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A 'truly' Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud's Moshe Feiglin

Moshe Feiglin is one of the Likud party’s most extreme members, and one of its most clear and systematic ideologues. He is the head of the party’s ‘Jewish Leadership’ group, and the 23rd name on the Likud-Beitenu list for the next Knesset elections. The following is an attempt by religion researcher Tomer Persico to assess Feiglin’s views on popular sovereignty and democracy. 

By Tomer Persico

Moshe Feiglin, head of “Jewish Leadership” group in the Likud (photo: Wikimidia CC)

The coming elections in Israel will introduce many new faces to the Knesset. Unless something very surprising happens, among those will be Moshe Feiglin, who heads a group called Jewish Leadership and has for the past dozen years attempted, unsuccessfully to date, to be elected in the Likud Party’s primary elections in a high enough spot in order to become an MK (*Jewish Leadership, however, was able to assist the candidacies of some of the Likud’s most hawkish members of Knesset, among them Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and Tzipi Hotovely).

Feiglin is by any judgment one of the most methodical and principled thinkers in Israel’s right wing camp, and an effort to comprehend his thought is in order. Below I will attempt an examination of Moshe Feiglin’s concept of the democratic regime. I stress this is an attempt, as Feiglin did not write about it at length, and on the other hand  there are writings of Feiglin’s I haven’t read yet. What makes it easier for me to position Feiglin’s political-civic stance is the fact that he has referred to the issue specifically.

For instance, in the chapter (containing several articles) titled “The Jewish State – Democracy and regime” in his 2005 book, “The War of Dreams” (Milkhemet Ha’Khalomot) Feiglin writes about democracy that:

As I see it, democracy is but a method for changing government without violence. Several other values are attached: The freedom of expression, for instance, the equality before the law, and the separation of powers. But all is fluid, all is flexible, all is under whim of those who shape the term “democracy” to fill their needs. (“Democracy or Greater Israel,” 26.1.1998, p.464)

Feiglin is of course correct about the flexibility of the term “democracy.” Different states have used it in very different ways, and I hope it’s needless to point out that the Poplar Democracy of [North] Korea bears little resemblance to the liberal-constitutional democracy of the U.S. On the other hand, obviously, a democracy based on basic rights of its citizens, such as the freedom of expression and the separation of powers, is not truly subject to the whims of its rulers. That, after all, alongside other principled differences between versions of democracy which I’ll point out, is the crux of the issue.

Feiglin continues to explain his position:

If the land of Israel was truly a supreme national value for you, you’d understand that democracy has to fit the country, not the country democracy […] The State of Israel was created for the Jewish people, and its democracy is supposed to serve the Jewish people. If this state acts against the interests of the Jewish people, there is no longer any point in its existence, be it democratic or not. […] They [the Arabs] will never, never be fully equal citizens, in the national sense of the word. (Ibid., p. 465)

The picture becomes clearer: according to Feiglin, democracy has to fit the country, or rather the people living in it. When it comes to the State of Israel, this is the Jewish people, and hence democracy has to serve “the interests of the Jewish people.” That is why, for instance, the Arabs residing in the country have no chance at equal status, since they are not a part of the people that the democracy is supposed to serve.

No possibility of choice

What sort of a democracy serves a specific people, not universal principles? Of course, this is a popular democracy, known in its more mild versions as communal democracy. This version of democracy is principally different from liberal democracy. Feiglin, who is certainly well-read and learned, knows this well, and expressly differentiates between liberal democracy and communal democracy, only the latter of which he supports:

There are several views on democracy, out of which I’ll examine two: one liberal and the other communal. The liberal tradition supports a position based on one measure. It considers it to be a universal position, which is not biased towards other cultures, other values, other traditions. It believes in the values of equality and freedom of the individual, while the state is intended to serve the individual alone. The state in itself has no purpose, and it does not exemplify the values of its society.

