give mortal men no greater power than they are content they shall use--for use it they will. And unless they be better taught of God, they will use it ever and anon: it may be, make it the passage of their proceeding to speak what they will. And they that have liberty to speak great things, you will find It to be true, they will speak great blasphemies. No man would think what desperate deceit and wickedness there is in the hearts of men. ... It is therefore most wholesome for magistrates and officers in church and commonwealth never to affect more liberty and authority than will do them good, and the people good: for whatever transcendent power is given will certainly overrun those that give it and those that receive it. There is a strain in a man’s heart that will sometime or other run out to excess, unless the Lord restrain it; but it is not good to venture it. It is necessary, therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited, church-power or other. If there be power given to speak great things, then look for great blasphemies, look for a licentious abuse of it. It is counted a matter of danger to the state to limit prerogatives; but it is a further danger not to have them limited: they will be like a tempest if they be not limited. A prince himself cannot tell where he will confine himself, nor can the people tell; but if he have liberty to speak great things, then he will make and unmake, say and unsay, and undertake such things as are neither for his own honor nor for the safety of the state."
Of course, perhaps my even quoting Cotton would cause my application for citizenship to be denied, were I a gentile. Imagine, quoting one of the founding fathers of American democracy - blasphemy! In Israel, the more "party-colored" one's "garments of democracy" are, the more orthodox is his thought considered. I do believe the word "democracy" has entered the lexicon of Ingsoc's Newspeak. Though I must say, this whole affair is rather amusing. It's like Jefferson and Madison together watching Lenin denounce Trotsky. Imagine, Israel condemning some its Arab residents as being undemocratic! It would be funny if the potential practical, temporal ramifications were not so dire. To quote Judge Richard Posner's article "Enlightened Despot", in the New Republic, a review of Aharon Barak's The Judge in a Democracy, "Israel is an immature democracy, poorly governed; its political class is mediocre and corrupt; it floats precariously in a lethally hostile Muslim sea; and it really could use a constitution." (Judge Robert Bork's review of Barak in Azure is exquisite as well.)
Thank you, and sincerely,