This is so idiotic on so many levels. Now, I myself do oppose many of the policies of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. But that's not the point. The point is that the USA is ridiculously out-of-bounds here:
(1) What Israel is guilty of, is not oppressing non-Jews, but favoring Jews. Gentiles can freely worship their religions, only Jewish institutions get state support. Justice Joseph Story, who was appointed to the United States Supreme Court by James Madison, advances, in his commentary on the Constitution, an interpretation of the First Amendment that squares very closely with what Israel is doing! Story approvingly quotes the Constitution of Massachusetts, which gave special state support to Protestant Christianity. Now, Story's analysis of the First Amendment is very long and legal, and I cannot summarize it all here, but suffice it to say for now, Story thought it perfectly acceptable to favor one religion as long as dissenters were not punished. The chief way of doing this would be to support one religion with tax money but not otherwise punishing those who did not belong to this favored religion, other than by not giving them state money. So Israel is only doing what a famous member of the United States Supreme Court did, not to mention the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts!
(2) According to the general theory of religious tolerance - such as advanced by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Locke, and the Baptists in general - what religious tolerance is chiefly about, is not coercing people to violate their consciences. According to these thinkers, the issue is one of ein shaliah b'davar `averah ("there is no [excuse of being a mere] proxy in the case of [being an agent to perform] sin"), that it is outrageous for the State to force a man to violate his conscience regarding matters not properly within the jurisdiction of the State, viz. the protection of life, liberty, and property. Religion is not within the government's jurisdiction, and to force a man to follow the State's religion is to force him to sin (in his own mind) against God. Madison and Jefferson even opposed what Story (above) celebrated, something as innocuous as a state-funded church that would receive state aid but would not oppress dissenters at all. Even this, said Madison and Jefferson, was unconscionable because it forced men to have their money (from taxes) spent on projects opposed to their consciences, even if otherwise, no one was jailed or otherwise punished for dissent. According to this liberal/Baptist theory, what religious tolerance is really about, is not about God specifically, per se. It is rather about forcing men to live their lives or give their money towards ideologies and programs (whether religious or Godly or theistic, or secular and atheistic) not to their personal liking. (It's just that back then, religion was the only ideology that men coerced each other regarding. Wars were over religion, not capitalism versus communism. Therefore, the issue was of religious tolerance rather than general ideological tolerance. But the logic extends to all ideologies, even secular ones.) According to this, to extort tax money from anyone for any project - religious or secular - opposed to their personal beliefs, is criminal. The logic of this position forbids all state favoritism and welfare and such, not just for religion, but for any subjective ideology, such as Progressivism (think FDR and LBJ). The state is to be limited to protecting life, liberty, and property from thieves, murderers, foreign invasion, and taxation, and all personal religions and ideologies are to be kept to the private sphere; the separation of church and state was meant to declare that the state has a very limited and circumscribed jurisdiction, not that the state should be secular per se. Hillary Clinton ought to indict and audit the IRS before she accuses Israel of anything.
According to (1), Israel is doing nothing that important and celebrated Americans haven't done. According to (2), America is violating religious freedom, via the IRS and taxation, far more than Israel is. Why is taxing someone to support the poor in a way the taxpayer is opposed to, any different from taxing someone to support a church he does not like? Both are subject to the same criticism, that freedom and liberty of conscience is violated, which is the core issue of religious tolerance.
As an aside:
I would say the second point, the Locke-ian/Baptist theory of toleration, is one that could be very well read into Torah Judaism, by utilizing the distinction between b'shogeg/anuss [unintentional sins of ignorance, with b'shogeg being slightly blameless because one should have known better, and b'anuss being totally innocent] and b'meizid [deliberate sins].
According to Rabbi D. Z. Hoffman, the reason we used to punish Shabbat violators is that their violation was a declaration of atheism, and atheists were liable to murder and steal. (Rabbi Menahem ha-Meiri, when he says that Muslims and Christians are to be tolerated, says that atheists should not be tolerated, because they are liable to be antisocial and violent.) But today, says Rabbi Hoffman, due to our sins, many Jews will violate the Shabbat without intending thereby to free themselves from moral constraints. (I believe the Meiri would modify his theory as well, were he alive today.)
Evidently, according to Rabbi Hoffman, the reason we punish Jewish sinners is not that we expect that our punishing them will help their passage to heaven. That is, it is not because we have the authority to punish sinners who have sinned against God and God alone, such as by eating a pork chop in the privacy of their own homes. It is rather that those who sin against God, are liable to sin against man. And in a traditional Jewish society, where the same Torah that prohibited pork also prohibited murder, anyone who ate pork was liable to murder as well. A sin against God was not evil in and of itself, from the perspective of society, but it was evil because it indicated a general treason against the Legislator, against the God who had commanded man to love his neighbor as himself. But if a sinner's sin was not of the sort that would lead to antisocial behavior - such as Shabbat violation by Reform Jews in Rabbi Hoffman's day - then they were not to be punished.
I have been told - but have not seen this myself - that Hakham Jose Faur explains the halakhah the way I have. I also saw that John Locke's "A Letter Concerning Toleration" justifies Biblical Jewish execution of idolaters on the grounds that God was the Legislator and King of the Jews, and that idolatry was tantamount to treason. According to Locke, it is not that idolatry itself, per se, is within the jurisdiction of the government - for it is certainly not - but rather, it is that in a thoroughly religious society, violation of religion is an act of treason against the established law in general. Therefore, says Locke, you cannot use Jewish law as a precedent in a society where people do not consider God to be their direct and imminent Legislator the way the Biblical Jews did.