The other view is communal. According to it, the person requires social-consciousness in order to reach self-knowledge, and only through this process does he come to know his views on morals and values. The community, therefore, is of the highest importance, and through it the person identifies with his country. The community and the state have an important role in the development of the values and the identities of the citizens. By this view, democracy is a form of government which allows the basic values of society to be expressed. Every society whose core values are freedom values can and should be democratic, but it must “fit the lid to the pot”– fit its democracy to its unique character and values.

A communal democracy sees the individual as an organic part of the community, to the point that, on its own, she or he cannot fully express themselves, regarding both their full potential and their freedom. Only by recognizing the reciprocal ties between themselves and the society around them, and – of no lesser importance – by becoming a living part of the surrounding society with its unique values and cultural characteristics, can the individual reach self-knowledge and thereby live a life worth living. Contrary to the liberal basic assumption, which discerns a tension between the demands of the community and individual rights, this concept sees in accepting communal values the only way to realize true individual autonomy.

The goal of communal democracy is the betterment of man. This is a goal liberal democracy doesn’t dare to actively promote, as it is obviously an act toward a specific ethical direction, and as such one in the course of which it will have to determine decree between conflicting values (such as freedom and equality) and cancel others (such as the freedom of religion). Communal democracy directs the individual towards a certain direction, reached allegedly through the common values of the community or even the whole nation; thereby it perfectly expresses the “will of the people.” According to this concept, every political system which will express the will of a community or a people is, by definition, democratic towards that community or people, no matter how totalitarian, illiberal or draconian its laws may be.

“The rule of the people” reaches its summit here, not because the regime allows each individual to make its own choices, but because the regime expresses the essential will of the people, with no possibility of choice. To a large degree, this democracy lacks representation, because the rulers do not represent the will of the people, but express it, or even become it and actualize it (in the same way the Fuhrer was the will of the German people, and each of his actions was the action of the Aryan nation). We are not dealing with the total sum of the wishes of the individuals of a nation, but with the essential will of the people as an organic entity, with the inner and deep expression of the people as a personality. On the other hand, liberal democracy is a representative democracy, which does not try to pave a certain ethical road, but only to maintain basic moral principles. Liberal democracy tries to create the conditions in which the citizens would be free to try and better themselves, to the best of their own knowledge, every little community in its own way.

A ‘truly’ Jewish identity

According to its principles, a communal democracy has no place for different communities in the same state, since the state is wholly formed according to the values of one community. For this reason, “the Arabs” have no voting rights in Feiglin’s Jewish state (“Israeli citizenship to Jews only […] the immediate expulsion of any person of another people who claims any sort of sovereignty in the Land of Israel” – Ibid., p. 436).  This state acts on the collective values of Judaism which I imagine Feliglin derives from his own interpretation of Judaism. These values express in the most perfect way the will of the nation, and of course direct each of its sons and daughters towards their own fulfillment. It is possible Feiglin thinks only such a realization will promise true freedom to the individual, and hence to the community as well. As the title of the article quotes above notes, the Israeli democracy can be democratic only because it is Jewish.

Which is why the Jewish democracy may not retreat from the occupied territories:

The debate over the Land of Israel is not a territorial or a security one. The question of national identity is expressed today through the Land of Israel. Those who wish to get rid of territories are actually asking to disengage from Jewish identity. ‘The Jews have defeated the Israelis’, said Shimon Peres to Haaretz in an interview after losing [the 1996 elections] to Netanyahu. The debate between those who hold and those who wish to let go is the debate between those who hold to their Jewish identity and those who wish to disengage from it and replace it with a new Israeli identity. The process of the Disengagement [from the Gaza Strip – T.P.] is a process of forcing the new identity on the majority of the people. Hence, essentially, it must lead to a dictatorial reality, as indeed happens. Only an Israeli state living in harmony with its Jewish identity, a state intended to serve this identity instead of fighting it, only such an Israel can also be truly democratic. (Ibid., emphasis in the original).

