This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld first appeared in the Jerusalem Post, and republished here with the author’s consent…
LIBERAL DEMOCRACY IS NOT A JEWISH VALUE, NOR SHOULD IT BE
Recently one of the UK’s major Jewish donors to Israel published a lengthy article criticizing it in the British weekly, Jewish News.1 Sir Mick Davis is chairman of the UK United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) and former chairman of the UK Jewish Leadership Council. In the article, he points out many matters that are wrong with Israel and how he believes they should be repaired. The logical answer to the desire to change Israel is to make aliyah. Davis – a former chairman of the British Conservative Party — could then fight for his ideas within the Israeli political system.
One remark in Davis’ article should not be passed over. He writes: “Diaspora Jewry saw in Israel’s political leadership an embodiment of its values rather than a violation of them. As large swathes of the Diaspora see Israel’s liberal democratic values under threat, Diaspora Zionism will dwindle.”2
Davis claims that liberal democracy is a Jewish value. He brings no proof for this and it is not true. Davis also assumes that Israel should be a liberal democracy. He does not back up this assumption with any facts. Israel should be a law-abiding democracy, but preferably not a liberal one.
Davis’ statement partly hinges on the widespread forgetfulness of many Jews. That antisemitism has been part of Western history and culture for more than fifteen hundred years is suppressed by many diaspora Jews. Jew-hatred has been promoted in generation after generation of Western societies. It had its ups and downs but it was always there, including now.
The UK, where Davis lives, is a good contemporary example. The idea that antisemitism is part of British culture has been proffered not only by Jewish scholars, but also by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.3 For years, a variety of Jews living in the UK kept telling others how antisemitism was so insignificant that it was barely noted in their social environment. Then, in September 2015, Jeremy Corbyn arrived at the head of Britain’s second largest party, Labour. Before that he had welcomed Hamas and Hezbollah at the House of Commons. Corbyn called these criminal organizations who aim to commit genocide against the Jews his “friends and brothers.”4
Responsible Jewish leadership should have immediately demanded that Labour expel him. Or did these Jewish leaders adopt a classic Diaspora position: a low profile? Independently, Labour party leaders should have expelled Corbyn. Corbyn wasn’t even appeasing the Arab criminals, he was identifying with them.
A parliamentarian who mixes with murderers in a friendly way should have no place in a mainstream party. Corbyn’s position in the party and subsequent rise reflect only one aspect of the lazy tolerating mood –not to be confused with being “tolerant” — so typical of liberal democracy. This was again proven when during Corbyn’s chairmanship his attitude toward Hamas and Hezbollah was publicized once more. The UK is a liberal democracy, so why should many people get excited about someone who identifies with genocidal murderers?
Even some senior Labour politicians said that they were certain that Corbyn was not personally antisemitic.5 How much whitewash does one need to claim that someone who welcomes would-be mass murderers of Jews as his brothers is not an antisemite?
Corbyn’s arrival at Labour’s head was a very much diluted manifestation yet similar in nature to the Dreyfus affair for French Jews. Gradually, part of British Jewry started to understand how their liberal democracy could negatively evolve without the need for revolution. In 2018, a Survation poll found that 42% of British Jews would consider leaving the UK if Corbyn became prime minister in the next elections.6 Most of them may not have done so, but their state of mind was indicative.
The above is only one example of a highly problematic societal mood in a prominent liberal democracy. Another example pertaining to British society at large: a 2017 representative study found that 23% of the British population believe that Israel is deliberately trying to wipe out the Palestinian population. Twenty-four percent thought that Israel is committing mass murder in Palestine.7
Long before writing his article, Davis should have wondered how such demonic ideas could take a strong foothold in the liberal democracy he lives in. The answer may well be that liberal democracy, where government and society do not care too much about what is said — live and let live — is an ideal place to spread such extreme slander. This is a modern mutation of the ongoing antisemitism phenomenon in Western society and culture for more than 1500 years. A study by the University of Bielefeld published in 2011 even found that 42% of the UK population agreed with the assertion that Israel is carrying out a war of extermination against the Palestinians.8
Each time Davis or someone else in the UK is tempted to promote liberal democracy for Israel, they should watch the crowds at a busy London train station. Of thousands of people travelling, many hundreds hold infernal views about the Jews of Israel. Although they are not identifiable individually in the crowd, they are there.
If Davis wants a more complete refutation of his claims, he should read David Nirenberg’s, Anti-Judaism; the Western Tradition. This book details the more than millennial antisemitism in Western culture.
4 https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/03/jeremy-corbyn-has-a-soft-spot-for-extremists-ira-hamas-hezbollah-britain-labour/; www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6079695/Corbyn-met-group-Hamas-extremists-PARLIAMENT.html; https://www.cufi.org.uk/news/corbyn-did-not-just-call-hamas-his-friends-he-said-much-worse-but-too-many-ignored-it/