Monday, July 03, 2006

Battle Cry of Freedom

The Spirit of '76

We all gathered together tonight, hundreds of American Olim, in Kraft Stadium, under a gorgeous Jerusalem sky to celebrate our other home, the United States of America on the occasion of the 230th anniversary of its independence. We listened to Bluegrass and Country Music, ate Burgers and Hot Dogs and reminisced about the Old Country.

Thirty years ago, I was in the exact reverse situation. On July 4, 1976 I was all camped out with friends on the banks of the Charles River, waiting for the fabled Boston Pops Fourth of July concert (accompanied by howitzers and fireworks) in celebration of America's Bicentennial. Part of me was, at the same time, six thousand miles away with the celebrations here in Israel at the thrilling rescue of the Entebbe hostages. Pride merged with pride. Joy merged with joy.

Judging from my experiences in 'flyover' America, the USA is still pretty resolute. Here in Israel, most people don't understand that New York and LA just don't represent America. (Certainly the NY Times, LA Times and the NYROB don't). America is still a 'sleeping giant filled with a terrible resolve' (as Yamamoto said, and discovered).

Israel, however, is another story. Ehud (I'm tired of fighting) Olmert and his pygmies are light years away from Israel of 1976. I suspect that they are as representative of the Jews of Israel as Michael Moore is of the average American. The problem is that Michael Moore is a stupid white guy and Olmert and Co. are actually in charge here.

In any event, on the way home from Jerusalem, I was thinking about things that we American-Israelis could give this country- not that the local elites will never accept them, but go know:

Freedom of Speech
Freedom to Freely Criticize Elected Officials
Freedom of Assembly
Writs of Habeas Corpus
No Bills of Attainder
Personal Legislative Representation
Accepting Responsibility for Errors
'Taking the Hit'
Belief in Our Right to Exist
"One Nation, Under God'
Legislative Ratification of Judicial Appointments
Trial by Jury
The Fourteenth Amendment

Finally, consider this:

Now I make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside, in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens and the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. I have the honor to be, with much esteem and respect, Sir, your Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant. George Washington (8 June 1783)


joel rich said...

Without comment on your Israeli political insights, I am struck by R'YBS' "knocks" in kol dodi dofek and how one could arrive at a similar conclusion concerning the founding and prospering of the USA. HKBH's "psak" (if my weak mind sees it correctly) of allowing the revolution to succeed and the country to flourish against all odds is one more example of "vraita et achorai" -seeing his hand in history.

Ben Bayit said...

In actuality most of what you listed exists in some form or another in order to give the pretense that Israel is a liberal democracy. But there are just enough limitations left in the constitution, civil code and criminal code that allow the regime to limit these where "necessary" and thus continue to relate to the masses the way "liberal" european democracies do - as "rabble" meant to be tamed and controlled.

The sad thing is that even some American educated Rabbonim in Israel (who should know better) buy into this whole idea that the electorate are "rabble" and don't know better and that we have to "trust the government". Let alone the Prussian Nationalist (the army = the people; the people = the army) rabbis from Mercaz Harav.

Unless the State of Israel can develop a true liberal representative democracy with true balance of powers it is doomed to slide further into an oppressive regime. As Aron Barak himself has pointed out in many forums - even the Soviet Union had a constitution. Prophetic words indeed.

mycroft said...

." As Aron Barak himself has pointed out in many forums - even the Soviet Union had a constitution. "

The Soviet Union kept to its constitution-they let the republics secede and become independent. No one believed it shows don't listen to what you learn at school.

"Unless the State of Israel can develop a true liberal representative democracy "
Israel is more representative than US-remeber GWB became President with fewer votes than Al Gore-forgetting the Supreme Court machinations to give Bush the Pres.
US has an undemocartic Senate far from one man one vote-note total Democratic votes received by current members ofUS Senate are 3 million greater than Republican votes received-reason Repubs. represent small states.It is as if-each kibbutz had its own Rep and as wouldYerushalalim. No Israel is democratic-you might not claim it is Jewish-but democratic certainly. Does anyone not believe that disengagement would pass in a free vote with Arab votes included.

mycroft said...

