So the about to be new government in Israel wants to settle things this way –first Jewishness and then democracy. In all my years, in Israel, thinking about Israel and Zionism, going back to the 1980s, I never heard of such a thing. While it may have always been true practically, that Israel was Jewish before it was democratic, it was never articulated this way discursively; and discourse makes a difference. I don’t like calling things “first” or “second.” As I understood it as a liberal or Labor Zionist, these two values were supposed to be co-terminous and simultaneous, not one before the other. To me, that was the tension that made Israel an interesting place, and as I came to understand it, an emblem of Jewish modernity.
This new arrangement is a wicked one. The problem of trying to establish first principles is that you always end up making a bad decision. But maybe that’s the logical outcome that people like me never wished to recognize about Israel. I still don’t believe that to be the case because I don’t believe in “logical” or inevitable or necessary outcomes. The idea smacks of “essentialism.” That said, this privileging of Jewishness over democracy remains a very live possible outcome, a bad one, that I suspect remains unthinkably foreign to most American Jews, and which most of “us” would refuse.
I don’t see how this secures “our” support of “Israel.” Alas, though, it does secure “my” attention. I’ll be blogging more about Israel in the next week what with the new election and Obama’s visit.