The formula Jewish + Democratric is a brute contradiction only if one reduces “Jewish” to religious and “religious” to Haredi and ethno-religious orthodoxy. In this piece here at Haaretz, sociologist Eva Illouz understands that “critique of religion” the way out of the democracy crisis in Israel. With her eye on the occupation and the problem of settler nationalism, the model of a “new camp,” a democratic camp that binds all the citizens of Israel, Jewish and Palestinian, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi, religious and secular around a common human and humanistic core.
Illouz is a sociologist who writes about the creation of emotional bonds and the undoing of social bonds under conditions of capitalism. By critique of religion, Illouz is here touching upon the clasical enlightenment paradigm delineating the limits of religion in relation to power. Impilicit is the idea of a social contract.
I am highlighting what to me are the highlights of the article:
“If religion demands power – and there is no doubt that this is what the Jewish religion in Israel demands – we must critique it as such.”
Religion enjoyed extra privileges in the post-Enlightenment era, even as it imposed an almost feudal regime. The time has come to voice criticism of religion and of the ways it corrupts healthy political institutions and distorts rationality in public discourse. Our critique should focus on both the institutional plane (how much power does religion possess?) and on its content (does religion promote humanistic values and respect freedom and reason?). Such criticism will help in the assemblage of a strategic alliance between the secular population and the many religiously observant people who feel uneasy about the extremist leadership that purports to speak in their name
I believe that we will be able to establish a broad coalition of secular and religious people, Jews and Arabs, who will promote what Thomas Mann in 1935 termed “militant humanism.” Humanism like that will be a value around which it will be possible to rally so as to do stubborn and uncompromising battle for human dignity and the principles of peace and fraternity. And the other side can try to claim that those are dirty words.“