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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah: 'Jewish and democratic is an oxymoron'

Nearly thirty years ago, the Knesset passed a law banning from Knesset elections parties that refuse to accept the 'Jewish and democratic nature' of the State of Israel. The law targeted, and was used to ban, Rabbi Meir Kahane HY"D's (May God Avenge his blood) Kach party from the 1984 Knesset elections.
The Central Elections Committee voted 18-10 today to bar Rabbi MelrKahane’s extreme rightwing Kach list from participating in the July 23 Knesset elections. There were seven abstentions.
The decision was the first time in Israel’s history that a Jewish political faction was banned from an election. An Arab “Socialist List” was banned 19 years ago on grounds that its objective was to undermine the existence of the State. Supreme Court Justice Gavriel Bach, chairman of the Elections Committee, maintained that Kahane’s list undermines the principles of democracy itself. Kahane said he would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Kahane was eventually allowed to run for the Knesset in 1984, and won one seat, but was banned in 1988.
Bach denounced the Kach list after hearing testimony form Kahane. The American-born rabbi who founded the Jewish Defense League convinced him that he should not be allowed to run in the Knesset elections, Bach said. He cited Kahane’s description of Israel’s Declaration of Independence granting equal rights to all citizens as a “schizophrenic document” and his call for the deportation form Israel of the Arab, Druze and Circassian minorites.
“Only in very extreme cases should one ban a list because it is a basic democratic right to allow the expression of views, even those which are detestable, ” Bach said. However, the line must be drawn somewhere. “If a man such as Kahane enters the Knesset and enjoys immunity, anti-Semites throughout the world will no longer need the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. If ever a democracy protecting itself had the right to ban a list, this is the case,” Bach said.
Kach ran in both the 1977 and 1981 elections but failed both times to win enough votes for Knesset representation.
In 1988, however, surveys showed that Kach would get around 3-4 seats in the Knesset. That was why banning the party suddenly became urgent. Kahane's party was banned altogether in 1994. He was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Kahane's argument was that Judaism is not a democracy and that a Jewish state cannot be a democratic one.  Kahane's argument was that Israel should be a Jewish state, even at the expense of being a democracy. Now, Yesh Atid faction leader Ofer Shelah is making the same argument but from the opposite direction. He is arguing that Israel ought not to be a Jewish state.
“Even in its best version, so-called ‘nationality bills’ are unnecessary, and unnecessary legislation should not be passed. In its worst versions, its a harmful bill for our shared lives in this land and for our image abroad,” Shelah wrote on Facebook regarding the proposals to legally define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Shelah’s Facebook post came days after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni appointed Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison to write a “constitutional provision” on Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not approve of the appointment.
Earlier this year, Livni vetoed Calderon’s bill and another proposal on the topic by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
She did not clarify if the “constitutional provision” Gavison is meant to work on will be a bill or not.
Shelah, however, is against any type of legislation dealing with the balance between Jewish and democratic.
According to Shelah, the words “Jewish and democratic state” are an oxymoron and any attempt to sharpen and define them only show how self-contradictory they are.
“To some extent, Israel’s 65 years were walking on a tightrope, which amazing democratic strength that was possible only because we never tried to define it,” he added. “Our justice system, freedom of expression and the political sphere are alive, kicking and impressive to anyone who looks at us from the outside because we live this dialectic every day, without a law that claims to define the big mixture of identities living here.”
Shelah concluded by saying that any film that breaks the balance between the majority and minorities in Israel must be fought.
So now it's okay to say that Israel should only be a democratic state, but not okay to say that it should only be a Jewish state? Why is Shelah still in the Knesset?

And by the way, why is 'Jewish Home' - the only party that attaches religious significance to the existence of the State of Israel - falling all over itself to be in a coalition with Shelah's Yesh Atid party?

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