According Feiglin’s model, maintaining hold of territories is not a question of security but a question of identity. A truly Jewish identity can be realized only through the holding of any occupied territories in the Land of Israel. Those, on the other hand, who wish to return such territories are trying to sabotage Jewish identity and replace it with “a new Israeli identity.” These are people like Shimon Peres and apparently also Arik Sharon, who carried out the “disengagement” from Gaza. We are speaking, of course, of leftists. That explains why in Feiglin’s view “the deep aspect of [the] Oslo [process] is a trend of assimilation, of ‘becoming integrated in the [middle east] region’” (Ibid., p. 454). And, indeed, according to Feiglin, the strategic goal of the left is to obfuscate and make us forget our Jewish identity (Ibid., p. 504).” Oh, well, perhaps this is related to the fact Feiglin thinks the left is not a movement of life and emancipation. It is an ideology based on the aspiration of death” (Ibid., p. 29).

Note the principled basis behind those harsh statements: A communal democracy represents the essential will of the people. Hence, any person objecting to the actions of the state is ipso facto not truly of the people. Actually, it is almost impossible to criticize government in a communal democracy, because such criticism automatically excludes the critic from the community of citizens the government represents, and therefore also from the community of citizens entitled to its protection and to civil rights. For, how can a loyal citizen criticize the actions of a government representing his will? If his will is different from that of the government, he is certainly not a loyal citizen.

Such disloyal citizens are either foreigners, i.e. not members of the people; or they are members of the people, but ones needing re-education. One may recall the fate of such citizens from “popular” regimes in the past. In the Israeli case, even today left-winged people are sometimes reffered to as Erev Rav or Amalek, derogatory religious terms signifying traitors within or simply entities who are pure evil. This kind of people undermine the expression of the will of the people, the same will which can be assumed is known to Feiglin.  This is why, in Feligin’s “One Hundred Days Plan” (Hebrew) the Ministry of External and Internal Security will “be in charge of all the issues of security, acting against the enemies of Israel, foreign and domestic. An enemy of Israel is one who wishes to destroy it, either physically or essentially, as a Jewish State.” Anyone who supports a return of the occupied territories endeavors, as we’ve seen, to essentially destroy the Jewish State, first and foremost “essentially”. In Moshe Feiglin’s regime such dissidents will be dealt with by the Ministry of External and Internal Security.

“Feiglin. It’s possible to believe.” A Moshe Feiglin ad on a bus in Jerusalem (photo: Mohamed El Dahshan / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Roots of the  popular democracy

It is not my intention to defame the communitarian idea; I am, in many ways, a communitarian myself, and as such I am a student of such great scholars as Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, Alasdair MacIntyre and others. It is clear, however, that these thinkers do not dream of erecting a regime remotely similar to what Feiglin plans. There are several forms of communal democracies, some more totalitarian, some less. I don’t know where precisely Feiglin stands on this scale, even though the quotes above cloak his vision of a communal democracy with a very distinct odor. As previously mentioned, on the extreme scale of the communal democracy we speak of the same model under which all those “popular democracies” of the former Communist Bloc acted.

As is well known, the origins of the concept that the regime acts under the “will of the people” derives from Rousseau, and from him it reached the Jacobins during the French Revolution and many of dictatorships of the 20th century. The idea is that the regime, though tyrannical, is not immoral, since it is perfectly expresses the will of the people. We can see this clearly from the decisions of the National Assembly under the revolutionary regime in France. Article Six of the constitution written by the Assembly in 1791 says that “the law is an expression of the common will,” and Article Five says that the natural rights of man by be abrogated by law. To wit, if the common will of the people is to limit the rights of the individual, there’s no principle problem here.

When the Assembly wrote the constitution, its members were thinking of the American Declaration of Independence, which stated that the rights of people are “unalienable” (which today means “inalienable.”). The United States created, by a long and painful process, a liberal democracy, where human rights cannot be ignored even if the majority desperately wants to, and even if someone thinks this is the “common will” of the people. France saw the creation of a Jacobin democracy, under which the rights of the individual can be cast aside in the name of the popular will, and its murderousness is notorious to this day. As soon as the popular will can abolish human rights, we have nothing more than a tyranny of the majority, or, in most cases, the tyranny of an individual who claims to understand the will of the majority.