I believe Locke and Rabbi Hoffman are saying basically the same thing. For Rabbi Hoffman, a Jew violating Shabbat b'meizid [deliberately] is liable to engage in antisocial behavior, but one violating Shabbat b'oness [ignorantly] is not. According to Rabbi David ibn Abi Zimra, a moral, decent person who honestly and truly and sincerely rejects the Torah due to his intellectual beliefs, and not out of an attempt to disingenuously reject moral norms and live as a libertine scoundrel and use the rejection of the Torah as his excuse and pretext, is to be considered not b'meizid, but b'oness.
We should realize that although the non-Orthodox Jews are wrong, they are sincere and honest, and do not perceive themselves as going against the obvious and axiomatic authority of God. By contrast, a Biblical Jew, in the time of the Prophets, knew that God and His Torah were the accepted foundations of all law and morality, and the polemics of the Prophets suggest that even sinful Jews of the time knew that the Torah was given at Sinai, only they thought that God would never punish His Chosen People now matter how great their sins, even for idolatry and oppression of the poor. The difference in mindset between b'meizid and b'oness makes all the difference, I believe.
For that reason, I would oppose the Chief Rabbinate's favoring Orthodox Judaism. We should entirely disestablish the Rabbinate, and if Orthodox Judaism is true, then surely it shall prevail by its own innate and inherent virtue. It is wrong for us to oppress, via taxation, those Jews who honestly and sincerely reject Orthodoxy. At the same time, we should not oppress anyone via taxation, and we should end everything the Israeli government does except the IDF and police forces and such.
One person replied to me, saying,
Michael--your points are moot simply because the great American thinkers quoted were all Christians and the issue was the tolerance of different sects of Christianity--historically Jews were set apart from the nations, lived under different laws than the nations surrounding them--Judaism is not intolerant of other religions outside of this land--our nation is not founded on a man made constitution or bill of rights--our nation is founded upon the laws of the Creator and specific to Jews and this particular piece of land. I think it an insult to quote the ethics of nonJews when it comes to Jewish laws and the land of Israel. We are not racist--we are not intolerant--why attempt to force us into the galut in our own historic land?
Leah, there are two issues: Jewish tolerance of other Jews, and Jewish tolerance of gentiles.
Regarding the non-observant Jews, we need to utilize the concepts of tinoq she-nishba [a Jew taken captive as an infant and not held culpable for his sins], shogeg/anuss, etc. I think it is unconscionable for the Orthodox to persecute or subjugate the non-Orthodox - including in things like marriage and divorce and conversion - when the non-Orthodox behave as they do not in order to be maliciously and malevolently deliberate sinners, but rather, out of conscience. Rabbi David ibn David Zimra already showed they are not heretics, as did RambaM regarding the Karaites of his day, who he said were well-meaning and were merely following in good faith the mistaken teachings of their teachers and parents.
Why must we have marriage and divorce run by the State? Not only does it oppress the non-observant Jews, but it's un-Jewish anyway. Traditionally, marriage was between a man and a woman, and God. The government was never involved. Likewise, conversion was something private, and you trusted people the same way you eat at their homes when they tell you they keep kosher, even without a teudah. Why cannot we do the same today? Let everyone marry and divorce on his own, and you'll trust someone when he says he's not a mamzer [bastard, the un-marriageable offspring of an adulterous or incestuous union], or that he's a valid ger [convert], the same way you trust him (or don't trust him) when he says he keep kosher. Let everyone marry whoever they want, and refuse to marry people whose conversions or divorces they doubt. Why do we need the government involved? It's not Jewish in the first place, not to mention the fact that it angers the non-observant, thereby pushing them farther away from Torah. Having a Rabbinate that forces the non-observant to comply, does nothing to endear them to the Torah and bring them to love of the Torah.
Regarding gentiles in Israel, I think it is hypocritical for us to apply the halakhot regarding gentiles, when we Jews aren't even keeping our own laws. We have Jews in Israel eating pork chops and driving on Shabbat, and yet we'll have the hutzpah to tell gentiles that they must obey their laws (the Noahide laws) in order to live in Israel? It's the peak of hypocrisy! Let us get ourselves to our proper level before we start telling everyone else what to do!
Now, I should clarify. I am not saying that we should tolerate any gentile in Israel who wishes to murder and commit terrorism. For we Jews are following those laws, and it is therefore not hypocritical for us to prosecute gentiles who violate those laws. According to Rabbi Moses Feinstein, a hillul hashem [desecration of God's name] is whenever Jews follow the technical halakhah in the correct way, but do so in such a way that the gentiles will wrongly think we are violating Jewish values. Therefore, for example, it was not a hillul hashem when we kept Shabbat and were mocked by the Greeks for being lazy on 1 out of 7 days, because the Greeks did not perceive us to be violating Jewish values, but they perceived us to be violating Greek values. But if a Greek had seen a Jew and thought the Jew was hypocritically violating Jewish values, then it would be a hillul hashem. So my argument is, when we Jews are not keeping our "religious" or "ritual" or "spiritual" obligations to God, such as keeping kosher or Shabbat, then it is hypocritical for us to expect the gentiles in Israel to keep theirs. Only when we Jews keep our mitzvot bein adam la-maqom [mitzvot between us and God], can we expect gentiles in Israel to do the same. But we Jews already keep the mitzvot bein adam l'havero [mitzvot between fellow men], and so we can certainly expect the gentiles to keep theirs, and expel any gentile from Israel who wishes to murder and commit terrorism.