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Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's a democracy?

For those trying to get a handle on our ongoing debate on NGO funding by foreign governments and the process of selecting Supreme Court Justices, Martin Sherman's lengthy Friday JPost column is a good place to start.
The configuration and conduct of the judiciary, and the operation of NGOs funded by foreign sovereign sources, comprise the two blades of a “scissors” that are threatening to sever the bond between the most elemental constituents of democratic governance – between the demos and the kratos (between the people and the power).

The symbiotic interaction between an indisputably politically biased judiciary and organizations funded largely by governments with interests divergent – frequently radically so – from those of Israel, bestow inordinately disproportionate influence on an electorally insignificant minority.

As such, these activities comprise a severe perversion of the democratic process – quite the reverse of the noble endeavor to protect it that their vocal advocates attempt to promote.

While scholars may disagree as to the exact definition of “liberal democracy,” and while most would agree that it should not entail the unrestrained tyranny of the majority, it is doubtful whether any would suggest that it comprises the notion of the rule of the minority.

So while protection of minority rights – an important element of liberal democracy – is one thing, the right to subvert – indeed supersede – the will of the majority is quite another.


The ample financial resources of these political NGOs, with agendas often inimical to the vision of preserving Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, allow them to lodge frequent petitions with a like-minded High Court of Justice.

This has impeded, undermined and delayed policy decisions of the elected government.

The efficacy of these foreign-funded forays is not necessarily dependent solely on the decisions handed-down by the courts. Sometimes significant practical impact on government policy can be achieved by interim injunctions, the publicity (usually negative for Israel) generated by the lodging of the petition itself, out-of-court settlements reached to avoid drawn-out legal proceedings, irrespective of the substantive merits of the petitions, and so on.

Moreover, this symbiosis between a politically partisan judiciary and externally financed NGOs has had several disturbing effects which are not often clearly articulated and hence not clearly understood.

First, it allows foreign governments to affect Israel’s policies by circumventing accepted diplomatic practices in manners which are far from transparent – either to their own domestic publics or to the Israeli electorate.

Second, it permits electorally inconsequential segments of the population to short-circuit public debate and to influence events far beyond their domestic weight, using the resources of official alien sovereignties whose interests are very different – indeed often diametrically opposed – to those of Israel.

All of these restrict the policies of Israeli authorities on a wide range of issues on the national agenda, including vital matters of security and defense. The result is an ongoing erosion of the public perception of the stature of elected executive and legislative branches of government and a commensurate enhancement of that of the unelected, elitist judiciary.

Why anyone would consider that preserving such a perverse state of affairs furthers the cause of liberal democracy beggars the imagination.
Read the whole thing. Yes, he's spot-on.

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