As noted, that same idea served as inspiration to the “popular democracies” of the former Communist Bloc. In a famous speech in 1949, Mao Zedong contrasted “bourgeois democracy,” Western democracy, with China’s popular democracy (which he calls The People’s democratic dictatorship, since he recognizes the tyranny of the people towards the reactionary elements standing in its way). Mao thanks Marx and Lenin for formulating the theory which allowed China to move from a bourgeois democracy to a popular democracy, which brought “socialism and communism” and “a world of Great Harmony.” According to Mao, the true will of the masses is equal to the will of the proletariat, and it expresses the perfect society. He states that:

All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people’s democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right. […] The right to vote belongs only to the people, not to the reactionaries. […]The foreign reactionaries who accuse us of practicing “dictatorship” or “totalitarianism” are the very persons who practice it. They practice the dictatorship or totalitarianism of one class, the bourgeoisie, over the proletariat and the rest of the people. […]The people’s democratic dictatorship needs the leadership of the working class. For it is only the working class that is most farsighted, most selfless and most thoroughly revolutionary.

Replace “reactionaries” by Arabs or Leftists, replace “the working class” by Jews, and suddenly, there isn’t much of a difference between the leftist Marxist-Leninist tyranny and the right-wing nationalistic-Judaistic tyranny. It’s clear, anyway, that a popular democracy is not a traditional Jewish idea, but rather a modern Western one.

When safeguards become obstacles 

As Feiglin himself noted, the failure of liberal democracy comes from insisting on the protection of principles it considers universal – precisely those human and civil rights, those difference freedoms and equality before the law. In a liberal democracy they must be guarded above all. In a popular democracy they are considered to be foreign principles of Western bourgeoisie, “Christian morality” or liberal soft-heartedness, and ignoring them is not only possible, but is necessary. This point cannot be overstated: In every democratic regime, there will be a conflict between the will of the majority and the rights of the individual or minority. In such cases, popular democracy will always prefer the will of the majority, and a liberal one – the rights of the individual.

For instance, if we think the right of a person over his body is absolute, then even if the majority decrees otherwise, he may not be raped. If we think a person’s right over her property is total, even if the majority says it should be taken from her, there is no permission to do so. These are the human rights embedded by the UN in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, following the lessons learned from the horrors of fascism. These are the same rights invoked by the opponents of the Gaza Disengagement, when they argued even a government decision cannot, in a democratic country, evict people from their homes.

Lord Acton, the same one who taught to us that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” wrote that in a popular democracy:

The true democratic principle, that none shall have power over the people, is taken to mean that none shall be able to restrain or to elude its power. The true democratic principle, that the people shall not be made to do what it does not like, is taken to mean that it shall never be required to tolerate what it does not like. The true democratic principle, that every man’s free will shall be as unfettered as possible, is taken to mean that the free will of the collective people shall be fettered in nothing. Religious toleration, judicial independence, dread of centralisation, jealousy of State interference, become obstacles to freedom instead of safeguards, when the centralised force of the State is wielded by the hands of the people.

A final word. I have no doubt that Feiglin is sure that the communal-to-popular democracy he wishes to found not only will not be tyrannical, but would create a model society. I believe he is certain the Jewish people will express its will in a much more decent and better way than the failed experiments of the French or Chinese people; that he believes with all his heart that, unlike these (and other) disastrous experiments, a perfect and wondrous popular democracy is possible in Israel, since while the others had only a half-baked revolutionary thrust or a Marxist ideology woefully bereft of inspiration, the Israeli nation has the Book of Books to guide it and the Hand of God to support it.

And who knows, maybe this time the Lord will redeem us from our troubles, and make our path right where others have stumbled so terribly. As someone who would probably be taken care of by the Ministry of External and Internal Security in the early days of the new regime, I am not likely to live to see this miracle.

