Friday, December 10, 2010

Say what you mean; do what you say

Fifty state-employed rabbis in Israel have signed and circulated a petition urging Jews not to rent or sell land to nonJews, and saying that those who do should be cut off from their people.

Thankfully the action was condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "This kind of speech should be banned in a Jewish and democratic state."

I am pleased that the Prime Minister is opposed to rabbinic sponsored racism, but his choice of words suggests he doesn't understand the nature of either a Jewish or a democratic state.

First of all these rabbis derived the decision from Jewish law. While their reading is controversial, it is the very nature of a Jewish state (as opposed to a state of Jews) to allow for just this kind of speech. If you don't want your country ruled by the mores of clerics and their pre-modern worldviews, don't set it up as a Jewish (or Islamic or Christian) state.

Second, this kind of inflammatory speech is absolutely protected in a democratic state. Freedom of speech is key to any truly democratic country, so banning opinions, even evil ones such as this, betrays the very promise of democracy.

So is Prime Minister Netanyahu anti-Jewish or anti-democracy? Of course not; he is simply speaking hyperbolically to mask his actions or lack thereof.

These rabbis whose opinions the PM says should be banned actually work for the state. While banning speech is wrong, punishing state employees who blatantly discriminate against citizens of the state is right, appropriate, and just. If the PM is serious he should fire these rabbis. Until he does it is just politics as usual in a country held hostage by clerics.


James said...
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Jacob Azariah said...

Shemaiah said: "Love work. Hate the rabbinate." (Avos 1:10)

Rabbi Rami said...

But not all the rabbinate. There is a wonderful group called Rabbis Against Racism who have come out against this. There website is

Spread the word!

Jacob Azariah said...

Definately not! That group is an amazing idea.