HKBH's "psak" (if my weak mind sees it correctly) of allowing the revolution to succeed and the country to flourish against all odds is one more example of "vraita et achorai" -seeing his hand in history.
BTW it was not really a revolution-it was a Civil War-1/3 Patriots, 1/3 Tories or United Empire Loyalists-depending on ones perspective and 1/3 don't bother me-I just want to eat and live with my family.
Of course, winners in ones country write elemetary and HS history.

mycroft said...

Stop complaining you'd rather have US and its holiydays rather than Israeli legal holidays-Yom Tov and YomHaatzmaut-or days Tel AvivStock Exchange is closed Yom Tov, Shabbos, Friday, Erev Yom Tov, Purim, Tisha Bav,Yom haatzmaut and Yokm Hazikaron. I know what I assume everyJew would prefer.

Nachum said...

Mycroft, you seem to have taken a course in missing the point.

Ari Kinsberg said...

Mycroft: "The Soviet Union kept to its constitution-they let the republics secede and become independent."

I can't tell if you are serious or not. The Soviet constitution said many things that were never applied, e.g., freedom, of speech, press, assembly and religion.

And as far as letting the republics secede:

A) the first attempts to secede (in Lithuania in 1990) were squashed by the military and KGB (with deaths)
B) when Moscow finally permitted the secessions, this was not out of respect for constitutional protocol, but rather with the resolve of one individual: Gorbachev. He could have used the military and KGB to attempt to stop the cesession process (as had happened in Lithuania), which likely would have ended in massacres. But instead of being party to this he threw in the towel. It had nothing to do with the constitution. (Simiarly, he did not use force to retain the Warsaw Pact countries withing the Soviet orbit in 1988. Prof. Hans Trefousse has thus remarked that Gorbachev is one of those individuals who truly deserved his Nobel Peace Prize, because he refrained from the using the power he had when could have easily done so.)

Ari Kinsberg said...

I know that many in Israel, most recently elements within the right wing, have accused the government of violating the freedoms of speech, assembly, etc., as well as abusing administrative detention (i.e., no habeas corpus?).

Do you think the military censor for the press should be abolished?

Are you willing to give these same protections to the Arab sector also?

Ben Bayit said...

Yes - the military censor should be abolished (or at least updated to reflect the fact that an independent state has been founded and that it is no longer 1946 under the British Mandate). This is one issue that is still "on the books" from the mandate, and which has been changed only slightly within the common law in the interim period. It's a perfect example of what I'm talking about - while it's rarely applied anymore, giving the illusion of freedom of the press, it's still there to be used by the regime when "convenient"

And a very big YES to the issue of the Arab sector. One of the biggest sins of the "mamlachti" camp - both Mercaz Harav folks as well as the Modern Orthodox "Mapai with kippot"/pikuach nefesh folks - was the sin of Hanupa, telling the government and the army leaders to their face how wonderful they were and how big tzaddkim they were - even when it was obvious they were really reshaim - and never protesting government abuse and police violence against the Arab and Haredi sectors.

Ari Kinsberg said...

Ben Bayit-

My question was actually for Dr. Woolf, but I'm glad to have your response as well.

"while it's rarely applied anymore"

I understood that the military censor in Israel is very active and that it must clear every article prior to publication. (I recently read Thomas Friedman [I think] bragging that he only submitted one story to the censor his entire career.)

"it's still there to be used by the regime when 'convenient'"

In any case, there is no such thing (at least from a legal perspective) as a right that can't be restricted under certain circumstances (or as you would have it, "when convenient"). Just two examples from America (I know nothing about Israeli law):

1) habeas corpus can be (and has been) suspended during war time;
2) judges issue gag orders restricting the press all the time.

do you mean dati, or is this on purpose?

"And a very big YES to the issue of the Arab sector"
citizens and non-citizens? (i.e., on both sides of the green line?).
i think these protections should be given to the arab citizens if they are to be give to the right also. but i am not so sure about non-citizens.