_____________

Moshe Feiglin’s response:

As a rule, I stand by what I write and say. Of course every period has its own special emphasis. Words written while facing a demolished house and burned bus are not as words written on mundane days. The sentence you chose to quote [about the left's ideology being based on the aspiration of death – T.P.] is an excellent example of the fine distinction between serious research and demagoguery. This is a sentence I fully support, but quoting it requires long explanations, otherwise it sounds as nothing more than a swearword. In order to seriously complete the mission you undertook, you should organize a proper meeting, in the view of your readers, which I’ll be happy to attend and answer all questions.

______________

Tomer Persico has just completed his PhD in the Comparative Religion Program at Tel Aviv University. He teaches in Tel Aviv University and other institutions, specializing in the contemporary spirituality culture. This post was translated from Hebrew by Yossi Gurvitz with the author’s permission. The sentence marked with asterisk is  +972′s editor’s note.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. aristeides

      Thoughtful analysis. I’m glad to see this kind of writing here.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ron Newman

      I hope you’ll take him up on his offer to meet in person. The conversation could be fascinating.

      Even in a liberal democracy, individual rights cannot always prevail over the needs of larger groups; otherwise, it would never be possible to build a highway, a railway, or a utility line.

      Reply to Comment
    3. CTwildheart

      Very interesting read! I too hope you accept his offer to meet and discuss. I would like to read a transcript of that conversation!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rob

      Your thought about being “taken care of by internal security during the early days of the regime” are simply you transferring how today’s Israel deals with dissidents onto a Feiglin government.

      You think that just because Israel has tried to destroy Judaism, that Moshe will try to shove it down your throat, when that is the opposite of what he will do.

      Reply to Comment
      • “The Ministry of External and Internal Security will “be in charge of all the issues of security, acting against the enemies of Israel, foreign and domestic. An enemy of Israel is one who wishes to destroy it, either physically or essentially, as a Jewish State.”” These are Feiglin’s words.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          You are assuming that “Jewish” means Judaism. This is far from being necessarily true.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Philos

      A thoughtful essay, however, I take issue with Persico’s simplistic, and conservative, treatment of liberal-democracy. Individual rights or human rights are not guaranteed in a liberal-democratic model (to whit, the large scale homelessness pervasive in liberal democracies), and one must recall that although liberal-democracies engaged in relatively infrequent massacres of their own people their genocidal tendencies were expressed outwards to Native Americans, Africans and Asians. Liberal-democracy is not the apogee of individual freedom or human rights… it just does a little better than some of the other forms of government that have been tried thus far.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mareli

        Spoken like a true Churchillian. Liberal democracy indeed has its flaws, one of them being that the stupid and ignorant have equal voting power with the intelligent and well-informed. The US is, so far, a liberal democracy, and has believed Israel to be one. If Feiglin’s communal democracy is the sort that Israel espouses, the US may well re-evaluate the “special relationship” with “the only democracy in the middle east that shares our values.” And, it should.

        Reply to Comment
        • Philos

          Churchilian? God no! I’m saying the only difference between liberal democracies and other forms of government is that the liberal democracies “only” slaughter “other” people! That’s hardly an endorsement! And Churchill was one of the great genocidal leaders of the liberal democracies. A real role model for Saddam Huessein having gassed the Kurds and Marsh Arabs in the 20s…

          Reply to Comment
    6. Rob

      Your thought about being “taken care of by internal security during the early days of the regime” are simply you transferring how today’s Israel deals with dissidents onto a Feiglin government.

      You think that just because Israel has tried to destroy Judaism, that Moshe will try to shove it down your throat, when that is the opposite of what he will do.

      He will give you the freedom that those on the right don’t have.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Aaron Gross

      This was a well-informed and fair analysis. As you said, Feiglin’s views follow a long tradition in the modern theory of democracy, an intellectual tradition to which the State of Israel owes quite a bit. Feiglin’s right to point that out.

