The State of Israel Does Not Exist (Judaism)

If a state is defined as a sovereign territorial body, then, by the reckoning here by Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz, the State of Israel does not exist. Instead of being a state in which the rule of law applies throughout the territory, there is a cluster of autonomies.

“The State of Israel is gradually coming to resemble Lebanon, Syria or Iraq, where organizations, religions, ethnic minorities and gangs have become the real rulers of the country. The physical and legal territory controlled by the government covers only selected portions of it.”

What Bar’el notes but about which one could make more is that organized religion is the dominant part of the problem. In the West Bank and in the Haredi enclaves of Israel proper, religious communities constitute autonomous and lawless zones of semi-sovereign power. The public good defined by vital interests (health, law, safety, education) suffers in the process.

Religion has a set of values peculiar to it, its own kedusha.

Religion is one singular sphere that overlaps into other social spheres. Religion can serve but does not secure and can do great damage to the public sphere. These are basic notions in the Enlightenment theory of Spinoza and Mendelssohn.

Unique to the 21st century is the emerging recognition that there are discrete types of the religion of Judaism that are now part of the social problem, that they are deeply detached from and entrenched in the larger social fabric, that there are basic and constitutional conflicts between autonomous zones of rightwing/conservative Judaism and the idea and constitution of a democratic and Jewish State.

Judaism included, religion is a spiritual force of order that has the potential to create actual chaos in this world.

The chaos is social, political, moral.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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2 Responses to The State of Israel Does Not Exist (Judaism)

  1. milx says:

    the notion that our choices are either total government centralized hegemony or some sort of balkanization/anarchy is childish. states never have complete sovereignty (even actual totalitarian ones, let alone liberal democracies) and sometimes groups within those states do their own thing.

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