Vienna Mike began his Self-Liberation series with a link to Kahane’s Revolution or Referendum? The general purpose of a referendum is to bypass established representative political institutions. Given the extraordinary deficiencies in Israel’s “democratic” system, the suggestion for a referendum made sense from Kahane’s perspective. Setting aside the content of the referendum, however, Kahane’s attempt to bypass the establishment threatened it to its core. As a point of departure, can his move be understood in more general political terms?
A useful approach could begin with the canonical work of E. E. Schattschneider. Schattschneider starts by positing that politics is a series of fights, more or less ritualized. Yet such fights are distinctive in that the participants are not fixed ahead of time; indeed, the instigators may not even be aware of their roles or what will become the goal of a given fight if it grows. Consider, for example, the famous refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger in 1955. She did not see herself as a leader of anti-segregation forces. Nor would her defiant act have had any political consequences if the fight remained between her and a bus driver, as similar fights had in the past. It did not remain so.
The key idea is that how a fight will turn out depends on who becomes involved, or as Schattschneider puts it, it depends on the scope of the conflict. If two men begin a brawl, the better fighter will usually win. If however the worse fighter is suddenly joined by five of his brothers but the better fighter remains alone, the result will change. Political conflicts—fights—have this same characteristic. This fact distinguishes political fights from competitive fight-like games such as football, where the number of players, the means they can use, and the way success is determined are fixed ahead of time. Implied in the concept of scope is the location of the conflict—some locations are advantageous, others are not.
What then was Kahane doing? He was attempting to expand the scope of the conflict to include all citizens, knowing full well that if they could become involved, the result of the fight would differ from that produced if the fight occurred in established Israeli political bodies. This is also why no such referendum occurred. Indeed, in Israel there are no national referendums at all, and this, I suggest, is no accident.
If Medinat Yehudah is to move from virtual reality to a fact on the ground, those who are part of the movement will need to control the scope of the fights they wage. Fights must include the participants needed to win, and they must be fought in “locations” that favor Jews, not Israelis. Opposing forces must be split and as much as possible, kept out of the fight if they cannot be brought in on the Jewish side.
Israeli elites are brilliant at undermining such efforts. How do they do so? Mike has focused on symbolism, rightly so in my opinion. The Israelis understand that symbols, myths, and rituals (cultural artifacts) can be used to create alliances and split opposing alliances. In fact, such means must be used because otherwise the ugly reality of Israeli politics would shut down the power structure rapidly. For this reason, we must confront the cultural underpinnings of Israeli power. To help focus this discussion, let’s consider some important artifacts, every one of which is relevant to the scope of the conflict.
- Unity. How often have we heard unity being championed? Understood politically, the purpose of “unity” is to shut down nascent groups that threaten the establishment before such groups gain numerous adherents. For as Schattschneider notes, the best time to control the scope of conflict is at the beginning, for fights tend to be “contagious.”
- Democracy. As Eidelberg has pointed out repeatedly and in detail, Israel’s political system is not a democratic republic—no such republic can be said to exist when legislators are not directly elected by constituents in defined geographical areas, but are put in place by a “list” system. Yet as a symbol, “democracy” is useful, as it induces participation through channels that benefit the elites.
- The state is holy. The purpose of this artifact is to undermine Torah-based opposition to elite perfidy. Disagreement is to be channeled through institutions that the elites control. As an implication, any possible opposing state (i.e., Medinat Yehudah) is “unholy.”
- Rabbis should be treated with respect. If there is one theme I have been hammering away at on Arutz Sheva it is that perfidious “rabbis” should be exposed by name and insulted. I am no Torah scholar, but even I know that “rabbis” who Kosher giving the Land to Muslims (e.g., Ovadiah “Shades” Yosef) are on the take. All of their elaborate justifications are merely smoke and mirrors. Yet such “rabbis” are cultivated by the secular elite so that Haredim stay out of any fight between the elites and minorities such as the settlerfolk. Such “rabbis” also undercut efforts to gather opponents to the regime. Settlerfolk such as those in leadership roles in Arutz Sheva, by embracing “rabbi respect” as well—and censoring Talkbacks to support it—inevitably undermine efforts to advance Medinat Yehudah. The Israeli elites know that the best way to win a fight that they would ultimately lose is to prevent it from occurring.
- The IDF is the first Jewish army since the Diaspora. The elites need forces to maintain their power, both against Islamic and Jewish enemies. If young men who believed in Jewish power did not believe in fighting for the IDF, they would be ripe candidates for the truly Jewish army of Medinat Yehudah. This must be prevented.
As a lengthy coda to this discussion, I would like to expand on “Democracy,” focusing on voting. To me, there are few more annoying disagreements in the articles and talkbacks on Arutz Sheva than the one between the Feiglinites (who support attempting to turn Likud into a Jewish party) and the Ketzelahs (who support joining or forming opposition parties). Such disagreements go nowhere. While there are numerous, complicated reasons why both sides will almost certainly fail to obtain real power, there is also a simple reason: both take as a given that Jews should vote in elections that, by their existence, reinforce Medinat Israel and undermine Medinat Yehudah.
That elections do not advance Jewish self-determination should be obvious. I do not need to tell Feiglin that “right-leaning” parties are more able to deliver land into the hands of Muslims than “left-leaning” parties are. He has made the point himself. The “left-leaning” parties are, however, excellent at developing the ideology supporting the “right-leaning” parties’ actions. In other words, while voting may provide short-term financial benefits to factions, voting will not reform Israel.
If voting had no serious impact, it would be a matter of indifference here. But it does have an unfortunate strategic impact. Elections confer democratic legitimacy—that is why all sorts of nondemocracies have them. When turnout (voting) is high, the system looks especially democratic both to Israelis and outsiders, which somewhat shields the regime. Furthermore, those who vote engage in a ritual that makes support of Medinat Yehudah more difficult. This ritual matters, just as pledging allegiance to a flag matters. Elections in Israel have no practical impact on what the regime does regarding Jewish self-determination, but elections do have a psychological impact on those who vote. Thus they have a political impact by discouraging—indeed, strangling—the formation of a real opposition outside the control of the Israeli system. In Israel, that is their main function.
Those who resist my message regarding voting should ask themselves why. The individual decision to turn out has little to do with the choice of candidates but much to do with the emotional baggage of citizenship and the psychology of political involvement. Those who turn out to vote do so largely irrespective of the choices available. In the Israeli context, the feeling of a “need” to vote can be seen as an instance of successful political manipulation by forces who do not have Jewish interests at heart. Do you like being manipulated? Do you want to win or not?
There is no need to feel politically uninvolved, however. There are other ways to participate than voting. Non-violent direct action is participation as well. Unlike voting, it might even make a difference. If that is not your cup of tea, there are innumerable shanties in the Yesha suburbs that need to be fortified.
Schattschneider, E. E. The Semisovereign People. Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press, 1960.
Campbell, A; Converse, P.; Miller, W.; Stokes, D. The American Voter. New York: Wiley, 1964.