      It can’t be stressed enough that liberalism and democracy are contradictory principles. The contradictions between the two were analyzed by Jakob Burckhardt in the 19th century and by Carl Schmitt in the 20th. Liberal democracy really is a blending of opposites. That doesn’t make it bad, just incoherent. Feiglin’s critique is well founded, but of course that doesn’t make his own answer acceptable.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        His cure is worse than the disease.

        Reply to Comment
    8. You’ve raised 972 to the next level with this piece.

      “it is almost impossible to criticize government in a communal democracy, because such criticism automatically excludes the critic from the community of citizens the government represents, and therefore also from the community of citizens entitled to its protection and to civil rights. For, how can a loyal citizen criticize the actions of a government representing his will? If his will is different from that of the government, he is certainly not a loyal citizen.” : Sometime in the 70′s or 80′s, the Communist Party of the USSR declared that communism had been acheived. This meant that individuals were perfectly intergrated into society. If any dissented, they must be inherently malformed–mentally ill. So dissent became one critria for mental illness, placing such in institutions. Sakharov, former Hero of the USSR, father of their H-bomb, was so placed for his later dissent. The USSR collapsed, which was supposed to be impossible.

      An election at best ephemerally measures the social structure of a population, the electoral outcome itself altering social structure. A Bill of Rights recognizes that what is measured in an election will not endure; when rights are denied to minorities, racial, religious or otherwise, elections may well no longer measure shifts in social structure; a point sample majority becomes fixed by proactively suppressing new developments. Community is a micro phenomenon, evolving through social networks which constantly change. Forced State macro communities force such developemnt underground. That is, changes in social structure still occur, but cannot be measured by, now, State defined “elections.” Key to liberal democracy is resigned willingness to lose.

      State support of the vanguard settlers has already imported much of the thought you articulate directly into State policy–draconianly so in the occupation, but clearly evident within Israel proper in the Boycott Law, proposals for loyalty oaths among non-Jews, the new Infiltration Laws, and the High Court’s Citizenship Law case. Each of these outcomes is possible precisely because the High Court now refuses to admit fundamental rights. You have a way out of this, legally, through affirmation of your Declaration of Independence, which is essentially a meta-constitution detailing what ANY Israeli constitution must provide in minimal rights, mostly through the logic of equal protection. As I keep urging on this site. There is a patriotic way out of this, legally, applying your own founding via the Declaration, returning to Peres’ “Israelis.” But the reasoning has to be articulated constantly and forcefully.

      With writing like this piece there is much reason to hope in Israel, even within the dark time.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Persico does a great job is articulating Feiglin’s preferred view of himself. But totally misses what is going on. Every human, in every activity she does, has a real context: pursues a particular goal, does set actions and focuses on specific aspects of that process. Due to the free will God installed in every human, every person has a preferred context for each activity he does: assumes he pursues a set goal, takes certain actions and focuses on specific aspects. And, truly unfortunately, the gap between the real context and preferred context for any one person, for any one situation, can be so wide the Atlantic Ocean looks like a small puddle in comparison.

      Feiglin’s real view of society, especially an Israeli state of which he approves, is pure, stone cold fascism. It is the antithesis of democracy. My reasoning? Reality is what is, what actually occurs in any one situation. And there is only one reality for each situation; and, further, there is only one authentic definition for any one word. Democracy is meaningless if it doesn’t refer to all members of society developing a way to all live in peace and harmony, each person being free to live as she wished, as long as she doesn’t harm others, at which point the government will sanction her for her inappropriate actions. Democracy’s existence is not a function of having elections.

      What Feiglin is proposing is a form of fascism, where eventually it is Animal Farm, it is 1984, and a few at the top, often deluded in believing they know what is the “will” of the people, have a dictatorship, where all who do not agree with the few at the top are eliminated. This is what eventually became the case in all Communist countries, and all societies that favored one group over all others. And, it certainly appears to me, is progressively becoming the case in Israel.

