These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[New Voices] The Limits of Acceptable Democratic Legislation

Posted on October 17, 2010 by Barer

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I have been writing weekly for a blog called New Voices which I found through MASA, and since I haven’t had enough time or ideas to come up with separate posts on any regular basis here, I have included my latest post from New Voices. I am well aware that this is a controversial topic; it has sparked some fairly critical responses on New Voices (if you’re interested, see this post and especially the comments that follow).

Browsing New Voices today, I see that I am not the only one that is seriously concerned by the legislation that passed the Knesset on Sunday. Since BrandonSpringer delved into the issue already (and it’s worth a read), I will skirt the politics as much as I can, and will instead focus on a more personal response.

Since the Knesset passed the Loyalty Oath, I have been trying to read as much as I can to try to understand how it can be spun positively, but to no avail (see The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and Challenge, as well as something closer to my home in Vancouver for examples).

What struck me when reading about this controversial bill is that this issue is different for me. It is not different because it irks me more than anything the Israeli government has done in the past, but rather because I am now living here. So long as that is the case, I cannot act like I used to at home, saying that no matter how aggravated I am about it, ultimately it is ‘their’ — the Israelis’ — problem, and I can continue worrying about issues that are closer to home, both literally and figuratively.

Given that realization, I have concluded that I cannot satisfactorily say that I am disappointed by this or that law and then do nothing about it. In order to make any difference — even the limited difference of one individual — I must change the way I behave towards a state whose laws (if passed) offend me tremendously and threaten to stretch the definition of a “Jewish and democratic state” to absurdity.

Towards that end, I feel that, if this legislation passes, I can quite easily take a stand by actively refraining from coming to Israel so long as such a Loyalty Oath is required only of people who are not Jewish. Speaking practically, I am not going to pack up my bags and fly home in protest, but after I return home, this seems like a reasonable measure of protest.

Making this decision public will undoubtedly result is criticism from fellow Jews, as it has always (in my lifetime) been extremely difficult to voice criticism of Israel and it’s policies – even if that criticism is meant to encourage betterment on Israel’s part and is made with the best interests of everyone at heart. However, I have spent too many years of my young life being inundated with facts about the start of the Shoah to not connect the dots here – and while that comparison is made all too often, it behooves everyone to realize just how sadly ironic it is that the Jewish state, in the year 2010, would be embarking upon the path of instituting legislation that applies unevenly based on religion.