      That very smart people, such as Persico obviously is, are able to ignore the truth of a person like Feiglin, is very very very common in all societies’ endeavors. It is so rare that smart people are unable to call a spade a spade in most situations. The reason this ignorance is so common, is that most highly educated people are very comfortable adopting concepts for which they have not a smidgen of supporting evidence in real life activities, but have a whole bunch of supporting points in abstract land (the land where you entertain ideas regarding which you have no evidence will ever work in real life situations). I propose that the longer Zionism is accepted by Jews, the more fascistic Israel will become, and at some point will perform unacceptable actions, so often, they will become a pariah to most of the rest of the world, exactly as occurred in South Africa. And which point a Palestinian Mandela, and an Israeli Jewish De Klerk will arise, and within a few months the plan for a rational, authentically democratic Israel / Palestine one state will emerge, and gradually be implemented.

      Until then, I suggest a whole lot of delayed gratification.

      Reply to Comment
      • In small communities or groups one may try to get by with consensus as opposed to elections, but consensus can be coerced through promises and refusals at personal levels. Elections are structured coersion with limits. Once monopolies on power exist, elections are the only way to regularly allow change without violence. Elections are essential to democracy in the modern world, certainly at the level of a State.

        What I see Persico doing is articulating Feiglin’s thought such that it may be opposed in the Israeli political process. Given the Israeli electorate’s present trajectory, there seem little hope for a true impact thereon. But sometimes all you can do is prepare the ground for latter.

        Reply to Comment
      • miskatonic92

        Well and succinctly said. I’m tempted to quibble with your terminological exlusivity–illiberal democracies are still democracies, always presuming their illiberal governments are (legitimately) popularly elected–but I’d rather co-sign your read of the current state of affairs, pessimistic as it is.

        Parenthetically: is it just me, or are the comments pertaining to this article an order of magnitude more considered, and more generally courteous, than’s typical at +972? Adult discussion of Israeli affairs FTW

        Reply to Comment
        • I do think this post of a more considered kind that often found, and I think it do to the exacting quality of Persico’s analysis.

          A democracy with elections can still lock in a minority indefinately. Protected constitutional rights limit that lock in, or may provide later ways out. In Israel, the ethos of perpetual war is preventing a proactive jurispurdence of rights. If the alarms of war ever fell silent, Feiglin would find himself fighting Israeli Jews more directly. The occupation silences opposition–or at least turns ears deaf. He needs the occupation.

          Reply to Comment
    10. Piotr Berman

      I agree with Warren that the concept of “communal democracy” is adopted because some unfortunate events gave fascism a bad name. The term has different meaning in different places, like democracy with direct participation of “entire communities”, the state becoming a federation, and totally opposite meaning of Feiglin, that the state is an expression of ONE of the several communities in the territory under its control. Apartheid and ante bellum American South (after Reconstruction the South carried the ante bellum traditions) are perhaps most complete implementation of this principle.

      So democracy can be offered to the ruling community, while the others may get some crumbs, or not, according to the non-principle that “all is fluid, all is flexible, all is under whim of those who shape the term “democracy” to fill their needs.”

      “If this state acts against the interests of the Jewish people, there is no longer any point in its existence, be it democratic or not.” The appreciate fascistic sentiment here, one has to check what are the points the the “Jewish people” find dear as opposed to interests of individuals. The top interest is “essencial”, namely, flourishing of the Jewish national spirit and essence, and raising that spirit requires various acts of violence, dispossession and oppression (other than violence and dispossession). As Mussolini eloquently explained, national spirit thrives in wars, and “Feiglin peace plan” hints that Feiglin follows that school of thought. Full possession of every inch of Eretz Israel may prevent peace, which is a bonus rather then a demerit.

      And that raises the issues of crimes against the national spirit, national essence, national narrative, national war morale. etc. Vigilance against the enemy within!

      I wonder what are the points of difference between Feiglin and “Israeli mainstream establishment” as represented by Daniel Gordis.

      Reply to Comment

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